Employees of the state, including legislators themselves, could become eligible for awards for work performance under new legislation brought before the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee Monday.
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, pitched the plan to lawmakers, saying that under the proposal, all public employees would be able to receive awards from non-profit organizations, such as the Idaho Public Employees Association. The awards could be monetary or non-monetary in nature, and, under Ringo's plan, would be exempt from possible charges of bribery or corruption.
One sticking point for lawmakers was language in the bill that allowed for the groups giving the awards to obtain prizes from local businesses. Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, questioned that, saying he doesn't even want the appearance of favoritism or impropriety. He questioned the bill's impact on legislators or employees who might be able to award contracts and then receive kickbacks in the form of awards.
Ringo assured Hartgen that state laws are currently in place to prohibit that type of illicit activity.
Rep. Pat Takasugi, R-Wilder, said the measure would go a long way to help encourage good work habits in state employees.
"I think it’s an avenue for public employees to receive recognition," said Takasugi. "We can give them something when we can't give them raises."
Before the vote, Rep. Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa, said he feels the bill is a good piece of legislation for the morale of state employees. "Public employees are glum after the past three years and this may help," said Schaefer.
The was introduced on a unanimous vote by the committee and will receive a full hearing in upcoming weeks.
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