Editorial: Supermajority requirement won’t solve legislative problems


Published Mar 2, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

State Rep. Bill Kennemer says he wants to increase cooperation in the Legislature. It’s a worthy goal, though we can’t see how his proposal would get us there.

The Clackamas County Republican’s bill would require a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate to pass any legislation. It would establish a supermajority threshold for everything.

The change would require amending Oregon’s Constitution, so it would need voter approval.

Kennemer’s news release for House Joint Resolution 27 says it would promote the kind of cooperation that existed during the 2011-2012 legislative sessions when the House of Representatives was tied with 30 Democrats and 30 Republicans. Nothing could get done unless somebody crossed the aisle in the House, even though Democrats controlled the Senate.

In today’s Democratic-controlled House and Senate, in contrast, no Republican votes are needed to move most legislation forward if Democrats can agree among themselves.

Kennemer’s move can be seen first and foremost as a power grab for the party out of power. It would give Republicans more leverage. And government critics might think such a high threshold for passing a bill would be great, with the view that less government is better government, as the saying goes.

But gridlock is not what we need or what Kennemer says he’s seeking: “Requiring a two-thirds vote to pass a bill forces us all to work together toward better, more broadly supported public policy and law.”

The representative has plenty of legislative experience. Before earning his House District 39 seat in 2008, he was a Clackamas County commissioner for 12 years and an Oregon state senator for 10. He’s no stranger to the challenges of finding consensus to govern.

And he doesn’t seem to expect this measure to pass, saying, “At the very least, receiving a hearing on HJR 27 will give us the opportunity to talk about how we might improve the process.”

We share Kennemer’s interest in improving the legislative process, whether it’s in Salem or — more visibly of late — in Washington, D.C. But until there’s a proposal with more promise of success than this one, we think the legislature should focus on issues like pension reform, education and tax policy, among others.