WA: Organizational changes in store for state government

The Everett Herald


Ten days after the general election, the coming legislative session is coming into sharper focus.

And it looks like Democrats will rule the state House of Representatives but won't be in charge of the Senate.

"I was chair of the capital budget," said Sen. Darlene Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park. "Now, I'm not."

With Fairley in charge of the capital budget, projects such as the Shoreline Community College Library and the Edmonds Marina Beach purchase received funding.

Key Senate races in Whatcom and Kitsap counties apparently won't go to the Democrats, said Fairley, who won re-election over GOP challenger and Edmonds City Council member Michael Plunkett. Voters in Fairley's 32nd District also re-elected Democrats Ruth Kagi and Maralyn Chase to the House.

If results in both of the tight Senate races go to the Republican candidates, the GOP will control the 49-member Senate by one vote, 25-24, the same majority now enjoyed by Democrats. In the House, although some races are still very close, Democrats are leading for 53 of the 99 seats.

"I've been in the minority before," Fairley said. "You become ... not very important. You are not able to get bills through, and it is very difficult to stop bad bills.

"I'm not looking forward to it."

The biggest issue facing lawmakers in January will be the budget, now projected to show a $2.6 billion deficit, although Fairley suspects the picture may grow dimmer by the time the gavel drops.

"The House will prepare the first budget, after (Gov. Gary) Locke's," Fairley said. "Then, it goes to the Senate."

Republican and Democratic caucuses are meeting to choose their leaders.

"I'm running for minority chair of Ways and Means," Fairley said, referring to the main money committee in the Senate. Whether she gets it or not may depend on caucus chairwoman Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, Fairley said.

"Lisa Brown wants someone to be a belligerent Democrat and I may not be belligerent enough," Fairley said. "But I keep telling them I have the Ways and Means background."

Other area senators' committee assignments also will likely be affected.

First District Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, will lose her chairmanship of the Education Committee. In the 21st District, the vice chairman spots of Sen. Paull Shin, D-Mukilteo, on the Agriculture and International Trade panel and Higher Education are in jeopardy.

Meanwhile, Dave Schmidt is not only moving from the state House of Representatives to the Senate, it appears he's moving from the minority to the majority.

Schmidt, the veteran Republican House member from Mill Creek, is taking over in the Senate after edging Democrat Paul Doerflein for a seat left vacant when Republican mainstay Jeanine Long retired.

Schmidt said he spoke with likely Senate Majority leader Sen. Jim West of Spokane Tuesday.

"We're talking about a complete restructuring of the committee leadership," Schmidt said.

The Senate Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet today in Olympia to select committee chairs, Schmidt said.

"I would like Ways and Means," he said, adding he's also interested in continuing the work he had been doing in the House on the state and local government panel.

Schmidt said that regardless of his committee assignments, economic development and addressing the state's budget deficit will be one of his top priorities.

"Jobs provide revenue," he said. "It is time to change how we do business and to make this a state where business wants to come."


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