The Idaho Legislature's minority party leader, Rep. John Rusche (D-Lewiston) has decided after all that he cannot sit idly by as a fellow legislator, North Idaho's own Rep. Phil Hart (R-Athol) has amassed nearly $350,000 in unpaid taxes and continues to claim legislative impunity to any penalties.
The Spokesman reports that Rusche today has filed a formal request with the Speaker of the House that an ethics committee be convened to look into Hart's actions to see if there is a conflict of interest. Hart is a member of the House Tax Committee, chaired by Rusche.
This is a new twist. At the state Democratic Party convention last weekend at the Coeur d'Alene Casino, near Worley, Rusche told IdahoReporter.com that he didn't think he would go so far as to seek censuring of Hart, although he did say he was disturbed. "I see significant problems in someone with those kind or problems helping to craft tax policy for the state."
House Speaker Lawrence Denney (R-Caldwell), is attending a national conference for state speakers of the house in Maryland. Denney said as soon as he returns to Idaho and gets the official complaint, "I will immediately appoint an ethics committee and appoint a chairman,"
Hart, however, doesn't seem to see what the fuss is about. He told the Spokesman-Review's Boise reporter, Betsy Z. Russell last week that his predicament is pretty much a pure positive. "I think it makes you a better legislator, to have these life experiences ... You get first-hand dealings with the bureaucracy, see how they operate, see how they interpret things, experience the process."
The IRS has filed a lien seeking $300,000 in unpaid taxes against Hart. The Idaho Tax Commission says Hart owes the state $53,000.