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GOP lawmaker says Democrat impugned her motives

FILE -- Rep. Julie Parrish, R-Tualatin/West Linn. (KATU File Photo)

Within hours of filing a high-profile ballot campaign this week against Oregon's new health care tax, Republican Rep. Julie Parrish lodged a formal complaint against a Democratic lawmaker with whom she sparred over questions about her motives and personal interests during a public hearing in Salem last weekend.

Parrish — who is attempting to block a multimillion-dollar tax on hospitals and insurers with Republican Reps. Cedric Hayden and Sal Esquivel — says Democratic Rep. Dan Rayfield's questions about how much she stands to personally profit from her pending ballot effort violated rules of the chamber where they both serve, the Oregon House.

The spat took place last Saturday toward the end of Parrish's 45-minute testimony before the House Rules Committee, which Rayfield vice-chairs, in a hearing room packed with constituents and lobbyists.

Parrish was there to oppose tweaks being made to Senate Bill 229, which the Legislature has since approved, that would establish a special election in January explicitly for a possible ballot challenge led by Parrish to a multimillion-dollar health care tax.

As tensions began escalating in the last half of the debate, Rayfield brought up Parrish's political consulting work with her friend Lindsay Berschauer, who recently launched a political action committee against the health care tax, and the paychecks she earned last year for managing Republican Dennis Richardson's successful bid for Secretary of State.

"I think one of the things that I'm struggling with is, you moonlight as a political consultant," he told Parrish. "The real question that I want to ask you, are you coming here today as a consultant or are you here as a legislator and do you intend to profit off of this referendum?"

Parrish did not answer the question directly, but acknowledged her ties and rattled off other political connections of the committee's five Democrats before saying, "Seriously Rep. Rayfield, your question is out of line."

In her complaint filed with the Legislature's chief clerk, Parrish said Rayfield's questioning was "hostile" and "disparaging" and not germane to the topic about a January special election. She accused Rayfield of violating a House chamber rule for committees that says members "must confine discussion to the question under debate, avoid personalities and not impugn the motives of another member's vote or argument."

Parrish asked that "a special committee on conduct" be appointed, citing another House rule, so the events from that meeting "are heard in a manner as to determine an unbiased outcome."

The House rules cover a range of guidelines, everything from monotonous meeting procedures to imposing strict bans on fundraising or accepting campaign donations while House members are busy passing laws in Salem once a year.

On Friday, said she hadn't heard a response to her complaint, which Rayfield says won't amount to anything because she misinterpreted the rules and their enforcement.

"I wasn't 'impugning' her motives, I was asking about her motives. I don't think Julie read the House rules thoroughly," said Rayfield. "If you're a House member and you feel your motives have been impugned, then what you end up doing is, in the moment, you say, 'I feel as though I've been impugned' and get a ruling on that right then."

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