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Eye On Boise

Closely divided House panel approves ban on lawmakers also holding local elected posts

In a series of close voice votes, the House State Affairs Committee has rejected motions to amend or kill HB 368, Rep. Lynn Luker’s bill to ban lawmakers from holding any other elected local position, and just as narrowly passed the bill, sending it to the full House for a vote. Seven of the 16 committee members present asked to be recorded as voting “no.” Luker said 25 states have such bans, some of them in their state constitutions. Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, said, “I do appreciate (the information about) … states that have prohibitions. However, our founding fathers here did not choose to do that.”

Rep. Holli High Woodings, D-Boise, asked,  “What do you think the risk is in leaving those decisions up to the voters as well, to decide if there’s a conflict with a lawmaker?” Luker responded, “We’ve been elected here to deal with these issues.” He said, “Once a person steps beyond the school board or the city council, they have an obligation to a broader group, and so that city on any particular issue may be saying ‘go go go,’ and the other constituents may be saying ‘no no no,’ and that’s the concern.”

Jessica Harrison of the Idaho School Boards Association testified against the bill, saying, “Voters should be able to choose whom they want to represent them, regardless of whether they hold another elected officec. In rural areas, it’s hard to find qualified and willing members to serve as school board trustees. … There’s already a provision available for legislators to declare conflict of interest. … ISBA believes that this bill is an infringement on local control and the ability of local voters to determine their elective representatives for office.”

Luker said his bill would avoid concentrating power in a single person, and said the “power of incumbency” prevents such multiple-office-holders from being voted out. Anderson responded, “There is a power in incumbency … but it doesn’t mean we should be limited in our own local communities to serve, if that’s what our local communities desire us to do.”

After the close voice votes, House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said, “Don’t despair, if it’ll get amended, it’ll probably get amended in the Senate.” After the meeting, he said, “It’s an interesting discussion. … There may or may not be a conflict.” But, he said, “In reality, it just doesn’t look right. We’ve had county commissioners serving in the Legislature at the same time, mayors, city councilmen.”

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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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