Rotunda Day 3: Idaho Legislator Nods Off, Others Distracted by Personal Gadgets During Ethics Training

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Amid their preparations for the just-launched 2013 session of the Idaho Legislature, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle gathered Wednesday afternoon for special training on legislative ethics.

Newly elected House Speaker Scott Bedke of Oakley greeted the legislators by quoting Idaho’s State Constitution: “The first concern of all good government is the virtue and sobriety of the people and the purity of the home. The Legislature should further all wise and well-directed efforts for the promotion of temperance and morality.”

“We are the ones charged with this by our state Constitution,” Bedke said. “I think with that comes responsibility to conduct ourselves in a certain way."

Wednesday's afternoon training session covered common ethical issues legislators may face during the upcoming session: public trust, money management and communications ethics.

According to guest speaker Scott Raeker, executive director of Iowa-based Character Counts, ”Ethics is the framework we’re trying to build all other issues upon, and without the ethics, we will fail.”

“I think I’m pretty good, as it comes to ethics, or I probably wouldn’t have the position that I have," Raeker boasted. "That’s probably true.”

But Citydesk's observation of the nearly packed Capitol Auditorium revealed many lawmakers not paying rapt attention to Raeker, instead focusing on tablets or smartphones. More than a few legislators actively responded to their emails rather than listen to the full presentations on conflicts of interest or Statehouse conduct.

Boise Weekly even spotted Rogerson Republican Sen. Bert Brackett, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, nodding off midway through Raecker’s presentation on strengthening a culture of ethics in government. When Brackett let out a loud snore, a neighboring lawmaker elbowed him to wake up.

“It’s warm in there,” Brackett responded when asked about his lack of engagement. He quickly added that he strongly favored the ethics training.

“It’s just a good refresher for the older members, and it’s really good for the expectations of new members coming in,” said Brackett. “It just reinforces what’s common sense. It sets the tone for the session.”