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Idaho Legislature introduces bill creating waiting period before officials can become lobbyists

Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Otto Kitsinger
Idaho State Capitol building on March 23, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)

Reps. John Gannon, D-Boise, and Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, teamed up to sponsor the bill

The Idaho Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee introduced a new bill Monday morning that would create a mandatory waiting period before legislators, other elected officials and executive branch employees can register as lobbyists after leaving office.

Reps. John Gannon, D-Boise, and Jaron Crane, R-Nampa, teamed up to sponsor the bill creating a cooling off period before certain officials can register as lobbyists.

“It’s really essential to promote public confidence in our entire procedure,” Gannon told the committee. “Having a time frame between the time that a person is elected to public office, leaves public office and then returns to the Legislature as a lobbyist is a way to increase that public confidence.”

If passed into law, the new bill would prohibit legislators, executive branch employees and other elected officials from registering as a lobbyist or lobbying during the next regular legislative session and for at least six months after the termination of service as an elected official, legislator or executive branch employee.

Such bills and laws are sometimes called “revolving door” bans because they seek to block the ability for public officials to leave public service and immediately begin lobbying, as if moving through a revolving door.

Gannon said the U.S. Congress and 43 other states have similar laws in place, which range from six months to six years in duration.

Crane agreed the bill is intended to create a cooling off period and increase transparency.

“It shows your constituents that, hey, you were here to represent them, there was a break in that and now you represent a different organization,” Crane said.

Although the bill had bipartisan support and similar revolving door legislation is common in most other states, the committee had a tricky time with the bill.

Last week, House State Affairs Committee Chairman Brent Crane, R-Nampa, jokingly played ZZ Top’s song “Sharp Dressed Man” over computer speakers as introductory “walk-up” music as Rep. Jason Monk, R-Meridian, prepared to present a draft bill.

On Monday, Brent Crane could have played circus music as the committee nearly tied itself into knots debating, proposing multiple amendments and then voting on the bill.

  • Gannon and Jaron Crane initially weren’t on the same page as to how the one regular legislative session and six-month aspects of the bill would work.
  • Legislators amended the bill twice on the fly at its introductory hearing, adding the word “regular” before the reference to legislative session and expanding the bill to apply to not just legislators but other elected officials and executive branch employees. Although the practice is allowed, it’s a little unusual because legislators often worry about the unintended consequences of amending a bill on the fly without broader input and consideration. 
  • Then, Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said he didn’t like the bill. “I will support the motion to introduce this, but I will not support sending it to the floor,” Barbieri said at one point in the meeting. “I think the whole idea of addressing a potential, apparent appearance of conflict is clearly beyond the scope. If we had some abuses that were here that were clearly, you know, hurting the Legislature itself in terms of its reputation (that would be one thing), but this is all just potential.”
  • The committee then placed three different motions on the table — an original motion, a substitute motion and an amended substitute motion from Barbieri to send the bill back to Gannon for changes rather than amend it on the fly.

After several minutes of back and forth, Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, successfully steered the bill to be introduced with the two changes in place — the designation of a regular legislative session (as opposed to a special session or organizational session) and the expansion of the bill to apply to executive branch employees and other elected officials.
Introducing the bill clears the way for it to return to the House State Affairs Committee for a full public hearing and a vote. The new bill will receive a bill number and be posted publicly on the Idaho Legislature’s website after it is read across the desk on the floor of the House of Representatives

“Thank you committee, that was exciting!” said Rep. Julianne Young, a Blackfoot Republican who served as the acting chair of the House State Affairs Committee on Monday.

Young normally serves as the committee’s vice chair. At the end of Monday’s meeting Rep. Brent Crane said he offered Young the chance to serve as acting chair Monday just for fun.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state.