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Hart’s statement to the House…

Idaho State Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, rose in the House yesterday to apologize to his colleagues for his ethics problems, a day before he was scheduled to go, once again, before the House Ethics Committee. This morning, that panel voted to drop an ethics complaint against Hart in exchange for his voluntarily giving up his vice-chairmanship of the House Transportation Committee; the committee had been on the verge of voting to recommend to the House that Hart be removed from the post. Here's what Hart had to say in the House yesterday:

"It's no secret that I've had a lot of media attention lately because of some of the circumstances involving my life. It's very complicated. ... I'm sure most of you have at least some knowledge of what those are. I want to say that if I could go back 15 years and make some different choices, I would absolutely do that. I think I've learned through the school of hard knocks that I picked a pretty hard path to hoe."

Hart said that lately, in his "political activism ... a few things snowballed. And since then I've been trying to wrap that up. I've even learned in the last few years that if I'd made a few less aggressive choices, and taken maybe a more simpler path ... I think I would have ... a lot of my more present circumstances more wrapped up than I have right now."

He said, "I think probably the dumbest thing that I've done ... is filing my 2009 tax return late. It should have been obvious that given the microscope that I'm under, that was not something I should've put off. I've been asked if I put it off because I was trying to be defiant, and I just had too much on my plate, something had to give. ... That was not the best choice I could've made, and for that I apologize."

Hart also said that in the House ethics process, the "chairman has been very gracious" to point out that the ethics committee could have worked more efficiently. "I've also had ... things I could've done better that would've sped up the process ... saved a lot of time for the committee and also for the body. For that I want to apologize," he said. "I want to be transparent about the things that I'm trying to deal with. ... It takes a little while to kind of work through the issues that I'm trying to deal with." Hart offered to sit down with any House member and go "step by step" through his situation, to "clear up any misconceptions that might be out there."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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