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Democrat two-thirds majority in Oregon Legislature not out of reach

Oregon Capitol building
KTVZ file

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In 2018, Democrats won a three-fifths supermajority both in the Oregon Senate and House. Despite that, more than 100 bills perished during legislative sessions due to Republican walkouts.

Oregon is one of only four states that have quorum rules that require two-thirds of lawmakers to be in attendance in order to vote.

In the November election, Democrats hope to gain enough new seats that they will reach a two-thirds supermajority, meaning Republican walkouts would not affect whether bills can be voted on or not.

In 2018, although Democrats celebrated, thinking they had a clear path to pursue goals on policies surrounding climate change and gun control, they quickly learned the limits of this power when Republican lawmakers boycotted and refused to show up to work in the Capitol.

Political experts say that will change if Democrats gain enough new seats in November to increase to a “super supermajority,” otherwise known as a two-thirds supermajority, making Republican walkouts ineffective, as Democrats would be able to meet quorum, even if Republicans are not in attendance.

“Everyone knows the stakes are really high,” said Priscilla Southwell, a political science professor at the University of Oregon. “The Republicans, I would think, are quite concerned, and they don’t want to be irrelevant and ignored. And the Democrats are quite concerned that much of their legislative agenda has not gone anywhere."

Currently Democrats hold majority of the Senate, 18 seats to the 12 Republican seats. Sixteen seats are up for re-election this year, nine of which are currently occupied by a Republican.

The House also has a Democratic three-fifths supermajority, with 38 seats blue and 22 red. All 60 seats are up for re-election.

Southwell said while she expects Democrats to retain three-fifths supermajority it is “certainly in the realm of possibility” for it to increase to two-thirds.

“There’s a real chance that the Democrats might pick up just enough seats to have a quorum proof supermajority,” said Christopher McKnight Nichols, an associate professor at Oregon State University’s School of History, Philosophy, and Religion.

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The Associated Press


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