Calling for Bills to be read aloud is one stalling tactic – and in NZ we should brace for Maggie’s amendments

A reform bill aimed at further regulating the fossil fuel industry was seen as a certainty for passage in the American state of Colorado, where Democrats control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s office.

But wait.  Republicans, historically supported by the gas and oil industry and determined to stall its enactment, invoked a rule which entitles them to ask for bills to be read aloud on the Senate floor.

They used this device to require the reading aloud of a 2,000-page bill (unrelated to the energy bill).  It was estimated the reading would take some 60 hours.

Democrats read for nearly four hours before coming up with a plan:  they used five laptops to read the bill at an incomprehensible 650 words a minute, completing the task in a single day.

You can check out the incomprehensible consequences on YouTube.

The Republicans challenged this in court and a judge ruled against the use of computers to read the bill at high speed.

Republicans similarly have forced a clerk in the Oregon Legislature to read aloud every word in bills dealing with farm loans, motor vehicle taxes and other government minutiae as they use the stalling tactic to try to gain leverage.

Clerk Lacy Ramirez Gruss was obliged to read legislation hour after hour, day after day.

Lawmakers often chat or work at their desks during the readings, but they applauded after she read a 45-page bill on May 1 for more than two hours without a break.

The longest measure, of 62 pages, took three days to get through, with some House sessions lasting only an hour.

Timothy Sekerak, chief clerk of the House, said even as the House whittled down the pile of measures by voting on them, the list had grown as more legislation emerged from committees.

He was proud the Oregon House hadn’t resorted to bringing in speed-reading computers like Colorado Democrats.

But Oregon’s Republican senators pulled another stunt and absconded across state lines to avoid a vote on a carbon bill, then threatened to shoot state troopers sent by the governor to retrieve them.

Wisconsin Democrats similarly fled to Illinois in 2011 to deny a quorum for Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill and Texas Democrats hid out in Oklahoma in 2009 to block a redistricting plan that favored Republicans.

The Willamette Weekly explains what prompted Oregon’s governor to order state troops to go and round up the Republicans:

The Oregon Legislature remained at an uneasy standstill Sunday with Republicans blocking a carbon cap-and-trade bill, even as national observers sensationalized the impasse.

Senate Republicans have refused to provide Democrats a quorum since Thursday, and have been hiding out of state to keep Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, from retrieving them.

The tactic worked: Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, this week announced on the state Senate floor the sweeping plan for addressing climate change would go no further this legislative session.

He then described a wide array of policy and budget bills that have yet to be passed this session, including funding for the largest agencies in the state.

“This is a remarkable opportunity to finish our work,” Courtney said. “Please, senators, come to this floor.”

Not everyone was happy about this outcome, Nonprofit Quarterly reported.   

David Roberts of Vox tweeted, “Dems organized, elected more people, wrote a bill, got more votes…and it doesn’t matter. That is as straightforwardly anti-democratic as you can get.”

Protestors turned their ire on Courtney for buckling on the climate bill.

So what tactics can New Zealand politicians employ to stall or stymie legislation they oppose?

Keep an eye on Maggie Barry and David Seymour’s  voluntary euthanasia bill, which passed its second reading by 70 votes to 50 in Parliament last night.

As Newsroom reported: 

After heated debate and fevered speculation, the End of Life Choice Bill is a step closer to a successful end – but the real fight to get it across the line may just be beginning.


The bill still has to make it through what’s expected to be a chaotic committee of the whole House stage, the third reading, and a referendum before it can be passed into law.

National’s Maggie Barry has proposed 120 amendments

The NZ Herald explained:

As currently drafted, the bill would allow New Zealanders to request assisted dying if they have a terminal illness or suffer from “a grievous and irremediable medical condition”.

If it passes the second reading, Seymour has promised to amend it in its clause-by-clause committee stages to limit euthanasia only to people who have “a terminal illness that is likely to end the person’s life within six months”, and to state that age, disability or mental illness cannot be reasons to grant consent.

But Barry also has proposed amendments – about 120 of them – that could push the bill’s possible passage into the middle of next year.

She said the amendments were not filibustering, but genuine changes to improve the bill.

“These aren’t things that we’re just dreaming up, like changing the name of the bill or putting a comma in here, none of that nonsense,” Barry said.

“I’d rather it didn’t go through at all, but I’m only one of 120 MPs and if I can’t stop it, I’ll do all I can to stop the worst excesses of it.”

Seymour said it was nonsense to put up more than 100 amendments and then claim it wasn’t filibustering.

But Barry is unlikely to see much merit in taking her cue from Oregon’s Republicans and fleeing the country to hide somewhere in Australia to stymie his bill.



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