State Sen. Brian Hatfield says Democrats like him, Sen. Steve Hobbs and Sen. Tracey Eide have more power for their districts by accepting committee chair or co-chair roles under the Republican coalition’s power structure. Hatfield, a conservative from Raymond, said members of the Senate Democratic Caucus are now in the minority and by accepting the Republicans’ offer they can call any bluff from the new majority – if they fail to be bipartisan.
As outlined this morning, Hatfield will chair the restructured Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Economic Development Committee, which he had led under a different configuration the past four years. Hobbs continues as chair of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. Eide, who is Senate Democrats’ floor leader, will co-chair the Senate Transportation with Republican Sen. Curtis King of Yakima.
“I think there is still a little bitterness over how it was done (by the new Senate Majority Coalition Caucus) but it’s not aimed at us,” Hatfield said of the 24 Democrats remaining in the Democratic Caucus. He spoke in the Senate wings a few minutes before Lt. Gov. Brad Owen gaveled the Senate into session.
The coalition includes two Democrats – including soon-to-be Senate Majority LeaderRodney Tom of Medina and Tim Shelton of Potlatch – and 23 Republicans. We’ll see what sparks fly, if any, on the floor. Democrats could offer a motion to share all committees equally.
Eventually the divided Senate must reach agreement with the Democrat-led House on solutions to a $2 billion budget problem during the 105-day session.