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Citizen legislators juggle interests

Jeff Siddoway sells hunting trips for “monster elk” on his private eastern Idaho ranch. He’s also a Republican state senator, reports AP reporter John Miller. So when Siddoway helped kill a bill to outlaw “shooter-bull” operations – there are 17 in Idaho, including his – his e-mail box bulged with messages telling him he should have abstained. Two months into 2007, lawmakers from Alaska to Virginia have wrestled with similar conflict-of-interest issues, highlighting a tension that has been at the heart of citizen legislatures since their founding: Members leave real-world jobs to serve part time in America’s state capitols, often bringing them into close quarters with issues they hold dear.

“Having a conflict of interest is not a bad thing. It’s to be expected in a citizen legislature, where people come to the capital for a while, then return to their jobs,” Peggy Kerns, who directs the Center for Ethics in Government at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver told the Associated Press. “It’s what somebody does with that conflict that’s the issue.” In 64 of 99 state legislative chambers, lawmakers must abstain from voting in certain situations, according to Kern. In 21 others, legislators must vote, but have the option of asking fellow lawmakers to let them abstain. Read the full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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