McLain: Session an opportunity for accountability in government
As we begin a new legislative session, we must ensure that progress for Oregon includes a review and update of the more technical aspects of our operations as a state. We need this careful review so that we can build a future where everyone has access to the best that Oregon has to offer: affordable health care, quality public schools, strong communities, affordable housing, and equal rights for all.
In the 2017 legislative session, the Legislature took up issues of cost containment through government effectiveness. We passed bills that increased the efficiency of our debt collection (Senate Bill 254) and addressed costs of healthcare services (Senate Bill 1067). In my capacity as a member of the House Democrats' leadership team, I have ensured that we remain focused on making our government nimble and productive.
This session, I have introduced legislation that amends the procurement process of high-skill trades (engineering, architecture, photogrammetric mapping, transportation planning, and land surveying services) called qualification-based selection (QBS).
The City of Hillsboro shared with me that the current process, which was mandated by the state in 2011, does not leave enough flexibility for localities to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollar. Hillsboro staff have identified that the current QBS process has delayed projects and extended product budgets because they are prohibited from asking about price before negotiating with a vendor.
The bill, House Bill 4127, has received the support of each city in House District 29 and the support of localities across the state.
The minor change I am proposing with House Bill 4127 will give localities the flexibility they need to make the QBS process work for their communities by allowing them to ask about pricing information when they need it.
I believe this update will accomplish three important goals for a fair and just government. First, it will increase accountability for the public dollar and allow elected officials to be transparent when evaluating whether or not taxpayer dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. Second, this will increase access to government contracts. This could be incredibly beneficial to smaller businesses and allow emerging consultants to gain experience and build their portfolios. Lastly, this will increase government efficiency by streamlining the negotiation process and allowing public contracting agencies to make more informed decisions when entering negotiations with a prospective consultant.
Beyond legislation, there are plenty of opportunities for the Legislature to ensure effective government. I have served as the co-chair of the Joint Legislative Audits Committee for just over a year, and in that year, we have revitalized our work to focus our process and standards. We put together a system for members of the legislature to request audits, and we refined the qualifications our committee will use to prioritize those audits.
Audits allow entities to understand what is working and what needs improvement. Timely audits are necessary for effective and efficient government.
I am eager to put these processes in place to ensure state agencies and government entities are doing all the can to serve Oregonians.
Government needs to work for its people. I am doing everything I can to ensure our government is transparent and accountable to every individual in this state so that we can provide top-tier services and supports.
Susan McLain is state representative for House District 29, including Forest Grove, Cornelius and west Hillsboro. She lives in Forest Grove.
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