State Politics

Idaho House committee to hear inspector general bill

A House panel Wednesday moved to hold hearings on a creating a state inspector general to investigate criminal complaints throughout government in Idaho, but the split 9-8 vote to introduce the bill does not bode well for its future.

The bill had bipartisan co-sponsorship from House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Moscow, and Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise.

“This is a service to every Idahoan to make sure that our government is functioning in a prudent and transparent manner,” Luker told the House State Affairs committee.

Rusche brought similar legislation to the committee last year but the panel killed it.

As proposed, an inspector general would appointed by the state Board of Examiners to a six-year term with Senate confirmation. The office would investigate complaints of criminal activity including fraud, waste or corruption at all levels of government in Idaho, including counties and cities. The office would refer prosecutable cases to law enforcement.

“One of the intriguing things to me is the fact that you’ve included local government entities that are going to be watched over,” said Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. “We’ve have some problems in some parts of the state and this could be very helpful in resolving some of those.”

Opponents objected to creating a potential new bureaucracy and the scope of proposed office’s powers, and questioned whether the office could have prevented last year’s collapse of the statewide schools broadband network or earlier problems with a private contractor running the state’s largest prison.

“I like the concept but I don’t think it’s quote soup yet,” said Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa.

The bill now moves to a full hearing before the same committee. Not all who voted for the hearing are expected to support moving the bill forward.

Bill Dentzer: 208-377-6438, @IDSBillD