State Senate assembles new committee lineup
OLYMPIA, WA The new Republican majority in the state Senate announced a revamped lineup of committees and their leaders yesterday.
Republicans will have a 25-24 majority in the Senate when lawmakers convene in January with Whatcom County Sheriff Dale Brandland's defeat of incumbent Georgia Gardner, D-Blaine.
With the majority comes control of the committees and the bills that flow through them.
The most high-profile chairmanship leadership of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee went as expected to Sammamish budget hawk Dino Rossi. Under the Democrats, Spokane liberal Lisa Brown was chairwoman.
Republicans also revamped and expanded the committee structure, changing the names and duties of panels to reflect GOP priorities.
"The Senate Republicans are committed to pursuing legislation and budget priorities that will help improve our economy and get people back to work," said Majority Leader Jim West, R-Spokane.
Labor, Commerce and Financial Institutions, which was headed by labor-friendly Democrat Margarita Prentice, will be replaced by two new panels: Commerce and Trade, chaired by Jim Honeyford of Sunnyside; and Financial Services, Insurance and Housing, led by Shirley Winsley of Fircrest.
"You can't have companies without workers," protested Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park. "Where are the workers in this scenario?"
Likewise, the duties of two committees dealing with the environment led by lawmakers with strong environmental leanings under the Democrats were also rejiggered into three committees, none of which mention the environment in their titles.
The new committee on Land Use and Planning, chaired by Joyce Mulliken of Moses Lake, will handle bills related to shorelines, growth management and land use. Mulliken is a longtime critic of the state's Growth Management Act, which she considers a bar to economic development.
The new Natural Resources, Energy and Water Committee, headed by Bob Morton of Orient, will deal with forest and mining practices, public lands, energy and water supply.
Sen. Bob Oke of Port Orchard, an avid hunter and fisherman, will head a new panel on Parks, Fish and Wildlife.
The Democrats' Economic Development and Telecommunications Committee also was split, with freshman Republican Luke Esser of Kirkland taking over Technology and Communications and Don Benton of Vancouver leading Economic Development.
In some cases, the significant change was not in the committee's duties, but the philosophy of its leader.
For example, outgoing Education chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, is considered an ally of the Washington Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. New chairman Steve Johnson, R-Kent, is not.
Outgoing Judiciary Committee Chairman Adam Kline, D-Seattle, is an attorney who represents one of the most liberal districts in the state. Incoming chairman Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, is a conservative nonlawyer who has proposed secession for Eastern Washington.
Other committees and their leaders:
Highways and Transportation, Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island.
Government Operations and Elections (formerly State & Local Government), Pam Roach, R-Auburn.
Agriculture, Dan Swecker, R-Rochester.
Children and Family Services and Corrections, Val Stevens, R-Arlington.
Health Care and Long Term Care, Alex Deccio, R-Yakima.
Higher Education, Don Carlson, R-Vancouver.
COUNTY GETS VOICES ON SENATE COMMITTEES
Thursday, November 21, 2002
Pleasant Valley Sen. Don Benton will chair the newly created Economic Development Committee, which deals with legislation on economic development and tourism.
He'll also remain as vice chairman of the Transportation Committee. Sen. Jim Horn, R-Mercer Island, was appointed chairman.
Hazel Dell Sen. Don Carlson will chair the Higher Education panel, which oversees private and public colleges and universities.
Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, whose 15th District now extends into eastern Clark County, will lead the new Commerce and Trade Committee, with oversight of commerce, international trade and workforce training. He'll also keep his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.
Ridgefield Sen. Joe Zarelli will serve as Ways and Means vice chairman and capital budget leader, steering the state's capital construction dollars.
Zarelli also will join Benton on the Economic Development panel, giving Clark County added voice as it suffers its worst job downturn in two decades.
The new lineup bodes well for the region, given all four local senators are now in the majority. Whether securing funds for Vancouver Barracks, adding new courses at Washington State University Vancouver or boosting trade and tourism, they're well-positioned to help.
In shaking up the committee lineup Wednesday, adding three new panels to the existing 13 and altering several others, Senate Majority Leader Jim West, R-Spokane, stressed his party's goal of improving the economy and getting people back to work.
"We are well-prepared to make a difference in our economic climate," West said.
Benton's new committee and president pro tempore slots will provide key support in that effort, West said in a press release.
Benton, who runs a media advertising consulting business, said he's excited by the challenge of reversing Washington's slide with renewed focus.
"That's what we need. Obviously the approach that's been applied for the last couple of years hasn't been working. We need a fresh approach," he said.
Honeyford, a Yakima Valley resident, had pushed for a new, separate panel to tackle prickly water resource policy, he said. Instead, he was promised a lead role in a Natural Resources, Energy and Water subcommittee and handed the Commerce and Trade reins.
"It kinda fell to me," said Honeyford, whose district now covers most of the Columbia River Gorge. "Trade is very important for the whole state. It's going to be an interesting challenge, and hopefully, we can do some good things."
Zarelli voiced similar hopes for the Economic Development panel, expected to include just four Republicans and three Democrats.
"We're trying to keep things smaller and more focused, rather than having big, heavy committees," he said.
He especially looks forward to serving with new Ways and Means Chairman Sen. Dino Rossi, R-Issaquah, as the controlling party: "There's a lot of aspects of the Ways and Means process that you're not privy to until you're in the majority."
Zarelli gave up his Judiciary Committee seat. He'll stay on the Education panel and join the revamped Financial Services, Insurance and Housing Committee.
Carlson served four years as Higher Education leader in the House, plus two more as co-chairman.
Now he's in better position to help WSU Vancouver and Clark and Lower Columbia colleges form new partnerships to increase two-year and four-year course access in Southwest Washington, he said.
Carlson was traveling Wednesday and wasn't sure what other committee seats he had landed.
Full GOP committee lists were to be released today.
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