As Senate cheerleaders create reform to legalize cannabis across the state, there’s concern that the votes might not be enough to implement a comprehensive legislation-despite the Democratic Party’s higher power in the chamber.
Knowing the potential difficulties of gathering sixty votes to overthrow a filibuster for an independent reform on the floor, activists are calling for leadership to tackle the legislation through a procedure dubbed as budget reconciliation. The process requires fifty-one majority votes for a more comprehensive, must-approve package.
Chuck Schumer (Senate Majority Leader), who is leading the authorization efforts within his chamber, suggested an outcome during last week’s press conference.
Although using the must-pass bill vehicle can look like a simple strategy that would reduce pressure to gain Republican voters, the complex legislative structure has various restrictions that limit the type of reforms that can be implemented under the process.
The Byrd regulation evaluates whether the said reform is an extraneous issue that’s not associated with the budget procedure. Various criteria are used in making that evaluation, such as whether that reform would bring a deficit outside a decade-long budget window.
If a senator against legalization wants to prevent the cannabis language from being incorporated in a wider package using this procedural regulation, he/she would have to give a point of order. Later, the Senate Parliamentarian makes a determination after liaising with the chamber’s presiding officer. If the language is deemed an infringement on the Byrd regulation, it would be removed from the reconciliation reform.
Hoping that upcoming legalization reform thrives under such reconciliation limitations, it can encounter a different challenge. Under the procedure, any legislator may launch an amendment, and they all have to be discussed on the floor in a time-consuming process termed as vote-a-Rama.