Rick Boucher, a Democrat, represented Virginia’s 9th Congressional District in the House from 1983 to 2011. Bill Bolling, a Republican, was lieutenant governor of Virginia from 2006 to 2014 and a state senator from 1996 to 2005.
For decades, Virginia enjoyed a reputation as one of the best-managed states in the nation. It’s easy to see why: We balance our budgets responsibly, we keep taxes low and regulation in check, and we foster a business atmosphere competitive with any part of the country.
That reputation for good management extended to the conduct of our public officials. Where corruption and scandal unfortunately occurred in other states, Virginia enjoyed a culture of exceptional and often selfless public service.
That reputation for honesty and integrity in government is a significant part of why so many businesses and workers choose to make Virginia their home.
Today, we risk losing our reputation for good governance. We risk allowing loose laws and ethical lapses to derail our long and successful effort to make Virginia a place where businesses and citizens can be certain that their elected officials will act in their constituents’ best interests.
As Virginians with 57 years of public service between us, we have seen the opportunities for growth that arise when a state enjoys a reputation for excellent management. Without public trust, Virginia is at grave risk of losing out on the next round of investment and that next aspiring entrepreneur.
That’s why we gladly accepted Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s request to chair the Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government. Our commission will conduct a comprehensive review of Virginia’s approach to ethics, campaign finance, gifts, conflicts of interest, lobbying and a host of other issues that ultimately determine the scope of the public’s trust in state government. We are joined by eight public figures who have served Virginia with distinction.
The commission will make recommendations for legislation and policies that will create some of the highest ethical and governance standards in the nation.
Virginia is fortunate that its political leaders in the General Assembly have shown the desire necessary to tackle these problems. House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) wrote last month that they will “re-examine every aspect of our ethics, transparency and disclosure laws. We will build on the steps taken during this year’s session and seek to enact reforms that are stronger and more stringent.”
We could not agree more with this comprehensive approach. Our commonwealth was founded on a principle of honest government that puts the public good ahead of all other considerations. We look forward to doing our part in putting together a plan that holds true to these shared goals.
When many in federal government show little interest in working together, we in Virginia have the chance to show again that we do things differently. Our faith in bipartisanship and our belief in good government aren’t mere talking points. They are two of the great underpinnings of our commonwealth’s economic success.
In Virginia, common sense has always won out over cynicism and the petty politics of short-term gain. It is time for this generation of Virginians to inscribe this belief into our laws.
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