Lawmakers to curb their jumps to state jobs

SALEM — The Oregon House approved a compromise bill Wednesday aimed at preventing lawmakers from abusing their positions to land high-paying jobs in state agencies.

It imposes a one-year waiting period before legislators can move to an executive branch job — unless the appointment is subject to Senate confirmation or the hiring decision is open and competitive.

It follows criticism from Republicans after three Democratic legislators got jobs last year in the executive branch.

That wasn't the first such migration from the Legislature, moves that can result in higher pay and pension benefits. In 2004, Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski recruited four Republican legislators for high-profile jobs.

Legislators who control billions in spending and make policy decisions for the state shouldn't be able to use that power to wangle six-figure posts, or be suspected of doing so, said Republican leader Bruce Hanna of Roseburg.

"A waiting period would assure that legislators can't use their positions to win lucrative state jobs, and it gurantees they wouldn't be able to leverage their power and insider connections to get the position they want," he said.

The measure was an instance of bipartisanship in a session marked by hard feelings over the campaigns on tax Measures 66 and 67 and by the efforts of the two parties to lay the groundwork for fall election campaigns, when 76 of the 90 legislative seats are on the ballot.

Hanna and his Democratic counterpart, Mary Nolan of Portland, put their names on the bill and spoke in favor. It passed 60-0 and goes to the Senate.

The one-year waiting period is identical to the hiatus imposed on legislators taking jobs as lobbyists. That was a Republican idea.

Democrats contributed the idea that the year wait can be waived if the hiring process is open: The job must be posted, other qualified applicants must be interviewed, and the minimum job requirements can't include legislative experience.

Nolan said that allows the state to benefit from the expertise legislators develop as they move to the executive branch, "so long as ... those hiring decisions are aboveboard, open and available to the public."

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