Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

What could Democrats do with a two-thirds legislative majority?

As state primary results have solidified, Democrats are looking strong as we roll forward to November. The Dems could pick up between 13 and 19 new seats in the House and four or five in the Senate. And as momentum builds in the Fall, almost anything is possible.  A 13 member pick up would give the House Democrats over a 60 percent majority in the house and a distinct advantage, while a 15 member pick up would push the Dems over the edge to a two-thirds majority. Senate Democrats need to hold 30 seats to reach the 60 percent threshold and 33 to reach a two-thirds majority.

But what does a supermajority and control of both chambers of the Legislature really mean and how much power could it really give Washington Democrats in the new session? Though a two-thirds majority is no longer required to pass new taxes, here are some hurdles the Democrats could overcome without having to negotiate for Republican support:

A 60 percent majority is required to pass:

  • Any general obligation state debt, otherwise known as bonds. While this may not seem like a huge deal, this exact issue held up the state capital budget for the last two years while Republicans sought a compromise on a water rights issues.
  • Any new lottery. Clearly not as big of an issue, but the state lottery program could be expanded to further finance our education system in the wake of McCleary.

A two-thirds majority is required to:

  • Suspend the Rules of the House and/or Senate.
  • Speed passage of bills, by voting to skip the usually required first and second readings of bills in the House.
  • Close debate on legislation in the House by calling and passing “Previous Question.”
  • Pass a law that would exceed the State Expenditure Limit found in RCW 43.135.
  • Expel a member of the House or Senate under Article II, Section 9 of the Washington State Constitution.
  • Amend redistricting plans put forth by the redistricting committee under Article II, Section 43 of the Constitution.