Senate makes historic change to its own rules

 Today, the state Senate ended a 96-year-old requirement that amendments to the operating budget offered on the Senate floor receive a supermajority in order to pass.

“This is the most significant change the Senate has made to its own rules in 90-plus years,” said Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chair of the budget-writing Ways & Means Committee. “A simple majority of this body should make a decision on any issue. With this rule change, all members of the Senate have the opportunity to participate in the budget process fully and equally.”

“This is the most significant thing we can do to have a bipartisan process in constructing this budget,” said Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam. “It’s a statement of good faith about working together through our current budget challenges toward a solution that works for everybody.”

“We may be saving the taxpayers at least one special session, and maybe a second special session by passing this rule change,” said Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch. “There is an opportunity to pass a coalition budget – not a Democratic budget or a Republican budget – but a budget that truly is a reflection of the public and in the public’s best interests.”

In 1915, the Senate adopted a supermajority requirement for floor amendments to the operating budget proposed by Ways & Means Committee. A two-thirds vote was requirement for amendments, but the Senate heard amendments on the floor as a committee of the whole, which appears to have meant that votes on the amendments were not recorded.

The requirement for voting as a committee of the whole was dropped in 1983, and the threshold lowered from two-thirds to sixty percent, creating the rule as it has existed for 28 years until today.