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Idaho House votes to eliminate bipartisan committee and shift watchdog work to GOP control

The bill would eradicate JLOC and move OPE, the long-standing establishment meant to evaluate government programs, under partisan control. It passed the House 57-13.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho House voted on Thursday to eliminate their bipartisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee (JLOC) and shift the Office of Performance Evaluations (OPE) to the GOP-dominated Legislative Council.

HB 68 is sponsored by House Majority Leader Rep. Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett. The bill would eradicate JLOC and move OPE, the long-standing establishment meant to evaluate government programs, under partisan control, as well as limit the scope of what the OPE could investigate. It passed the House 57-13. 

It passed the House State Affairs Committee two days prior, with no one testifying in favor of the bill.

Currently, JLOC has four Republicans and four Democrats and two co-chairs, a Republican and a Democrat. It is Idaho's only bipartisan committee within the Legislature. 

That committee oversees the Office of Performance Evaluations. OPE, created in 1994, evaluates government programs and accountability, then produces reports on the findings.

According to the Associated Press, the office itself has produced more than 170 reports in the last 30 years identifying gaps in state programs and findings regarding taxpayer dollars.

The Legislative Council, on the other hand, is Republican dominated. The Legislative Council is responsible for the business of the Legislature. Under HB 68, it would be overseeing the evaluations.

Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, is a past member of JLOC. She previously told KTVB she had problems with the bill because the goals of the office would align with the goals of the partisan group in control of it.

Rep. Steve Berch, D-Boise, said on the House floor on Thursday that every report by OPE, later approved by JLOC, has been unanimous and fully supported since its creation.

"No one has provided a shred of evidence that  JLOC has provided left-leaning reports," Berch said.

Blanksma previously said she believes placing OPE under the Legislative Council would better represent the interest of the voters, as Idaho is a Republican-dominated state. On the floor, Blanksma reiterated that the office would still be performing these type of evaluations that OPE has always done -- just under partisan control.

She previously told KTVB, "JLOC for the last couple of years has been approving projects as submitted that aren't necessarily in line with what code says is supposed to do," she said. "It's supposed to evaluate agencies. I would like to know more about sea otters. That's not their job. And while I appreciate that some of the study work that they've done has been useful to people, they're supposed to be reviewing agencies."

The bill now heads straight to the Senate.

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