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House State Affairs Committee Kills Financial Disclosure Bill

Posted By Justin Ruen, Thursday, January 18, 2018

One of the most significant bills of the session was defeated yesterday morning as the House State Affairs Committee voted overwhelmingly to kill a bill sponsored by the committee’s chair—Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona—to require state and local elected officials and candidates to disclose personal financial information.

The legislation would have required candidates for state, legislative, county and city office to file annual reports identifying their primary employer and occupation or job title; all entities they own or for which they are an officer; every entity that has paid them $5,000 or more in income in the past year; each entity in which they own stocks or bonds (not mutual funds) valued at more than $5,000; any boards on which they serve; and their spouse’s name, occupation and employer.  A legislative work group looking at reforms to Idaho’s Sunshine Law unanimously supported the financial disclosure bill.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Loertscher, told the committee, “Financial disclosure of elected officials is in your future, because this will happen at some point,” possibly through the citizen initiative process if the Legislature fails to act on the issue.  “The point of this legislation and the way this is written is to make this the least intrusive way I can think of for us to accomplish that.”

Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, argued that the legislation could allow public officials and their family members to be targeted because of the official’s beliefs.  “To focus on legislator sources of income, spousal sources of income, is to put a target on our back to many groups and individuals nationwide that would work to silence various ideologies, various voices, by attacking the economics.”

It is not clear whether the sponsor will bring back the legislation in a different form, but AIC is monitoring this issue. 

AIC’s perspective is that the current process where elected officials declare their conflicts of interest on the record at a public meeting works well, it does not require a bunch of paperwork, and it is done in a public forum so that members of the governing board and the public are on notice as to the existence and extent of the conflict.  AIC is dedicated to helping local officials understand Idaho’s ethics and conflict of interest laws and provides extensive training covering those areas.

 

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