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Hart loses Rev & Tax assignment

| November 9, 2010 5:25 AM

By DUSTIN HURST

IdahoReporter.com

Idaho Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, announced today that embattled Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, will not serve on the House Revenue and Taxation Committee in his next term.  Denney, in Coeur d’Alene for the North Idaho Legislative Tour, said that a letter from Hart requesting removal from the panel was key in the decision.

An ethics panel was convened earlier this year upon the urging of Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, to investigate Hart for his dealings with the Idaho State Tax Commission and the IRS.  The committee cleared Hart on two charges but still recommended that Hart be removed from the House tax-writing group, saying that his dispute with the commission could lead to future conflicts with service on the panel.

Denney and Hart met Monday night in Coeur d’Alene to discuss the ethics committee’s recommendation.  At the meeting, Hart delivered a letter to the speaker asking to be removed from the tax panel.  ”When I spoke with Rep. Hart about his request, he felt it was necessary to be removed from the Revenue and Taxation Committee while he pursued a legal appeal against the Idaho State Tax Commission,” said Denney.  ”I know he’d like to resolve this matter and focus on serving his constituents in north Idaho.”

New committee assignments will be made in December when lawmakers meet in Boise for an organizational session, but Denney gave no clues as to where he would put Hart at that time.  The speaker believes that Hart will continue to serve effectively wherever he is placed.  ”Phil’s one of the hardest-working members of the House and, I believe, he’ll continue to be responsive to his constituents while serving on another committee,” Denney said.

A second ethics complaint has been filed against Hart, this time by a fellow Republican.  The new complaint focuses on Hart’s 1996 theft of timber from state endowment lands, an act for which Hart has admitted guilt, but has yet to make restitution.  The Athol Republican did send a check for the amount of the lumber to the state endowment fund, but the money is seen as a donation.

The filer of the grievance, Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, told IdahoReporter.com Sunday that he would like to see Hart removed from the House and that his service is a “huge stain” upon the reputation on the Idaho Legislature.  Hart has rejected the complaint, saying that Anderson is grandstanding in order to set the stage for a run for House leadership.

In the announcement Tuesday, Denney said that he will appoint members to the second ethics panel “as soon as possible.”

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