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Idaho lawmakers float more transparency limitations during ethics hearings

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

Potential changes to how Idaho House lawmakers investigate ethics complaints are now in the hands of legislative staff after elected officials clashed over just how public the process should be.

Rep. Julianne Young’s (R-Blackfoot) proposal would require the House ethics committee to hold all hearings behind closed doors and simply issue a report with its recommendations.

Right now, complaints are secret until the committee finds probable cause to hold a public hearing.

Young said her proposal would help protect lawmakers’ Fifth Amendment rights to avoid incriminating themselves, as well as their privacy through the initial process.

“Because what would then be available to a future court would be the report itself at most and not the details of what was said before the ethics committee,” she said.

But several committee members Tuesday rejected that idea. Rep. Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls) said she understands Young’s concerns.

“But at a certain point, the public deserves the answers as much as every member of the House deserves the answers because that is who employs us,” Horman said.

Other ideas that seemed to reach consensus were giving the accused legal resources, if needed, and establishing set procedural rules for hearings.

Legislative staff will draft a proposed bill for lawmakers to consider in January.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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