After a string of ethical lapses and questions about Idaho lawmakers' conduct that's only been increasing in recent years, new lawmakers will face something unprecedented when they arrive in Boise for their organizational session next week: Formal ethics training. And that's not all. When the Legislature convenes its 2013 session the second week of January, business will pause on the session's third day, as all lawmakers, old and new, are put through an hours-long ethics training session.
“Obviously, we've had some issues with breaches of ethical behavior over the last few years,” said Idaho Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. Hill said he and House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, decided to institute the new training, and the Legislative Council, a panel of legislative leaders, approved it.
“I think it's a good idea,” said House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston. “I applaud it.” But he noted that a bipartisan working group of senators and representatives met for weeks during the 2012 legislative session without success, trying to reach consensus on new, tougher ethics laws, from an independent ethics commission - which only Idaho and eight other states lack - to financial disclosure requirements for lawmakers, which only Idaho and two other states don't have. Said Rusche, “I still think there's a long way to go.”
The list of ethical lapses is long, ranging from matters that barely raised eyebrows to several prompting full ethics investigations; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.