Parrish Looks to Re-Establish Public Trust in Government
By Taxpayer Association of Oregon Foundation
Long before the revelations of alleged mis-deeds by former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Representative Julie Parrish was working toward a more open, transparent government. Although the actions of Kitzhaber and his fiancée Cylvia Hayes have perhaps added a new urgency to the push for ethics reform, the need was obvious enough for Parrish to have offered bills on the subject in each of her Sessions in the Legislature.
For the 2015 Session, Parrish has offered “The Ethics and Campaign Reform” agenda, which would increase accountability and transparency in Oregon government, and would also close some loopholes that can be found in older statutes which have failed to keep up with modern practices.
In addition to increasing public focus on the government corruption operating just out of view over the years, the Kitzhaber resignation may have opened another door for Parrish’s ethics agenda. New Governor Kate Brown has worked with Parrish before on transparency issues and the two women enjoy a good working relationship.
Parrish’s Agenda includes nine Bills already filed, with another five still in the drafting stage at press time. Among these Bills are:
HB 2789 would require that the entirety of a candidate’s statement in the Voters Pamphlet be accurate, or subject the candidate to the same fine currently levied if he or she does not tell the truth about “required information” such as educational attainment. A candidate, for instance, who states “I am opposed to tax increases” but voted in favor of a tax increase while a public official could run afoul of this new requirement.
HB 2790 would require that all testimony given by elected officials or on behalf of public agencies be given under oath, and therefore subject to Oregon’s perjury laws. This would have been very helpful during the Cover Oregon debacle, when the Legislature was given false information about the program by Governor Kitzhaber’s staff. A companion bill – HB 2791 – would subject unsworn false statements given to the Legislature in public testimony to perjury statutes.
HB 2787 would establish a Task Force to reform Oregon’s voter rolls with particular emphasis on so-called “Inactive” voters. The State currently has over 411,000 Inactive voters who do not receive a ballot because they may have failed to vote in the last Federal election, or failed to respond to the County Clerk on a signature verification question. Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is largely responsible for the size of this disenfranchised group – states with traditional in-person voting do not have large number of these voters.
Parrish is working to build additional bi-partisan support for her “Ethics and Campaign Reform” Agenda. A copy of the Agenda document, describing all the ideas included, is available from her office.