OLYMPIA -- In the clearest example yet of what it means to have one more member of the Senate's ruling caucus, the Democratic chairman of a key committee was forced to share power with a newly elected Republican.
On 26-23 votes, the Majority Coalition Caucus restructured the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee, to make Sen. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, the co-chairwoman. She will share control of the committee with Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, who was one of the few Democrats who agreed to take a committee chairmanship last year when the mostly Republican coalition took control of the chamber and offered some top spots to minority Democrats.
Angel, a five-year veteran of the House, beat Democrat Nathan Schlicher last November, in a special election. Her victory gave Senate Republicans 24 seats, and with the two Democrats who helped form the Majority Coalition Caucus, 26 votes to the 23 for the remaining Democrats.
Hobbs, a moderate Democrat, said the change was payback for his support of several bills conservatives in the coalition oppose, including the Reproductive Parity Act, the Dream Act, and cost-of-living adjustments for teachers. Those bills have at least 25 senators who support them, but moderate members of the coalition won't buck their caucus to allow votes on them.
"It's a clear indication their caucus has moved to the right," Hobbs said. He supported Republican efforts to reform workers compensation last year, but said he might not do that again if there was no support for some of the social legislation. Moderates in the majority coalition told him they opposed the change but wouldn't break caucus unity to vote against it, he added.
Senate Republican Caucus Chairwoman Linda Evans Parlette, of Wenatchee, insisted the move was merely an effort to take advantage of Angel's expertise on issues before the committee. She's a former commercial banker and real estate saleswoman and owner of commercial and residential properties who has served as a county commissioner and a member of an Economic Development District's executive board.
"The Majority Coalition Caucus is centered just where they were last year," Parlette said, adding the committee is equally split and either Hobbs or Angel can veto a bill.
To the suggestion that Hobbs might not join Republicans when they try again to pass changes to workers compensation system, Parlette replied: "If he chooses to vote differently, I would say 'Did you not believe in it last year?'"
To see the official statements from the two sides, or to comment, continue inside the blog.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Jan. 27, 2014
Sen. Nelson “alarmed” by Sen. Hobbs’ removal as FiHi Chair
OLYMPIA – Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, released the following statement after a vote Wednesday by the Republican Majority to strip Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, of his title of Chair of the Senate’s Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee:
“Sen. Hobbs’ moderate and bipartisan credentials and impartial oversight of the Senate’s Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee over the past several years is not up for debate.
“Senators and stakeholders alike will tell you Sen. Hobbs is a fair, reasonable and unbiased Chair. I am proud to have served with him on his committee.
“Sen. Hobbs stood up for what he believes in – women’s reproductive health, educational opportunities for all children – and now he no longer serves as Chair of a committee that he has led with distinction for several years.
“I am alarmed by the increasing levels of partisanship from the Republican Majority.”
For Release: Media Contact:
Jan. 27, 2014 Amanda Webb (360) 786-7869
Angel to co-chair Senate financial-institutions committee
Appointment gives Senate two committees with bipartisan leadership
OLYMPIA… Sen. Jan Angel brings 14 years of real-world experience in the banking industry to her new position as co-chair of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee.
“One of the benefits of having a citizen legislature in Washington,” explained Angel, R-Port Orchard, “is that the knowledge and skills from our private lives can be put to use on behalf of the people of this state. The issues that come up in the committee will likely be familiar to me, having spent a good part of my professional life working in commercial banking, insurance, and real estate.
“My focus as a citizen legislator is on finding real solutions for real people. I’m honored to lead this committee alongside Senator Steve Hobbs and I appreciate his commitment to bipartisanship.”
When it assumed leadership of the Senate in 2013, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus invited minority Democrats to head six of the Senate’s 12 policy committees; Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, was one of two to accept.
The Democrat minority also accepted the MCC invitation this past year to co-chair the Senate Transportation Committee. The appointment of Angel, who was elected to the Senate in November, makes the FIHI committee the Senate’s second panel with bipartisan leadership.
According to Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, the MCC has consistently looked for innovative ways to encourage bipartisan leadership within the various committees.
“We have seen Senators Curtis King and Tracey Eide form a wonderful partnership with mutual respect in the transportation committee,” said Parlette, who is MCC chair. “With Senator Angel’s background in banking, housing, and insurance, we saw this as another opportunity to foster strong, bipartisan leadership, which will ultimately produce quality outcomes for Washington.”
The committee headed by Angel and Hobbs considers issues relating to financing and insuring properties, mortgage and insurance regulations and reporting requirements, financial solvency, insurance fraud, private lending, and community credit needs.