Democrats today proposed a leadership strategy intended to help the state Senate function effectively given its narrow partisan divide. The proposal includes forming a new Committee on Education Finance & Results, to be equally split between Republicans and Democrats and led by a co-chair from each party.
The caucus also elected a new slate of leaders, including recommending Sen. Jim Hargrove to lead the budget-writing Senate Ways & Means Committee. The Hoquiam Democrat is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members and known for his ability to work across party lines. He would be joined by Sen. Sharon Nelson, a Democrat from Vashon Island, as vice-chair of the committee, a position tasked with writing the state’s capital construction budget.
“In the Senate, we’ve shown a collaborative approach can get results,” said Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle. “These proposals will help that collaboration continue in a chamber that often has fluid majorities. They reflect the diversity of our caucus and our state and the commitment by Senate Democrats to finding practical solutions to the issues facing Washingtonians of all walks of life.”
The proposed Select Committee on Education Finance & Results would continue the work of a legislative task force that has been looking for ways to comply with the state Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary case. The committee will explore ways to improve education funding in a manner that ensures state education programs are effective, including reducing remediation rates, increasing graduation rates and eliminating the achievement gap. The Democrats recommended Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, as their co-chair on the committee.
The Democrats also propose to reduce the partisan majority on Senate committees by giving the majority party just one more member than the minority party on the budget-writing committee, the Transportation Committee and all policy committees. No majority, Republican or Democratic, has allowed for such a narrow split in at least a decade.
Senate Democrats expect to discuss their proposals with their Republican colleagues after the Republicans select their own leadership team, Murray added.
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