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Eye On Boise

Vermont passes ethics, disclosure laws; now Idaho’s one of just two states without

Thanks to legislative action this year in Vermont, Idaho is now one of just two states in the nation with no requirements for personal financial disclosure by state lawmakers or other elected or appointed officials. Idaho had been one of three states with that distinction. Now it’s just Idaho and Michigan.

S.8, the legislation that Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed into law on June 14, includes a series of ethics reforms; it passed the Senate unanimously, and the House, 120-24. Its provisions include:

DISCLOSURE: Requirements for candidates and office-holders to disclose all income sources over $5,000, though not the specific amounts; the requirement includes income for both the candidate and candidate’s spouse. Candidates also will be required to disclose all entities on which they serve; companies in which they or a spouse own more than 10 percent; leases or contracts with the state in which the candidate or spouse has a 10 percent or more interest; and whether the candidate’s spouse or domestic partner is a lobbyist. Also, candidates for statewide offices will be required to release their federal tax returns.

REVOLVING DOOR: Legislators or executive officers will have to wait one year after leaving office before they could become lobbyists.

CONTRACTOR CONTRIBUTIONS: Sole-source contracts with those who have made campaign contributions are prohibited, as are campaign contributions by those holding state sole-source contracts.

ETHICS COMMISSION: Vermont will establish a State Ethics Commission, effective Jan. 1, 2018, with power to accept, review and refer complaints.

CONFLICTS: Every town, city and incorporated village in Vermont is required to adopt conflict-of-interest prohibitions for its elected officials and employees by July 1, 2019. The Vermont Secretary of State will then accept written complaints of violations, forward them to the town in question, and report them to the Ethics Commission.

Vermont’s move comes as the Idaho Legislature has appointed a working group of 10 lawmakers to study possible changes to Idaho’s laws on campaign finance reporting and ethics. Idaho currently has no “revolving door” law or financial disclosure requirements. Those are among the reasons the state earned a “D-minus” in the State Integrity Investigation in 2015, which compared states and their ethics and disclosure laws, practices and enforcement.

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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