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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Legislative leaders from both parties favor ethics reforms

Both Senate Minority Leader Edgar Malepeai and House Minority Leader John Rusche are calling for new ethics laws this year, and House Speaker Lawerence Denney indicated he's interested, too. "Throughout the year we've seen behavior that is unbecoming of public servants," Malepeai declared, saying Democratic lawmakers are looking at introducing major ethics legislation. He called for both parties to "work together to bring about some sweeping changes in our ethics law so that we can deal with those issues in the future."

Rusche said, "People want what government is necessary to be focused on the common good and not on personal gain. So we'll be trying to address programs and proposals that restore some of the faith that people have lost in government." Among the moves being considered: Establishing a state ethics commission, which Idaho lacks; and looking at enacting financial disclosure and revolving-door legislation, which Idaho also lacks.

House Speaker Lawerence Denney, asked if the majority has been contacted by the minority about the issue, said, "They haven't talked to us yet but I suspect that they will." Rusche said he's hoping both parties can work together. Said Denney, "I am certainly willing to work with the minority on that." Malepeai said the intent should be to deal with "things that don't smell right in public service."

Denney said, "I'm willing to talk about an ethics committee or an ethics commission outside of the Legislature," in part because when lawmakers themselves handle ethics issues, it's difficult for "the public (to) have the confidence that we did the right thing. I think if there were an independent body out there to look at the facts, that it might actually be a good thing."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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