Here’s an interesting report just in from reporter John Miller of the Associated Press:
“BOISE, Idaho (AP) – A state senator from a Boise suburb who sits on the committee that divvies up Idaho’s $2.34 billion state budget missed nearly one in three committee votes this year, in part because he was preparing for gun shows. The absences of Sen. Gerry Sweet, R-Meridian, drew criticism from some lawmakers who say he hasn’t paid enough attention to one of the Legislature’s most important panels. Sweet didn’t vote on 63 of 200 budget bills for fiscal year 2007, based on figures provided by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to The Associated Press.
Sweet missed votes during at least 15 meetings, including March 29 and March 30, when the 20-member committee put together a $35.4 million final budget package that contained Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s “Experience Idaho” parks program. The Meridian lawmaker says his business - he’s a gun dealer who sells weapons over the Internet and at gun shows, including one last weekend in Boise - has grown this year, keeping him away from the Statehouse. Sweet, who missed 17 votes on the budget panel during the 2005 Legislature, agreed the committee is the Legislature’s most important, “the one that probably has the greatest impact.” Still, Sweet said his business, Shooter’s Wholesale Inc., has grown this year and often drew him away from the Capitol. “It’s hard for people that are small business owners to serve in the Legislature and maintain their small business,” Sweet told the AP, adding he’d hoped the Legislature would have already ended by the time spring gun shows had begun.
Sweet, who doesn’t have a Republican challenger in the May 23 primary but faces Democrat Laurynda A. Williams in the November general election, said he plans to return to the budget committee next year if re-elected. Others Republicans on the budget panel said it’s up to constituents to decide whether their lawmakers are attending enough meetings to properly represent them. “You lose out on representing your constituents if you aren’t there to vote,” said Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who was gone for just seven budget-committee votes. “I was fortunate enough to be picked for a powerful committee. I’m going to take advantage of that wherever I can. We’re the guardians of the people’s money.””