As a member of the Idaho House of Representatives, I am very concerned about the perception of the institution that I am honored to be a member. I have always been honored to have the opportunity to represent my district and do my best to avoid doing anything that might place a negative light upon the institution, my district, my family, or myself.
It is not the intention of this post to be the judge and jury of Rep. Phil Hart as I do not have the benefit of the full information and even if I did, it is not my role and this certainly isn't the proper venue. However, as a member of the House, as I mentioned early, I do have grave concerns about anyone or anything that might impede or distract the legislature from its important duties.
With that said, I do have serious concerns with the composition of the Ethics Panel convened by Speaker Denney. If truth is what we are searching for, then it seems to me that there are most certainly better alternatives than the legislators picked for this important task, specifically on the majority side.
The first thing that I immediately noted when I saw the list was a generational divide. There is not one single person on the Ethics Panel younger than 60. Is this really all that relevant? Perhaps not, but it is curious. Then again, when the average age of the Idaho House is over 60 (the oldest of any chamber in the United States), I suppose the natural order of things would likely lead to this occurring.
The second thing I observed was that every member from the majority party are chairman. This is significant because it means that all of the majority members on the panel are fiercely loyal to the Speaker. I am not saying this is going to have an impact, but I do believe it is worth noting (even though the media has failed to).
The next thing I noted was the gender disparity. With the exception of Rep. Wendy Jaquet, all of the other members of the panel are men. While I admit a serious disability in understanding gender politics, I have become much more sensitive to them thanks to the thoughtful and patient guidance of Rep. Jaquet and others. I don't know if the gender disparity will make any difference, but you never know.
Most interestingly was the geographic divide. Not a single member of the majority on the Ethics Panel lives or represents the CD1. I can understand not having someone from the far north, given the local politics, but no one from CD1 at all? I have a feeling this is a lot more meaningful than meets the eye. I have a few hunches, but I'll keep them private.
Finally, the thing I find most difficult to understand is the apparent lack of consideration for professional background when it comes to majority member appointments. With the notable exception of Rep. Rich Wills, who is a former law enforcement officer, the remaining members are all farmers/ranchers. While this certainly is a noble profession, I am not certain that it has the monopoly on ethics and law. These members are all good men who work hard, but are they the best fit, I don't personally believe so. Speaker Denney, in my view, missed a golden opportunity to take advantage of the legal acumen of Reps. Leon Smith and Lynn Luker, both trained attorneys and mediators.
Ultimately, it is my hope that the process is thorough and fair. I hope that my colleagues on the panel do not rush to judgement, regardless of which side of judgement it may be. The process deserves their best efforts and so do the people of Idaho.