Whole lot of reading required for bills to clear Legislature
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
The Legislature’s committees do the work on bills, but the chamber floors are where bills pass or fail. Passing a bill involves a series of technical steps required by the Oregon Constitution.
Bills must be “read,” meaning literally read from the dais. “First reading” signifies the introduction of the bill to the Legislature. The reading clerk will read aloud on the chamber floor the measure number and title. The president of the Senate or the speaker of the House then refers the bill to a committee.
After work in a committee, a bill is “second read.” The second reading notifies the public that the bill has completed its process in committee and is back on the floor for a vote. The reading clerk will again read aloud the measure number and title.
A bill’s “third reading” allows a vote on the bill. The reading clerk will again read aloud the measure number and title and is also required to read the entire text of the bill, commonly referred to as a “full read.” The vote is cast, and the bill moves through the legislative process as appropriate.
The Oregon Constitution requires a full read, but it is time consuming. Generally, it takes the reading clerk two to three minutes to read each page of a bill. Bills can be more than 100 pages, taking hours. With consent of two-thirds of the members of either chamber (20 of 30 in the Senate or 40 of 60 in the House) the bill can be read “by title only,” just like the first and second readings. In the past, the majority and minority parties commonly consented to reading bills by title only. In recent sessions, however, the minority party has used this procedural technique to slow down the legislative session’s processes.
Another procedural option with consent for bills that need to be moved especially quickly is to second and third read on the same day. Generally, this is used narrowly for consensus bills, like agency budget bills, or to finish bills toward the end of a legislative session.
You can find bills using OLIS and see where they are in the process. Click on the “Overview” tab for a bill page and expand the “Measure History” section. This section provides a complete chronicle of the path a bill has taken through the legislative process. All action taken on a bill is denoted with the icon. Expanding this view will provide the action taken, the carrier of a bill and each legislator’s vote.