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Spin Control

Posts tagged: 2013 Legislature

Heated debate over RPA in the Senate. More ahead?

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats tried a new way to bring the Reproductive Parity Act to the floor through a parliamentary procedure.

After failing Tuesday in an attempt with one manuever — known as the 9th Order — on a 23-25 vote, they moved this morning to bring up a broad insurance bill this afternoon at 4:59 p.m., essentially making it the last bill before the clock ran out for one of the Legislature's key deadlines to pass bills. They would then amend the parity act onto the broader bill.

The motion from Sen. Karen Keiser brought loud objections from the Majority Coalition, with Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville shouting “Point of order” so many times that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen finally said “I heard you the first time.”

Keiser said the Majority Coalition said Tuesday they objected to the method of bringing up the RPA, which would require abortion to be offered by most insurance companies that cover maternity services. This was a different method, based on the fact that the insurance bill has a title so broad the parity act would fit under its umbrella.

Schoesler said Keiser was making a reference to other members and impugning them, which isn't allowed under Senate rules. Owen said he didn't hear any impugning of motives

The goal of the maneuvering is to create a situation in which two members of the Majority Coalition, Rodney Tom and Steve Litzhow, who support abortion rights will break with the caucus that opposes abortion.

“We were told there's always a way to bring a bill to the floor. We have found a way,” Keiser said.

This wasn't it. The motion failed 23-25, with Tom and Litzhow voting against placing the omnibus insurance bill on the calendar as the last legislation to be debated before the deadline passes.

But the maneuver does signal a possible path for Democrats to get the RPA through the Senate. If the omnibus insurance bill comes up anytime before 5 p.m., they can move to add the parity act with an amendment, forcing an up or down vote on the substance of the bill that isn't tied to a fight over procedure.

State Sen. Roach facing more sanctions, AP says

Sen. Pam Roach was named a committee chairwoman last month by the new “coalition majority” but it would seem she stil has some 'splaining to do for the way she treats staff, The Associated Press is reporting. Here's Rachel La Corte's account just filed this morning:

 

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — A Republican state senator who is set to lead a committee under a new legislative coalition violated a Senate policy on treatment of staff shortly after she was allowed back into the GOP caucus last year, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A new report says Sen. Pam Roach of Auburn violated the policy in March by verbally attacking a Senate Republican staffer charged with upholding sanctions against Roach that prevented her from having direct contact with staff. The report was compiled by a subcommittee created last summer solely to investigate incidents involving Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus three years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. . .

To read the rest of this report, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Senate Dems: How about we split power?

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats offered a power-sharing agreement to counter last week's proposal by Republicans and two defecting members of their party. They called for co-leaders for the Senate and co-chairmen for all committees.

But the top Republican and the Democrat the coalition wants to install as Senate majority leader quickly balked. Somebody has to be in charge, Sens. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, and Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said, and they believe they have the votes to make sure it is them. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog

Murray to Tom: You don’t control Senate

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. . . 

Sunday spin: A Senate of 49 kings and queens

OLYMPIA – To hear supporters tell it, a new power-sharing coalition in the state Senate could usher in a Legislative session of compromise and moderation, with a positive response to Rodney King’s famous question: Can’t we all just get along?

Forgive a professional skeptic, but it’s more likely to be best described by the title of a famous 1934 speech by Huey Long: Every man a king.

That’s not to suggest the 23 Republicans and two Democrats who last week announced a “Coalition Majority” will push for the Louisiana populist’s platform of wealth redistribution. Far from it.

Rather, they have set up a scenario where any controversial piece of legislation could be held hostage by any senator at any time. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Hargrove: Coalition isn’t sharing power

Sen. Jim Hargrove shows charts that indicate where state government has reduced spending on some social programs.

OLYMPIA — Senate Democrats don't know yet whether they will accept an offer to lead six legislative committees in the coming session, Sen. Jim Hargrove said today.

The Hoquiam Democrat, who is the chamber's longest serving legislator, said they'll  meet next week to discuss their options. But Hargrove said the coalition of 23 Republican and two Democrats who formed a coalition majority with a plan to run the Senate is not really offering to share power by letting Democrats run six committees and be co-chairmen of three others.

“It's not a power-sharing offer. It's a structural offer,” Hargrove said.

Whether it results in more bipartisan cooperation isn't clear, he added. “Our expectation was that everything was going to have to be bipartisan.”

Part of that strategy for Democrats was appointing Hargrove, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate to be chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is arguably the most powerful committee becaue it handles the budget. But that was last month, when it looked as though they had a 26-23 majority. After Democrats Rodney Tom of Bellevue and Tim Sheldon of Potlach decided to form a new majority with the 23 Republicans, that group named Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, to head that committee.

Democrats will meet next week to discuss possible reassignments.

“That's all up for discussion, but as of this point I think I'm the minority leader (of Ways and Means)” Hargrove said.

Regardless of who is in charge of the committee, it was almost certain to write a budget without a tax increase while looking for options to cut government spending, he said: “It's pretty clear that the public is not interested in any more taxes.” 

Baumgartner No. 2 on budget panel

OLYMPIA — Sen. Mike Baumgartner would serve as vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee next year under the proposed “coalition” majority in that chamber.

The Spokane Republican, who is halfway through his first term, said he thinks the coalition of the Senate's 23 Republicans and two Democrats which was announced earlier this week will lead to greater consensus and a better budget.

“One of my main goals in the Senate has always been to reform state government: make it leaner, more efficient, less costly and more service-oriented,” he said in a prepared statement.

As vice chairman, he will be helping with the development of the operating budget, the spending plan for most state services, programs and salaries. In recent years, the Senate Ways and Means vice chairman is focuses on the capital budget, which deals with construction projects, but that job under the planned coalition majority will fall to Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside.

Coalition in Senate: A coup or exciting pact?

OLYMPIA — Reaction to the announcement of a new coalition to run the Senate is decidedly mixed.

Republicans, not surprisingly, are hailing the decision of two Democrats to join hands with the 23 GOP members and create a brave new world of legislative leadership.

State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur described himself as “beyond excited.”

“The courage of these two Democrats means that we can expect a no-new taxes budget and education reform with Republicans now chairing both the Ways and Means and K-12 committees,” Wilbur said in a press release.

His Democratic counterpart, Dwight Pelz, is, not surprisingly, less thrilled. Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon “turned their backs” on their own party to side with “radically right” Republicans, he said. And this after the state Ds gave Tom $25,000 in his last election.

“Sen. Tom has instigated this unprecedented coup and joined with Republicans to install himself as Majority Leader out of a desire to further his own personal ambitions,” Pelz said in a prepared statement.

Governor-elect Jay Inslee is staking a “wait and see” attitude on the loss of his party's control of the Senate and won't weigh in on whether Democrats should reject the offer choosing some committee chairmanships and sharing others, spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. Who is in charge of the chamber and the committees is less important than solving problems on the budget and education, she added.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said the plan “certainly has the potential to make reaching a consensus more difficult” but insisted House Democrats have always worked with members from both chambers and both sides of the aisle. (House Republicans would likely take issue with that. ) He also chimed in on the Senate Republicans' theme of not wanting to look like that Congress.

“But we can't allow this Washington to devolve into the bitter drama and endless gridlock we too often see in the other Washington,” Sullivan said.

Coalition would give GOP Senate control

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, answers a question at the press conference announcing plans for a coalition to run the Senate.

OLYMPIA — If the math holds, Republicans and a pair of Democrats will control the state Senate in 2013.

The 23 Republicans voting as a block with two Democrats mean a 25 vote majority over the remaining 24 Democrats. The 25 are offering the 24 a piece of the action. 

The 24 may refuse.

For the full story, click here. 

Senate to run by coalition?

OLYMPIA — Senate Republicans say they will announce a “coalition” this morning that will run the chamber in the 2013 session.

They've scheduled a 10:30 a.m. press conference with a bipartisan group of senators to announce how the coalition will work. 

Technically, Republicans are the minority in the Senate, but practicallly, they may have the upper hand.

A recent recount in a Vancouver area legislative district confirmed that Democrats have 26 seats and Republicans 23. Democrats had already announced their leadership structure, with Ed Murray of Seattle the majority leader, and their chairmanships.

But that majority is on paper. Two of the Democrats, Tim Sheldon of Potlach and Rodney Tom of Bellevue, have said they would vote with Republicans on opening day to form a bipartisan coalition that would determine leadership posts and committee chairmanships.

5 seeking 7th District Senate seat

A county commissioner, a former legislator and a former legislative aide are among five applicants so far for an open state Senate seat in Northeastern Washington’s 7th District.

The seat becomes open Jan. 1 when Sen. Bob Morton, a 22-year veteran legislator, retires halfway through his term. Republican precinct committee officers in the district will nominate as many as three possible replacement to the county commissioners from Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and Okanogan counties, who must choose one through a majority vote.

The district’s two state representatives, Republicans Joel Kretz and Shelly Short have said they won’t seek the Senate position.

Applicants can seek the office up to the time precinct officers meet on Dec. 15 in Colville. At this point, GOP officials said they knew of five actively seeking the job

To read about the applicants, or to comment, click here to go inside the blog.

Kerns to seek state Senate seat

Josh Kerns, a former legislative aide and campaign manager, said today he'll apply for the open state Senate seat in Northeast Washington's 7th District.

Kerns, 27, was a legislative aide during the last session to state Rep. John Ahern, managed the campaign of Ahern's replacement Representative-elect Jeff Holy, and once served as an intern to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. He describes himself as an “action-oriented advocate of property rights” and someone who won't take as much time to get accustomed to the job because of his experience as a legislative aide.

He has lived in Mead all of his life, but the area has been moved around by legislative redistricting every 10 years. Until this spring he was in the 6th District but the redrawing of lines put him in the 7th,which is where it was in the 1990s after Spokane lost the 5th District which had that area in the 1980s.

Republican precinct committee officers from the 7th District will meet on Dec. 15 in Colville to nominate as many as three people to fill the seat. County commissioners from Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and Okanogan counties will meet sometime after Jan. 1, when Bob Morton's retirement becomes official, to select one of those nominees.

The district's two House members, Reps. Joel Kretz and Shelly Short, have said they will not seek a nomination to the Senate.

Short won’t seek Senate seat

OLYMPIA — Rep. Shelly Short said this evening she will not seek the state Senate seat that will become open on Jan. 1 with the retirement of Bob Morton.

Morton, a 22-year veteran of the Legislature, announced last week that he would retire halfway through his current term. His position will be filled through a process that takes as many as three nominations from Republican precinct committee officers in northeast Washington's 7th Legislative District, and a majority vote by commissioners of the five counties in the district.

Short, who was just elected to her third House term in November, said she wants to remain in that chamber and continue her work on issues involving energy, the environment and natural resources: “It's important to keep that continuity.” 

Conversations she has had over the last several days convinced her there are good candidates in the district interested in the Senate seat.

Rep. Joel Kretz, the district's senior House member, previously said he would not seek the seat. 

Sunday spin: 3rd District’s string of women in Lege comes to an end

OLYMPIA – When the Legislature opens in January, for the first time in 60 years there won’t be at least one woman from the city of Spokane sitting at a desk on one of the carpeted floors of the House or Senate.

The 3rd District will have an all-guy delegation.

It’s part of the de-feminization of Washington state and Spokane politics which has happened slowly over the last two years. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, go inside the blog.

Schoesler named Senate Republican leader

OLYMPIA — Mark Schoesler, a Ritzville area wheat farmer, was named leader of the state Senate's Republican Caucus Wednesday.

Schoesler, 55, has served 20 years in the Legislature, was elected by other Republicans to take the place of Mike Hewitt of Walla Walla, who stepped down from the top caucus spot this fall. Sen. Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee was elected caucus chairwoman, the number two leadership spot.

An astute parliamentarian, Schoesler managed debates as floor leader in the previous session and served as part of the GOP's budget negotiating team. As the caucus leader, he becomes one of the “four corners” — the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate, the minority leader in the House and the House speaker — who are key to meetings with the governor when issues deadlock. He also becomes the chief spokesman for the Republican caucus.

He could wield more power than usual in the coming session because Democrats have a thin 26-23 majority in the chamber, and so two or more defections of any Democrats on any issue would give Republicans a majority if Schoesler can hold the caucus together as a block. Two of the most conservative Democrats have also talked about joining Republicans for an organizational vote on the first day that would create a coalition leadership.

Murray new Senate majority leader

OLYMPIA — Seattle Sen. Ed Murray, who spearheaded the fight for same-sex marriage and ran the Senate's budget writing committee this year, will move up to leading the Democrats in that chamber next year.

Murray was elected Senate majority leader Tuesday by the members of the Democratic caucus. There was no other candidate for the job, and he was elected by acclimation, a statement from the caucus said. He replaces Sen. Lisa Brown of Spokane, who retires at the end of this year.

Just how big of a majority Murray will lead remains in doubt. Early in the day Tuesday, Democrats had a 27-22 edge, counting a race in Vancouver's 17th District in which Democrat Tim Probst led incumbent Republican Don Benton by 16 votes. But Benton pulled ahead in Tuesday afternoon's count by 65 votes, and if that holds, the Democratic lead would be down to 26-23.

Two of the Senate's more conservative Democrats, Tim Sheldon and Rodney Tom, have voted with Republicans in the past on fiscal and budget issues. They have said they'd like some bipartisan arrangement where the parties would share the power of leadership and committee positions, and if Benton wins, their two votes could be decisive if all 23 Republicans went along.

Early last year, Murray took the lead on crafting and advocating for a law that would allow. same-sex couples to marry, rather than settling for domestic partnerships. He became the prime sponsor of the bill that eventually passed both houses, was signed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and was challenged by opponents who placed it on the ballot as Referendum 74. That measure passed in last week's election.

Murray is the first openly gay cucus leader in state history and the only openly gay state Senate leader currently serving in the nation, Senate Democratic staffers said.

As chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee for the last two years, Murray struggled with a budget that faced constant problems of not having enough expected revenue to meet scheduled costs. The 2011-13,  biennial budget received bipartisan support in the Senate. 

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

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