Monday, March 5, 2012

Read your Reed’s Rules!

Thomas B. Reed
Thomas Brackett Reed has been dead for more than 100 years, but his spirit was very much alive Friday, March 2, in the Legislature. It happened to be HOO cutoff day, meaning bills originating in the “house of opposite origin” required consideration by 5 p.m. or else they were dead for the session, except for bills relating to the budget and some other specific measures. So the House worked busily to pass Senate bills, and the Senate worked busily to pass House bills – until the minority Republicans in the Senate were joined by some Democrats to form a one-vote ad hoc majority, invoking parliamentary rules of procedure to redirect the Senate’s business.

That’s where Reed comes in: The rules of parliamentary procedure that govern the Washington state Legislature are his, originally published in 1894 as “Reed’s Parliamentary Rules.” Ours is the only state legislature in the nation that uses Reed’s Rules: The majority of legislatures rely on “Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure,” while others use “Jefferson’s Manual” or the well known “Robert’s Rules of Order.” In addition, the Washington state House and Senate each have their own rules that supplement Reed’s Rules.

The Republican maneuvers basically brought progress to a halt in both House and Senate, and cast a cloud of uncertainty about what the Legislature can get done by the March 8 end of the current session.

To read this post in Spanish, click here.

Photo credit: Library of Congress