Senate leaders trying to sort out a transition plan that shifts majority power from Democrats to Republicans led to “significant progress” this morning, according to Lt. Gov. Brad Owen. Owen, a Democrat who presides over the Senate, was called in by the divided Senate leadership to help sort it out.
We’re still waiting for details from the Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses. But Owen put out this limited statement that headway was being made:
My story about the dispute over timing the power hand-off and previewing today’s talks is here.
UPDATE on original 1:35 p.m. post: Whatever progress was made, the sides did not reach binding agreements today.
“I would say we got started,’’ Senate Democratic Caucus chair Karen Fraser of Thurston County said, calling it a “friendly meeting” that was helped by Owen’s work. “There is nothing to announce really – more conversation is needed.’’
Fraser was one of three Democrats from the new minority caucus attending the talks, along with three from the soon-to-be Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.
The latter included Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom, who is slated to become coalition majority leader, and Republican Sens. Linda Evans Parlette, the caucus chair, and Joe Fain.
The parties met at Sea-Tac International Airport. No new meeting is yet planned, but Fraser said “each side is going to do some research. At some point I assume we’ll have another meeting.’’
Democrats hold a 26-to-23 numerical edge in seats, but Tom and Democratic Sen. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch are joining the 23 Republicans to form a 25-to-24 provisional majority. Which means that on any individual issue, nearly any coalition legislator could play the role of king.
Of more pressing concern to the parties is committee membership, how many seats each caucus gets on a committee who gets which offices in the Legislative Building, as reported here. Fraser said it is still undecided whether Democrats will accept the Republican offer to chair six committees and co-chair three others.
UPDATE 2: The parties have agreed to some shifts in office space, and Senate Democratic Leader Ed Murray of Seattle is foregoing – as he said last week that he would – any claim to office space in the Legislative Building.
And Tom’s forces will move to the north side of the Senate wings, taking over the larger offices that former Democratic majority leader Lisa Brown had used for several years, while Democrats take offices that former Republican leader Mike Hewitt and Sen. Parlette have used for several years on the south side of the Capitol.
Some may find it ironic that the new and smaller offices that now fall to Democrats were used – by choice – when Sen. Sid Snyder had led the Democratic majority early last decade.