BOISE -- Ethics was one of the big issues at the Idaho Statehouse last year, but some lawmakers say not nearly enough was done about it.
At the start of the 2012 session , Idaho Democrats made a push for an independent ethics commission. But, a bipartisan working group couldn't get that done. Some changes in ethics rules were made, like disclosing a possible conflict of interest early. But this year, both sides are indicating that wasn't enough.
We're one of a few state that doesn't have an independent ethics commission, and we should, said Sen. Michelle Stennett (D - Ketchum), new Senate Minority Leader.
New Speaker of the House Rep. Scott Bedke (R - Oakley) says House lawmakers are working on something similar to that. He didn't give too many details, and didn't indicate whether it would be a group completely independent of the Legislature. But, unlike now, they apparently wouldn't assemble only when there's a complaint.
It would include a formal standing ethics committee, said Bedke.
Why the need? While leaders have acknowledged breaches of ethical behavior over the last few years, the Speaker says those were mostly due to lawmakers just not knowing the rules. Many times it's not a willful act. It's more of a 'Well, I didn't even think of that.'
So, they believe education will be key, especially with a record-setting 42% of lawmakers being new this year. Which is why they'll go through four hours of formal ethics training in the first week of the 2013 session.
With such great turnover, and so many new members, it's a great opportunity to help define the culture that we want for the organization, said House Minority Leader Rep. John Rusche (D - Lewiston).
Lawmakers also said one of the problems they see is the perception that they're engaging in a lot of unethical behavior. Those who support the ethics committee say, merely its existence can help dissolve that perception.
The Legislative Session starts on Monday with the Governor's state of the state address.
You can watch the address live on Monday at 1:00pm on KTVB Channel 7 and on KTVB.com.