Rule of 31? Or the rule of 1?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

On Christmas Eve, the Register-Guard's David Steves had an interesting item about the challenge of putting together a co-governance model in the Oregon House.

Democratic and Republican negotiators had hoped to hammer out a deal by Christmas, but the real deadline looks to be the first day of the new session, January 10. (They'll spend a day or two in an organizing session, and then reconvene in early February to start the legislative process.)

Here's the sticky situation that the negotiators are wrestling with:

[O]ne of the thorniest areas for House negotiators is the amount of authority committee chairmen and presiding officers should have to bring bills up or stop them from getting a vote, and how much power rank-and-file members should have to form majorities capable of petitioning or voting to override those decisions.

In other words, now that you've got co-chairs of committees, it's likely that many more bills will get stuck in committee - if each of the two co-chairs can individually stop a bill from moving.

But what happens when one of those co-chairs opposes a bill that's supported by 31, 36, 40, or even 59 members of the House?

Shouldn't a majority of the House be able to pull a bill from committee and bring it to the floor of the House for a vote?

I don't think anyone wants a situation in the Oregon House like that in the U.S. Senate where a single member can stop forward movement that's supported by a majority of the body.

In 2007, the Democrats - led by Speaker Jeff Merkley - set up a "rule of 31". If 31 members of the House want to move a bill forward, that bill would come to the floor for a vote. That contrasted with the old rules under Speaker Karen Minnis - where a majority of the GOP caucus had to support a bill before it would move, even if a majority of the House supports it.

In short, in 2011, will we require that every bill moving forward have the support of both parties' leadership? Or will we allow any group of 31 members - 30 Ds + 1 R, 30 Rs + 1 D, or 15 Rs + 16 Ds - to move a bill?

I support the Rule of 31. It's going to be hard enough to move legislation in a split House without creating artificial and anti-democratic roadblocks.

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    As a side note, very few bills were pulled out of committee during the past couple sessions under the rule of 31 votes - almost all came through the committees in the standard way.

    I imagine the same would be true this session -- as the angering of a committee chair opposed to a bill is not something to be undertaken lightly.

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    Oh Kari, you crazy dreamer you! Insisting that our democracy operate on democratic principles instead of political loyalty!

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      As Kari noted, it was done in the past under then Speaker (now US Senator) Jeff Merkley.

      Good things aren't too hard to accomplish, so long as people who are not good are never allowed to fully get into power.

      Oh, and on a related note, the new GOP house has decided to "get rid" of earmarks by not calling them "earmarks", are trying to remove the house ethics watchdog, and have decided to change the rules so that the deficit doesn't have to be considered when they add in more tax loopholes for their campaign contributors.

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        ...and I continue to be baffled why a bunch of conservative House members would prefer the Obama administration steer federal spending instead of conservative House members steering it.

        Not that I object, but I fail to understand their logic.

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