March 31, 2009 in Idaho

Idaho Senate committee passes financial disclosure measure

Elected officials, candidates would list income, assets
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

What’s next

 The bill now moves to the full Senate with a recommendation that it pass. It needs passage both there and in the House and the governor’s signature to become law.

BOISE – An Idaho Senate committee voted unanimously in favor of legislation to end Idaho’s distinction as one of three states with no personal financial disclosure requirements for elected officials or candidates.

Senate Bill 1156 would require elected officials and candidates to disclose their sources of income, although not the amounts, and their major Idaho assets, including real estate.

“We are disclosing, with this legislation, a little more about who we are,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls.

Idahoans treasure their privacy, Davis said. But, he added, “I felt that on balance this was probably something that was in Idaho’s best interest to do.”

Davis, who co-sponsored the bill expanding Idaho’s “Sunshine Law” with Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, told the Senate State Affairs Committee that not only was it a priority for both the minority and majority leadership in the Senate, it’s also a priority this year for Gov. Butch Otter.

“In our majority leadership meetings with Gov. Otter, it became apparent at the beginning of the session that this was an item he, too, wanted to solve during this legislative session,” Davis said.

Because of that desire, Otter assigned his chief legal counsel, David Hensley, to work with Davis and Kelly on developing the bill.

As a result, Davis said, “It has Gov. Otter’s, not only his encouragement, but also his fingerprints on some of the language.”

Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, expressed misgivings about the bill. “I’m not convinced at this point that this is really gonna solve what we think it’s gonna solve,” he said. “I hesitate to see us start fixing something that’s not broken.”

Idaho’s Sunshine Law, enacted by voter initiative in 1974, requires campaign finance reporting and lobbyist disclosure. But the state never added disclosure of personal finances for elected officials or candidates.

Idaho lawmakers now voluntarily disclose conflicts of interest before they vote on bills. Davis said the legislation would essentially “pre-disclose” such conflicts through annual financial disclosure reports, as other states and the federal government long have required.

Pearce said, “I personally feel we have a hard enough time getting good, honest people to run for government, and then we start making it more onerous or more inquisitive.”

Kelly responded that financial disclosure requirements long have been in effect for those from Idaho running for federal office.

“Certainly with regard to congressional races, it doesn’t seem to have discouraged candidates,” she said.

When it came time for a vote, the committee was unanimous – not even Pearce objected.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/boise.


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