As Idaho legislators come into session with, for the first time, a review on the table of how legislative ethics are managed, they needn't re-invent the wheel: They could grab one lying on the ground nearby, and modify to Gem State purposes.
Most of the 50 states have gone much further than Idaho is setting up some form of standard approach for overseeing legislator ethics, and they've tended not to be as controversial as you might think.
Among Idaho legislators, the whole subject often is taken personally: Of course I can be trusted. Arguments for ethical oversight usually are taken as personally insulting. They shouldn't be. Taken as a whole, and over time, Idaho's legislature has been generally clean, serious ethical breaches usually ranking low among its various faults.
But no group of people is perfect, which is why Idaho has, for example, a process for reviewing performance and possible ethical problems on the part of judges, a group that mostly holds itself to strong standards but now and again will find a less-than-worthy member in its ranks.
The National Conference of State Legislatures, the professional organization that tracks legislative activities around the country, notes that all state legislatures have some means for internally reviewing legislator problems (or, problem legislators?), but that 41 states also have ethics commissions. Idaho is one of the few without one. Wyoming is the only other state in the region that has none. (more…)