PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Democrats’ supermajority hold over the Oregon Senate will come to an end in the next legislative session.
Based on projections from the Associated Press, there will be at least 12 Republican Senators and one Independent Senator among the lawmakers. This means Democrats cannot hold three-fifths of the positions, which is required for a supermajority.
In the last legislative session, Democrats held 18 of the 30 Senate positions. They made up 60%, or three-fifths of the total number of senators and qualified as a supermajority.
The three-fifths number is significant because in Oregon, tax increase bills require support from three-fifths of lawmakers in order to pass. When Democrats hold 18 or more positions, it means voting on party lines will allow any Democrat-backed tax bill to pass.
Lawmakers are also required to have three-fifths support when they want to refer any revenue measures to voters.
Without their supermajority, Democrats will need to work across the aisle and get some Republican support if they want something to pass.
“What it essentially means is that people are going to have to talk to each other a little more,” explained former Democratic Oregon Sen. Rick Metsger.
He served in the Senate from 1999 to 2011 and was part of the Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate from 2005 to 2011. He knows what it’s like for Democrats to have an incredible amount of power in the Senate and what it’s like to come to agreements with Republicans on certain decisions.
“A super majority at the minimum is not a major thing if you don’t have any consensus on the other side. What it does do, when you have a supermajority or just short of a supermajority, it makes the people in the center much more powerful, because both sides are courting those few extra votes to move an agenda,” he said.
Metsger said he doesn’t think the public will notice much of a change in the coming session now that Democrats are projected to not hold the supermajority. He expects there will be general frustration if lawmakers don’t deliver on a major issue that has a lot of public support, but he doesn’t think the change will impact how citizens view the initiative process.
What he does expect to see in the next legislature is the enormous amount of power that the few returning veterans will hold.
“They know how the system works and they know what it takes to get things across the finish line,” he said.
In recent years, with the Democratic supermajority Senate, Republicans have participated in walkouts to avoid voting on pieces of legislation related to climate change. By walking out, they avoided being counted for a quorum and the Senate could not vote on pieces of legislation.
Walkouts lasting 10 days or more will be less likely in the upcoming session after voters passed Measure 113, which says lawmakers will be disqualified from serving the following term if they have 10 or more unexcused absences.
Metsger expects climate-change related laws will continue to be contentious in the upcoming session and this time, the two parties will need to work together if they want to advance anything.
It also means Senate committee chairs will need to do their homework and know how to draft legislation that will not only gain bipartisan support, but also win support in the House.
The next legislative session will also bring about a new Senate president for the first time in two decades.
Former Senate President Peter Courtney announced in January that he was retiring from the legislature.
“I think you’re going see a lot of people lining up wanting to have that job,” Metsger said.
Unless a challenger comes forward, Dan Rayfield will likely remain Oregon’s speaker of the House.
The Associated Press has not yet called races for Oregon Senate districts 10, 18 and 20. In District 10, projected results show Democrat Deb Patterson is leading Republican Raquel Moore-Green.
In District 18, Wlnsvey E. Campos, a Democrat, has a projected lead over Republican Kimberly Rice.
The District 20 race is still extremely close. Democrat Mark Meek held a slight lead over Republican Bill Kennemer as of Tuesday afternoon.