BOISE -- Legislative leaders say they're hoping to adjourn the 2012 session by March 23, but some major issues still need to be resolved.
One of those is ethics legislation, although Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said his caucus is thinking in terms of "baby steps," rather than major changes.
"We don't want to go home with nothing," said Hill, speaking to reporters at an Idaho Press Club luncheon Tuesday. "We want to at least get the ball rolling. It won't be as much as many people would like, but it lets us get started in the right direction."
House and Senate Democrats turned a spotlight on ethics early in the session, after several high-profile missteps by their Republican colleagues last summer.
The missteps continued this session, when Caldwell Sen. John
McGee resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. Just a few days later, the Idaho Statesman reported that Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, introduced a bill prohibiting enforcement of parking meter violations in the Capitol Mall without mentioning his son's car was towed away for having six unpaid parking tickets.
Democrats had hoped to introduce several ethics bills this year, including one calling for an independent ethics commission to investigate complaints regarding ethical lapses, government waste or criminal behavior.
They also wanted to strengthen financial disclosure requirements and restrict former lawmakers from becoming lobbyists until they'd been out of office at least a year.
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, said the ethics commission concept is pretty much dead because of a lack of consensus on how it would work.
Instead, House Republicans will consider a rule change calling for annual ethics training.
"We have a manual from the attorney general that (points) out all the things that are illegal, but it doesn't bring out the things we shouldn't be doing," Denney said. "I think we need to do a better job of training our members about the subtle things they need to look out for."
Hill said there's still a chance stricter financial disclosure requirements could be approved, but many lawmakers don't like the idea "even to the point that they might not want to be in the Legislature if they have to disclose that information."
"Not because they don't want to disclose conflicts of interest," he said. "It's because they're very private people. Not only that, but when you disclose something financially, often times you're disclosing something about your partners, your business contacts and things like that."
"There are not going to be big giant steps," Hill said. "These are going to be 'Mother may I' baby steps. I know you aren't going to be satisfied, but we're trying to make some progress."
Spence may be contacted at bspencelmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.
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