Democrats endorse sharing power with GOP on new schools panel

Choosing collaboration over confrontation, Democrats in the state Senate today agreed to share power with Republicans on a new panel dealing with the critical issue of public school funding.

The proposed Select Committee on Education Finance &Results — which I first mentioned here — would have an equal number of members from each party. It also would have a co-chair from each party. Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, is the Democrats’ choice to run the panel while Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, is apparently going to be one of the members.

In another move reflective of the Democrats’ fragile 26-23 majority, they are proposing to shrink their numeric advantage on all the committees to a single vote. For example, Democrats now outnumber Republicans 13-9 on the Ways and Means Committee. Under the change, the split would be 11-10.

“In the Senate, we’ve shown a collaborative approach can get results,” said Senate Majority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle in a statement. “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.”

As expected, Democrats also confirmed moderate Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, as chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Vashon Island, a liberal member of the caucus, will serve as vice-chair and be in charge of writing the Capital Budget.

Other appointments of note include:

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, will continue as chairwoman of the Senate education committee. However, it’s got an awkward new name: Pre-K-12 Education.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, will chair the Transportation Committee with Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, serving as vice-chair. The two engaged in a spirited competition for the chairmanship.

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