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Eye On Boise

Tue., Feb. 7, 2012, 9:06 a.m.

House panel introduces rule change to boot leaders who get DUIs

Rep. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, introduces legislation Tuesday to boot out House leaders who get DUIs or drug convictions. (Betsy Russell)
Rep. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, introduces legislation Tuesday to boot out House leaders who get DUIs or drug convictions. (Betsy Russell)

A deeply divided House State Affairs Committee voted this morning to introduce legislation proposed by Rep. Julie Ellsworth, R-Boise, to amend House rules to say that any member of leadership who is convicted of a DUI or drug offense would lose his or her leadership post. "It basically says if you're a member of leadership in your current term, if you're found guilty of a DUI or a drug offense, you're not eligible to complete that current leadership term," Ellsworth told the committee. "I believe that it creates a standard, it puts it in place so that issues don't come into play when a situation arises. I like the idea of a standard."

Earlier this session, the Senate Republican Caucus voted to keep its Majority Caucus Chairman, Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, in his leadership post despite his DUI conviction last spring. The proposed new House rule wouldn't apply to the Senate; just to the House.

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, asked, "Why are we just focusing on DUIs? Why not assault and batteries, misdemeanor reckless driving - there's a whole lot of other things that could be included in here too." Ellsworth said she'd be open to amendments to expand the rule change. Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, said, "I'm wondering what's the motivation... for bringing this forward." Ellsworth responded, "There's certainly a debate currently in the bluilding, but I think the significant thing, as I sat back and listened to things that happened in the news, I realized that the lack of standards creates a situation where you have to evaluate personalities. I just don't want that. ... I believe a standard in this area is appropriate for a leadership position."

Anderson noted that the Legislature currently is looking into overall ethics issues, and Rep. Erik Simpson, R-Idaho Falls, said, "It appears to be sort of the flavor of the month, and I wonder what will spawn from this rule change. Does it then become those who consume alcohol cannot serve in leadership posts? I have some concerns. I just wonder how much as a body we want to reduce the size of the tent, and in this case, I think we're kind of putting a bouncer at the door of the tent. I think this thing does need reworked based on the comments that I've heard."

Simpson offered a substitute motion to return the proposal to its sponsor, but it failed on a close, 8-10 vote. The committee then agreed on a divided voice vote to introduce the measure. Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, said, "I want to thank Rep. Ellsworth for bringing this forward. I think it's going to insure the integrity of our institution."

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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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