- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A group of Idaho lawmakers tasked with updating the state’s 40-year-old contracting laws is one step closer to revamping a system that has been plagued with a string of scandals surrounding Idaho’s high-dollar contracts.

“Do we have the right policies? I don’t think we do right now. They were more than adequate in the 1970s when they were first enacted, but I don’t think they are today,” said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis of Idaho Falls, a member of the legislative interim committee that met Friday. “We need to have the right language, that’s the priority. Right now we’re using the 1970s model.”

The panel reviewed several draft proposals on how to change Idaho’s procurement policies, but lawmakers only approved two of the seven presented. The rest were sent back for clarifications and revisions. The committee plans on meeting once more before submitting its recommendations to the 2016 Idaho Legislature.

Changes include providing penalties for unethical behavior, require uniform training standards for state employees involved in the procurement process and require annual reporting on high-risk contracts.

However, the group did not agree on the definition of a high-risk contract. For some, that meant any contract worth $1 million, for others it could include multi-year agreements.

Idaho’s system has come under scrutiny, particularly after a district judge in February voided a $60 million contract that provided broadband access in public schools. The judge determined state officials violated Idaho procurement laws by amending the contract after it had been awarded.

The state’s Division of Purchasing tried floating systematic changes during this year’s legislative session. However, lawmakers shot those down because they argued they weren’t thorough enough.

Friday’s proposals mirrored some of the division’s original changes, but this time the panel seemed hopeful they would pass both chambers if presented.

“It’s been more thoroughly vetted this time around and lawmakers have become proponents of what we’re trying to do,” said state Rep. Neil Anderson, a Republican from Blackfoot and co-chair of the committee.

The panel will meet for the final time Jan.14.

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