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Senate Democrats’ leader Ed Murray says he’d rather be in real minority than accept GOP power-sharing plan

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on Dec. 12, 2012 at 7:48 am |
December 12, 2012 8:30 am

It remains to be seen what Senate Democrats will do about the power-sharing arrangement outlined this week by 23 Republicans and two Democrats, led by state Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom. With Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, also in the new Majority Coalition Caucus, the remaining 24 Democrats have not decided what their next steps will be.

That is what Sen. Karen Fraser, the Thurston County Democrat who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, told me yesterday afternoon. But it doesn’t look like Democrats are accepting the power-sharing terms laid out Monday by the new Republican-plus-two majority, which has offered to let the Democrats chair six of the less vital committees.

The majority coalition says it is installing anti-tax Republicans as chairs of the key education and budget committees and its leaders say they agree with Gov.-elect Jay Inslee, a Democrat, that new tax revenues are not needed to meet Washington state Supreme Court dictates for better funding of K-12 schools.

Sen. Ed Murray, leader of this newly diminished Democratic caucus, told the Seattle Times’ editorial board late yesterday that he’d rather be in the minority than accept the terms laid out by Tom, Sheldon, Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville and other GOP members. As reported by the Times:

Murray said he hopes to negotiate “a more bipartisan way of moving forward.” But if the choice is between accepting the proposal as announced or being the minority party with no committee leadership positions, Murray said he would choose the latter.
“I think it would be healthier for the institution if 24 of us are a strong minority influencing the process as a minority,” he said. “I think it would make for a better product in the end.”

Fraser chairs an internal Facilities and Operations Committee staffed by Senate leadership of both parties and would see Republicans gain control of that body, which handles internal personnel issues and decisions about who uses what space. But Fraser said it is as-yet unclear how the changes in power would take place, including changes in room assignments.

“We haven’t seen a written list of proposals from the Republicans … I think it would be a change in the rules. This is all very new. We don’t have answers yet. We are talking to each other,’’ Fraser said, adding that no group meetings were immediately in the offing. “Getting everybody together even on the phone is very hard outside of session. But we can try to do that.’’

Stay tuned.

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