Legislative Assembly starts legislative process
The Legislative Assembly of the 2015 Annual Conference met in Portland, Oregon, April 12 and 13. Legislative Assembly acts as a sub-committee of the upcoming Annual Conference Session, taking a first look at petitions submitted by conference agencies, groups, churches, or individual United Methodists. (Go to the petitions)
This year, the Legislative Assembly reviewed eight requests for the conference to take action by sending letters to political leaders, changing conference rules, directing the conference to take a specific action, or asking churches of the conference to take action. Among other things, they ask the conference to consider divestment as an action of conscience, offer welcome in churches with restroom etiquette, and change some conference rules.
They considered 12 new or renewed standing resolutions that help define the beliefs and values of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. Standing resolutions, by their nature, deal with items of justice and relationship. The proposed items fall into that vein as they deal with the Middle East, Cuba, voting rights, human trafficking, immigration, and more.
And the assembly considered six requests for petitions to General Conference 2016. These also deal with relationship, considering issues related to Middle East peace, screening of investments, energy usage, and connectional relationship. Any General Conference petitions that are passed by the Annual Conference will be forwarded to the General Conference Petitions Secretary and be reviewed by the quadrennial gathering when it is hosted in Portland, Oregon, May 10-20, 2016.
This year’s Legislative Assembly was made up of 25 voting members. 44% clergy and 56% laity, 48% Women and 52% men, 12% non-white ethnicity, and 88% white. The age ranged from 22 to 77 with an average age of 59. They represented the four districts of our conference, conference boards, age groups, ethnic groups, men, women, clergy, and laity.
The 24 items considered by the assembly are available on the conference website. The assembly does not have the final say on any item. Their role is to take a close look at items, perfect them through the amendment process if they choose, and make a recommendation to the full annual conference session. Several items received unanimous support. Some items had mixed voting results. In the end, unofficial results show 19 items receiving a recommendation of passage, 4 items receiving a recommendation to not pass, and one item receiving a tied vote. Detailed information and copies of legislation showing amendments will be available on the conference website after April 27th.
Legislative Assembly members take their work seriously. They spend time getting to know each other as the gathering begins and work in a spirit of holy conferencing; being respectful of one another and letting rules of procedure assist them with staying on track. Before deliberation they have the opportunity to hear from the authors or spokespeople for each item of legislation. This lets them be clear about intent and ask questions to clarify understanding. As each item is reviewed, members can discuss their views with one another, pose questions, and share opinions. Sometimes questions can be answered by other members, guests, staff, or quick Internet research. Other times, members must make their best determination with the information available. When difficult items are voted on, Bishop Grant Hagiya, who chaired the session, would ask the assembly to pause for a time of prayer and discernment before calling for a vote.
The next step will be for the Annual Conference session to review all of the items when it meets June 11-13 in Salem, Oregon. Most Items passed by the legislative Assembly with a vote of 90% or higher will be grouped on a series of consent calendars. Items without that majority, new standing resolutions, or standing resolutions with major changes will come to the session for voting one at a time. Consent calendars speed the process of legislation by allowing items to be voted on in groups. Conference rules allow for an item to be removed from the consent calendar grouping and voted on individually with a request from 40 or more members of the session.
Many people have an impact on how the Oregon-Idaho Conference operates and what it shares as its values and beliefs. The proposals offered this year, if passed, will join others in the Conference Journal to be our history, rule, and values guidebook.