Posts tagged: ethics committee
On the same day state Sen. Monty Pearce (pictured), R-New Plymouth, defended himself against charges of lining his pockets in office, the state got a near-failing score on a national measure of corruption. Think there's a connection? Pearce, a 14-year legislative veteran, is at the vortex of efforts to open Idaho to oil and natural gas development. As chairman of the Senate Resources and Conservation Committee, Pearce oversaw Senate passage of bills that updated the state's oil and gas regulatory framework - without which the fledgling industry in Pearce's backyard would be stalled. The panel also refused to impose more stringent controls on fracking and endorsed stripping counties and cities of their ability to stop or influence oil and gas development in their jurisdictions. All that time, Pearce was sitting on a secret: On Nov. 4, he signed a lease with Snake River Oil and Gas, making him a partner with one of the big players behind the legislation/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.
Question: Does Idaho deserve a D-minus for government corruption risk?
Marty Trillhaase/Lewiston Tribune, takes House Speaker Lawerence Denney to task today for not only failing to properly punish state Rep. Phil Hart for his tax dodging/timber stealing ways but also for allowing the ethics process to be closed from the public in the future. Trillhaase writes: “Denney's impotence is the one constant in this mess. Denney had it within his prerogatives to strip the timber-stealing tax scofflaw of all committee assignments - letting him cool his heels on the House floor - until Hart paid his taxes and settled up with the state for the timber.”
Question: Have you changed your view of House Speaker Lawerence Denney as a result of his handling of Rep. Phil Hart's several missteps?
Idaho Rep. Phil Hart, who has big tax disputes pending over back state and federal income taxes, sat on a three-member legislative subcommittee this year that reviewed new state tax rules for all Idaho taxpayers, and he cast the deciding vote on two of them. Those included a new rule for how the state Tax Commission should handle settlements of more than $50,000 in income tax liability - at a time when Hart was facing an order to pay $53,000 in back state income taxes, penalties and interest. Hart never mentioned his case or declared a conflict of interest. More here/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise
The northern Idaho lawmaker at the center of a House ethics
investigation hopes to introduce legislation next year that would
eliminate the state income tax on wages and salaries. Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, said his proposal would bring Idaho’s
tax code back in line with what the income tax was originally intended
to be: a tax on business and investment profits, rather than on wages. “This issue is fundamental to Idaho’s (economic)
revitalization,” Hart said. “I don’t think our economy is going to
recover until we figure out how to bring jobs back from overseas. We
can’t do anything about that at the state level, but we can make Idaho
more attractive than the other 49 states”/William Spence, SR. More here.
Question: What do you make of plans by embattled Rep. Phil Hart to introduce legislation to eliminate the state income tax?
On Twitter, embattled Idaho Rep. Phil Hart has just posted this comment, plus 2 documents: “I thought it would be beneficial for anyone who so chooses, to be able to see the actual documents surrounding the House Ethics Committee and the alleged abuse of my legislative office. The charges are vague and frankly so vague they are difficult to answer. You can see both documents below. I stand firm that I never abused any privilege available to me as an Idaho Representative and I look forward to a thorough investigation and being cleared of these charges.”
Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems appear to be worse than previously disclosed. When federal tax liens filed against Hart’s various business entities are combined with the hundreds of thousands in liens the IRS has filed against him personally in his ongoing fight over back income taxes, the third-term Idaho lawmaker faces a total of more than $644,000 in outstanding federal tax liens. A state income tax judgment against him that he’s attempting to appeal pushes that total up to nearly $700,000/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Hart said the constitutional immunity from arrest and civil procedures during a legislative session is intended to be a benefit to the public, not to lawmakers.”It allows legislators to focus on the work of their constituents and not get bogged down with other distractions,” he said. “It’s not a privilege for legislators, but a protection for constituents.”Regarding his position on the tax committee, he said, “the reason we have 105 lawmakers is that we want a variety of opinions. I think I bring a point of view to that committee that’s unique. My constituents know my point of view and choose to send me there.”Hart said he was surprised his battle with the tax commission prompted an ethics complaint. Nevertheless, he plans to cooperate with the investigation and respond to whatever specific charges are raised/William L. Spence, Lewiston Tribune
Question: Would Hart be in trouble re: re-election this year, if the Democrats had fielded a candidate to run against him. Or is Hart right in saying, “My constituents know my point of view and choose to see me (to the Legislature)?”
Phil Hart filed this response with the House Ethics Committee, meeting to discuss his continuing income tax problems: “I want you to know that this part of the process of governance does not minimize the passion I have to serve the people of the 3rd legislative district. I sought this office because I wanted to be in a position to protect our constitutional rights and the liberties of the people. I am seeking re-election now because, with my six years of experience, I feel I can be more effective in attaining those lofty goals. American patriots fight for what is right in the country and reject is what is wrong with the country. This battle for me is no less than fighting for what is right and just in the legislative arena and in the state that I have grown to love. This battle for what is right gives me the opportunity to tell an American story. And tell that story I will.” More from Betsy Russell/Eye On Boise here.
Question: Satisfied with the response?
Hart has battled both state and federal governments over his personal belief that income taxes are unconstitutional. Like uncounted tax protesters before him, he lost those skirmishes – and relied on his legislative privilege to prolong the time he had to appeal beyond the deadline set by law. He was not being harassed by the crown, or the governor, to interfere with his ability to do his legislative duty. While Hart’s tax clashes continue, the ethical questions surrounding his conduct are appropriately before the Ethics Committee. That bipartisan panel’s task is to defend the Legislature’s integrity and sustain the public’s confidence/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.
Question: What will the recommention by the House Ethics Committee say about the Idaho Legislature?
(House Speaker Lawerence Denney, pictured) thinks Durst should check with House rules before releasing critical comments. ”I want to set the record straight,” said Denney. ”House rules dictate that I must choose from committee chairmen.” Durst said the professional makeup of the panel, consisting of three ranchers or farmers, was also a concern. He said that Denney should have looked to Republicans Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, or Lynn Luker, R-Boise, to serve because of their past work experience in the legal fields. Denney pointed to the House rule that prevented those two men from serving. ”While Smith and Luker would have been very good choices, neither is a committee chairman”/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Are you OK with House Speaker Denney’s explanation of his choices for the House Ethics Committee that’s investigating Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems?
Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, had this response today to the convening of the newly appointed House Ethics Committee: “I guess I would say I’m anxious to get through the process, and I’m confident everything’s going to work out OK for me.” Hart said he’s received the formal letter from committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, “and I do plan on responding to it”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
The ethics committee has four possible recommendations it can make to the House regarding Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol: Dismissal of the charges; reprimand, which requires a majority vote of House members; censure, which also requires a majority vote of the House; and expulsion, which requires a two-thirds vote of the House pursuant to Article 3, Section 11 of the Constitution. Any recommendation also could carry a sanction recommendation, such as removal from certain committees/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Which of the options would you choose for Hart?
(Branden Durst, D-Boise), on his blog, said that he isn’t completely satisfied with the members Denney picked for the panel, particularly the Republicans lawmakers. … Durst was critical of the age, professions, political statures, and geography represented on the panel. Each of the Republican lawmakers – Rep. Bert Stevenson, R-Rupert, Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, Rep. Tom Loetscher, R-Iona, and Rep. Dell Raybould, R-Rexburg – serves as a committee chairman when the Idaho House is in session. That, Durst said, could lead to a decision based solely on politics. “This is significant because it means that all of the majority members on the panel are fiercely loyal to the Speaker. I am not saying this is going to have an impact, but I do believe it is worth noting”/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Has House Speaker Lawerence Denney loaded the ethics panel inquiring into Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems w/his lieutenants to control the outcome?
House Speaker Lawerence Denney has appointed an ethics committee to investigate the conduct of Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, will chair the seven-member panel, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, will be vice-chair. The committee likely will meet in August. … Click here to read Denney’s announcement of the appointment of the committee; the other members are Reps. Dell Raybould, Bert Stevenson, Rich Wills, Bill Killen and George Sayler/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
Question: Are you satisfied with the appointments made to the ethics committee investigating Idaho state Rep. Phil Hart’s tax problems?