Financial assistance

Idaho legislature plans to change ethics committee rules

The House Ways and Means Committee of the Idaho Legislative Assembly on Wednesday introduced a bill that would make several changes to the rules governing the committee’s process for reviewing ethics complaints against a lawmaker. .

House Ethics and Policy Committee Chairman Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, sponsored the bill, which concerns House rule 45.

“There are a lot of strikeouts, a lot of added terms (in the bill), but what is important for us at this point is that we communicate it to the body in hopes of fixing it. this year before we (adjourn) sine dine,” Dixon told the House Ways and Means Committee. “It’s not a rushed effort. I want to be very clear, that even though it’s coming at the end of the session and it’s a bit pushed now because we’re approaching the deadline…we’ve taken a long time to go through this and build this. ”

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Dixon said the committee wanted to make changes in light of its experiences last year with ethics hearings.

In 2021, the House Ethics and Policy Committee held two public hearings into ethics complaints against two lawmakers.

  • In April, the committee voted for the suspension and expulsion by the Idaho House of Representatives of former Representative Aaron von Ehlinger, accused of raping a 19-year-old intern. Von Ehlinger resigned before the Idaho House could vote on his expulsion. He is awaiting trial and is charged with rape and forced penetration, to which He pleaded not guilty.
  • Then, in August, the committee voted to censor Representative Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, for conduct unbecoming a lawmaker after he promoted a blog post containing the name and photo of the 19-year-old intern who accused von Ehlinger of rape. The Idaho House voted to censure Giddings and remove her from one of her committee assignments.

At the time of this article’s publication on Wednesday, the new bill did not have an invoice number and was not yet available online. It is likely to be available on the Legislature website by Thursday.

According to a hard copy obtained by the Idaho Capital Sun, the five-page bill makes several changes to the ethics committee rules, including:

  • specifying that the committee is authorized to take measures to protect the identity of witnesses.
  • specifying Complainant and Respondent will both be entitled to unredacted copies of the Complaint, Response and all evidence if a Complaint proceeds to a public hearing and is not dismissed.
  • specifying that the committee may consult with the Idaho Attorney General’s office or an attorney.
  • specifying that the defendant of the complaint has access to a lawyer for consultation and that the committee can vote to provide the defendant with financial assistance to employ a lawyer.

The bill also addresses how the ethics committee is convened (within the first 12 days of the first regular session of a new legislature following an election) and constituted. Under the bill, there are five members on the ethics committee, three from the majority party and two from the minority, as before. The bills add a requirement that committee members must have served at least one full term in the Idaho Legislative Assembly and must not have been previously sanctioned by the Idaho House for a violation of the ‘ethics. This bill also specifies that members of the legislative leadership (such as the Speaker of the House or the House Majority Leader) should not sit on the ethics committee.

The House Ways and Means Committee, which is often convened to quickly introduce a bill late in a session, voted to introduce the new bill with little discussion or debate. The introduction of the bill clears the way for it to return to a legislative committee for a public hearing.