CCO footnote for wonks: Malpractice cap amendment failed due to divided House

Chris Lowe

A funny thing happened on the way to the CCO bill, SB 1580, passing the Oregon Senate.

An amendment to add malpractice award caps to the bill failed in the Joint Ways and Means Committee, by a vote of 14 "Yes" to 11 "No."

Say what, you say?

As Jack Roberts noted in a comment on the first post on the issue, not only did Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) sign the letter with the Republican Caucus threatening to block the bill if the caps weren't included, but she was joined by Senator Joanne Verger (D-Coos Bay) in voting in favor of the amendment in Ways and Means. This puzzled me, as it seemed certain to create a majority in favor of the amendment in the committee, and when I tracked down the actual vote in the online log of the meeting, that proved true, which puzzled me more. Failed, 14-11?

Turns out that under the law governing the Joint Ways and Means Committee, a majority of the members from each house, respectively, must vote in favor of a measure for it to pass in the committee. The House members of the committee, evenly divided due to the even division of the House, split on party lines 7-7, so the amendment failed, despite the two Democratic senators voting yes creating an overall majority.

So, the same split House that creates the possibility of the Rs blocking the bill if it comes down to a straight party line vote there, prevented the R-favored amendment going through in Ways and Means when things came down party lines there.

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