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Ethics in Salem


OPB/John Rosman

Right now, if a lawmaker has a conflict of interest with a piece of legislation, they are required to disclose the conflict, but they also have to vote anyway. In Oregon’s citizen leglsiature this comes up pretty frequently, since most lawmakers also work in the private sector.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) wants to rewrite the rules to allow House members to recuse themselves if they have a financial conflict of interest. Under Greenlick’s proposal, if a lawmaker or someone in their family would be financially affected by a bill, they could ask to be excused from a vote. They could only be excused if their request was approved by a supermajority of House members. Greenlick says he didn’t want to make it too easy for lawmakers to “avoid just any politically dicey legislation.”

Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) offers a different solution. He wants House members to state their conflicts of interest, but his proposal doesn’t allow them to be excused from voting. Right now, stated conflicts of interest are noted in the House Journal, but the details are not recorded. Whisnant’s proposal would change that so that the House Journal would reflect a detailed record of the House member’s conflict of interest.

What would you like to see in the legislature’s conflict-of-interest rules? How do you define a conflict of interest? 

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