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News >  Idaho

Denney eclipses Sunshine expansion

Senate bill held up by House speaker

Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer

BOISE – Landmark legislation expanding Idaho’s Sunshine Law is being held hostage in the state House amid late-session wrangling between the House and the Senate.

“It’s still at the desk,” House Speaker Lawerence Denney said Monday. “I held it at the desk on Friday, and I’m still thinking about what I want to do with it.”

Senate Bill 1156 passed the Senate unanimously last Thursday. It would end Idaho’s distinction as one of three states with no personal financial disclosure requirements for elected officials and candidates.

Idaho’s Sunshine Law, enacted by voter initiative in 1974, when it won approval with more than 77 percent of the vote, imposed reporting requirements for campaign finances and lobbying. For years, Idaho has debated adding personal financial disclosure, but no bill has ever passed.

This year, however, Gov. Butch Otter worked with Senate leaders to craft SB 1156. The bipartisan bill requires an annual report of the income sources and employers of a state elected official or legislator, and his or her spouse, plus a listing of major Idaho assets, including real estate. However, no dollar amounts are required to be reported under the bill.

Candidates would have to file the same reports within 30 days of filing to run for office.

When the House and Senate are battling over big issues at the end of a legislative session, it’s common for each to hold hostage bills that are important to leaders on the other side, for use as bargaining chips in end-of-session negotiations.

Though the Senate passed the Sunshine Law expansion bill unanimously, House members have expressed doubts.

However, on Monday, after reading the bill, House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said, “It’s a lot more innocuous than I thought it was. When you start declaring amounts, that’s really a bit more invasive for people who are serving voluntarily, basically. We’re a citizen Legislature, and that, I think, makes it tougher.”

Only income sources of more than $10,000 need be disclosed, under the bill.

Loertscher said if the bill comes to his committee, he’d like to see a minor amendment to make candidates file the disclosure upon filing for office, rather than within 30 days.

Senators, when they approved the bill, said it will “pre-disclose” to the public any potential conflicts of interest public officials might have. Currently, lawmakers voluntarily declare conflicts of interest before they vote on a bill; that’s the only formal way for their constituents to know if a position they take on an issue could benefit them financially.

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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