Bend Bulletin: Rep. Hanna job-jump bill creates credibility

Bend Bulletin Editorial
January 16, 2010

Like to watch lawmakers squirm? The February special session could feature some of the best wriggling to be found anywhere outside of a bait bucket. Not only might lawmakers have to balance the budget without the help of Measures 66 and 67 (cross your fingers), but they’ll have to contend with a pocketbook issue of truly catastrophic proportions: House Bill 3638. Sponsored by Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, HB 3638 would combat a slimy tradition whose recent beneficiaries include Larry Galizio, who used to represent Tigard in the House, and Margaret Carter, who used to represent Portland in the Senate. Galizio now works for the Oregon University System, and Carter now works for the Department of Human Services.

The problem isn’t that former legislators work for state government. The problem is that both Galizio and Carter made the switch from lawmaker to bureaucrat in less time than it takes to look up “patronage” in the dictionary. Galizio landed his OUS job only weeks after switching his vote on a Metolius basin “protection” bill supported by the governor. Galizio was hired with the governor’s support and, in fact, was the only candidate considered.

And then there’s Carter, who made the transition last summer from co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee to deputy director of the Department of Human Services. In the former capacity, she made about $21,000 per year. In her current position, she makes more than $120,000. Like Galizio, Carter was the only candidate considered for the job.

We have little doubt Carter will do it competently, and we suspect she’ll appreciate the switch for many, many years to come. The Public Employees Retirement System calculates benefits using various formulas, and the one that generates the most favorable result is the one that’s used. One formula bases retirement income, in part, on a member’s salary during her last three years of public employment.

We like to think lawmakers represent the interests of the people who send them to Salem. But the miraculous advancement of Galizio and Carter raises another possibility: Some lawmakers may be trolling for executive level jobs even as they cast votes and write budgets favorable to their potential employers. Galizio and Carter may not, in fact, have done this. But history isn’t merely open to such interpretation; it invites it.

In February, lawmakers will show Oregonians whether they care, and if so how much. Hanna’s bill would prohibit former lawmakers from earning executive branch paychecks until the end of the next legislative session. A weaker alternative bill would create a one-year waiting period or require a competitive, open process “” as opposed to the one that placed Carter and Galizio on the executive branch payroll.

Hanna’s bill is the stronger one and, as such, would do more to restore the credibility that was sacrificed last year. Should the alternative bill “” or, worse, no bill “” pass, it can mean one thing and one thing only: Lawmakers value their public sector job prospects more than they value the credibility of their institution.