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Various Vote Thresholds in the Oregon Legislature
A lesson in civics

For most bills passed in the Oregon Legislature, a simple majority -- 50% plus one -- is required in both houses, plus the signature of the governor for the bill to become law. There are 60 House seats and 30 Senate seats, so the math is pretty simple on this one. One thing to note is that if there is an absence or vacancy, that doesn't reduce the number of yes votes needed to pass a piece of legislation. This is laid out in Article IV Section 25 (1) of the Oregon Constitution says "a majority of all the members elected to each House shall be necessary to pass every bill or Joint resolution."

The President of the United States has a "pocket veto," meaning that if he "pockets" an act of Congress and doesn't sign it after 10 days, the bill is effectively vetoed. Article 1 Section 7 of the US Constitution says

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a Law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a Law.

Oregon is different. Oregon has a "pocket signature," so to speak, except up to 30 days after the end of a session.

Article V Section 15b (3) If any bill shall not be returned by the Governor within five days (Saturdays and Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to the Governor, it shall be a law without signature, unless the general adjournment shall prevent its return, in which case it shall be a law, unless the Governor within thirty days next after the adjournment (Saturdays and Sundays excepted) shall file such bill, with written objections thereto, in the office of the Secretary of State, who shall lay the same before the Legislative Assembly at its next session in like manner as if it had been returned by the Governor.

There is an even lower threshold than the simple majority. Resolutions passed by both chambers creating ballot measures to amend the Oregon Constitution need only a simple majority of both chambers and do not need the governor's signature Additionally, Article V of the US Constitution provides for actions of state legislatures. In these cases, the signature of the Governor is not required.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

There are two types of legislation that require super-majorities.

In November of 1996, Oregonians voted to amend the constitution by a vote of 52.3% to 47.7% to require a 3/5 majority to raise taxes. That means 36 yes votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate. Article IV Section 25 (2) says, "Three-fifths of all members elected to each House shall be necessary to pass bills for raising revenue." Sometimes there is a dispute over what exactly a tax is, and, in the end this will be resolved by the courts.

When Oregon voters passed Measure 11 in 1994 requiring mandatory sentences for certain felonies, by a margin of 65.6% to 34.4%, they set in the Oregon Constitution a requirement that in order for the legislature to change any of these requirements, they must have a 2/3 vote or 40 votes in the House and 20 votes in the Senate. It reads, thus,

Article IV Section 33. Reduction of criminal sentences approved by initiative or referendum process. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 25 of this Article, a two-thirds vote of all the members elected to each house shall be necessary to pass a bill that reduces a criminal sentence approved by the people under section 1 of this Article.

All this is for naught if either one of the chambers is unable to call together a quorum. A two-thirds majority is also needed just to do business:

Article IV Section 12. Quorum; failure to effect organization. Two thirds of each house shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may meet; adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members. A quorum being in attendance, if either house fail to effect an organization within the first five days thereafter, the members of the house so failing shall be entitled to no compensation from the end of the said five days until an organization shall have been effected.

These are important thresholds to know to understand the balance of power in the legislature.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2020-11-27 07:23:14Last Update: 2020-11-29 19:24:40



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