Fractions Is Hard
I've been thinking about this one for a couple days, and the most recent Capitol Notes podcast just brought it up, as reflected in John Myers' Twitter feed. First, the equation:
2/3 of 39 = 26.
See, right now there are 39 State Senators. Mark Ridley-Thomas' seat is vacant until a special election. Under 2/3 rules, a full Senate would need 27 votes to pass a budget or a tax increase. The state Constitution requires 2/3 of "the membership" for passage, which is very consistent throughout the document. Percentages of "the membership" is always the language. Here's an example:
(d) No bill except the budget bill may contain more than one item of appropriation, and that for one certain, expressed purpose. Appropriations from the General Fund of the State, except appropriations for the public schools, are void unless passed in each house by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership concurring.
And if "the membership" is defined as the current membership, then only 26 votes are necessary in the State Senate as currently composed.
So is it really the case that the legislature sat through marathon weekend sessions with still no resolution because everybody forgot to do the math? Can that really be?
I think Steinberg might as well send the parts of the bill with 26 votes to the Assembly or to the Governor for signage, and if anyone pouts about it we can go to court. The originalist interpretation is clearly that just 26 votes are needed.
UPDATE: Darn. It looks like "the membership" is defined within the Constitution as having 40 members, meaning that 27 would be needed to pass the budget or revenue hikes. So, um, never mind.