It was an odd morning in the House State Government Committee as lawmakers came back from their party caucuses only to adjourn the meeting without any action.
The committee was scheduled to weigh in on some big decisions: whether to abolish the state printer, merge ethics and elections watchdogs, and move Heritage Center construction funding to a new department that would preserve the state history museums and Arts Commission.
It didn’t happen because Democrats didn’t have the votes.
Specifically, they didn’t have Rep. Mark Miloscia’s vote. The Federal Way Democrat who often breaks with his party was ready to vote no on the ethics and history mergers.
“It’s just more rearranging deck chairs,” Miloscia said afterward. “We’re never going to ever balance our budget systematically and reset government by doing these little reorgs and gimmicks.”
He objected to plans “to ram through a new department here at the last second,” a Department of History, Arts and Culture that would include the museums.
Another Democrat said committee Chairman Sam Hunt was “furious” in Democrats’ private caucus about lacking the votes to proceed.
Hunt said calmly after the meeting that he didn’t have the votes, due to a member who didn’t want to vote for reorganization (Miloscia) and another Democrat who was absent because of a death in the family, Rep. Chris Hurst.
The committee plans to return to the bills next week when all Democrats are expected to be back. So the effect of today’s impasse could be small, but it might be a preview of just how difficult it will be for House Democrats to unite on a budget.