OLYMPIA -- The Senate will have two claimants to the title of "majority leader" when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 14
Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray of Seattle said Republicans will need more than a press conference and a logo on their stationary to be in control of the chamber.
In a letter today to Sen. Rodney Tom of Bellevue, who last week was named majority leader by a coalition of the chamber's 23 Republicans, himself and fellow defecting Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, Murray says that's not how the system works: "Under the current and past Senate rules, and longstanding past interpretations of those rules, the majority caucus is defined as the party containing the most elected members, which currently remains the Democratic Caucus."
Tom wrote Murray last week, asking him to name chairmen and co-chairmen to certain committees the coalition said it was asking Democrats to control as a sign of bipartisanship. Murray made clear today he wasn't going to do that.
The party with the most members elects the majority leader, and the Democrats picked him. The Democratic Caucus also sent its choice for committee leaders and members to the lieutenant governor, who fills those slots "as presented to him by the majority caucus."
The coalition will have to change the permanent rules of the Senate. Until that happens. . .
. . . Lt. Gov. Brad Owen will recognize the Democrats as the majorty caucus.
Sheldon and Tom have not said they will switch parties. Murray noted in his letter that they were counted as Democrats by the coalition when announcing its committee appointments and claiming they were closely balanced.
Recent rule changes have involved both parties "giving all members an opportunity to review the changes and participate meaningfully in the process well in advance of the proposal going forward on the floor." In this case, the proposed changes were "developed by a select few with only short-term goals in mind."