BOISE – The Idaho House speaker who single-handedly killed legislation this year to require personal financial disclosure from the state’s elected officials now says he won’t do it again.
“In the upcoming session, if it comes back, I think we will try to make sure that it gets the full hearing and see where it goes,” said House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale.
The legislation, co-sponsored by the majority and minority leaders of the Idaho Senate and drafted in part by Gov. Butch Otter’s office, passed the Senate unanimously on April 2 before dying unceremoniously in the House. It would have ended Idaho’s distinction as one of just three states that require no disclosure of legislators’ income sources, along with Michigan and Vermont. Recently, the Center for Public Integrity again rated Idaho last in the nation for financial disclosure. Washington, by contrast, ranked second in the nation, achieving an “A” grade.
“It’s an important part of a transparent government,” said Lori Anderson, spokeswoman for the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. “It gives the public a chance to see that the people they elect are working in the public’s best interest, and not for private gain.”
Denney said he still has reservations about the idea and likely wouldn’t support a bill like the one that passed the Idaho Senate this year without some changes.
“Personally I don’t have any problem with disclosure of anything that I do, but I do know that there were a number of people that were very concerned,” he said. “I did have one call from a legislator’s wife saying that she had received an inheritance, and that it was really nobody’s business other than hers, that it did not come from anything that her husband did in the Legislature.”
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who sponsored the bill with Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, said, “Those are the kinds of things that we should look at, and if there’s a way to improve on the legislation, great – let’s do it.”
He added, “I applaud the speaker for his willingness to make progress on this legislative concept in the upcoming year, and look forward to working with whoever he would provide to participate.”
Davis said he invited House GOP leaders to work with the bill’s sponsors this year but was rebuffed. “We would’ve loved to have had any member of House leadership or anyone that they would invite to participate with us,” he said. “We just didn’t have that.”
After the bill passed the Senate, Denney held it at the speaker’s desk for the rest of the session, rather than assign it to a committee for a hearing. That killed it.
The rather modest bill would have required an annual report of the major income sources and employers of a state elected official or candidate, and his or her spouse, plus a listing of major Idaho assets, including real estate. It didn’t require dollar amounts.