Editorial: End the immortal government


State Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, wants the Legislature to create another government entity to help get rid of some government entities.

It’s not as odd a request as it sounds.

Oregon’s government programs — as a species — tend toward immortality. They don’t face deep challenges to efficiency or their need to exist.

House Bill 2373, sponsored by Thatcher, would create a Sunset Advisory Committee. The bill would give the committee some money and have it systematically review state agencies and programs and recommend whether or not they should get the hatchet.

There is some review already. There are occasional audits. When the Ways and Means Committee does state budgets, it reviews agencies and programs. The problem is there is only so much time in the few months of the legislative session. There are literally hundreds of agencies, boards and programs. Legislative staffs are small. And state agencies don’t come before the Legislature pleading for less.

“Ways and Means doesn’t have the time or the capacity to get to it” at the level that this bill proposes, said State Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, co-vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

The result is agencies and programs that continue without their merits truly being tested by the Legislature.

The bill also does other things.

It sets sunset dates for state agencies. For instance, it would outright abolish them if the Legislature didn’t take action to renew them. The idea is to force a review to ensure the agencies are set up the way they should be and do not need to be redesigned or eliminated.

It also creates new requirements for state rules in an effort to make them more visible to the public. After the Legislature makes laws, state agencies produce rules to implement them. The bill requires that an agency that is proposing new rules include a link or a copy of the rules on its website. Some of them do now. But many new rules can be hard to track down if a person doesn’t know where to look.

The other piece of the bill is to prod agencies to comply with a law that Thatcher got passed in 2005. That law basically required state agencies to do a review every five years of rules that they implement to ensure that they are doing what they are supposed to do. When we asked around last year, it was easy to find an example. Thatcher said she would like to see the Attorney General’s Office or the Department of Administrative Services issue “gentle reminders” to ensure agencies comply.

Thatcher’s bill got a polite reception at its first public hearing. Nobody testified against it. Thatcher said herself that its specifics may need to be tweaked. But if the Legislature is concerned with good governance, it needs to do more to weigh what works and what doesn’t.