Oregon voters may be asked to swap the Legislature’s need for a supermajority in order to do business to a far lower standard, if some lawmakers have their way. While the idea is still a long way from becoming reality, it’s difficult to see how time will improve it.
The proposed legislation, currently called Legislative Concept 8, still isn’t available in written form, but members of the Senate Interim Committee on Rules and Executive Appointments were told about it at a committee meeting Monday. If approved by the Legislature, the measure, a constitutional amendment, would be sent to voters for approval.
The measure would do away with the constitutional requirement that says each house of the Legislature must have a two-thirds majority present — 40 members of the state House of Representatives and 20 members of the state Senate — to do business. Instead, each house would need only a simple majority to do business. There’d be less need for the two parties to work together.
Twice in 2019 Senate Republicans walked out and brought the Senate’s business to a halt. The second time their walkout lasted a week and denied the full Senate the right to vote on a proposed cap and trade bill, which, it turned out, didn’t have enough support even from Senate Democrats to pass.
Those same Republicans also walked out in May to stall a vote on a business tax measure, and while they ultimately were unable to kill that bill, they did get several concessions from the full Senate in the process.
There was more to it than that, of course. With strong majorities in both houses, the Legislature’s Democrats did little to attempt to work with their Republican counterparts on controversial bills. That left Republicans with only one tool, the walkout, to get at least some changes they sought. Walking out was an unfortunate, last-straw tool.
Going forward, two things should happen. The proposed constitutional amendment should die a quiet death in the 2020 legislative session. And Republicans and Democrats should agree to work together on important legislation, rather than having one party run roughshod over the other until the other simply leaves the building.