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Panel Would Handle Campaign Charges

House Majority Leader Bruce Newcomb wants to create a new committee to field allegations of campaign finance violations.

And legislation he is sponsoring would take state officials out of the process of deciding whether the complaints are valid.

The Burley Republican’s bill would create a committee that would hear complaints in secret. No information would be released unless the panel decided to refer a complaint to a prosecutor.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday gave routine approval to Newcomb’s legislation. It likely will be sent to the State Affairs Committee for hearings.

“The onus is on them rather than an elected public official to decide whether the law is enforced,” Newcomb said. Idaho’s elections are supervised by the secretary of state’s office, which can levy a fine for violation of the Sunshine Law on campaign finances.

Newcomb said he wants to keep the process secret because otherwise a candidate could file a complaint against an opponent for political gain.

At the suggestion of Rep. Jim Stoicheff, D-Sandpoint, Newcomb amended the bill to state that any member of the commission can be removed for cause by the governor.

The House also will consider legislation designed to keep public officials from spending public funds to influence ballot issues.

, DataTimes

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Federal agency approves Idaho field burning rules

UPDATED: 12:41 p.m.

Federal officials have approved Idaho’s request to loosen field burning rules that backers say offer more flexibility to disperse smoke away from people but that health advocates say will lead to breathing problems for some area residents.