Murray not ready to cede leadership of Senate

OLYMPIA — Democratic Sen. Ed Murray says he’s not ceding his leadership position until members of a new Republican-majority caucus move to change the rules on the Senate floor to put someone else in charge.

In a letter sent Monday to Sen. Rodney Tom, Murray wrote that in order to redefine a majority caucus, the Senate’s 23 Republicans and the two Democrats joining them, including Tom, must vote to change the permanent rules of the Senate and its governance structure when the legislative session begins next month. Murray wrote that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen has said he will continue to recognize the Democratic caucus as the majority caucus of the Senate until that happens.

“Under the current and past Senate rules, and longstanding past interpretations of those rules, the majority caucus is defined as the party containing the most elected members, which currently remains the Democratic caucus,” Murray wrote. “As such, the majority leader is elected by the Democratic Caucus under the provisions of our own caucus rules.”

Last month, Senate Democrats elected Murray as their majority leader. But last week, Tom, a Democrat from Medina, and fellow Democrat, Tim Sheldon of Potlatch, announced they would work with Republicans under a newly formed caucus called the “majority coalition” caucus and that Tom would be the new majority leader.

Democrats have a small majority in the Senate, controlling 26 of 49 seats. With the moves by Tom and Sheldon, Republicans effectively hold a 25-24 advantage.

Under the proposed plan by the caucus to be led by Tom, Republicans will chair six committees, including the panel that controls the state budget, while Democrats will control another six committees. The parties will split control of three other panels, though Sheldon is on two of those committees.

Murray’s letter was in response to a letter Tom sent him on Friday asking him to appoint senators to the committees the majority coalition caucus offered Democrats to lead. Tom also said he wanted the Facilities and Operations Committee to be reorganized soon. That committee, which oversees personnel issues, would need to be reorganized, Tom said, to determine office locations and other issues.

However, it also is the committee that imposed sanctions on Republican Sen. Pam Roach, who was kicked out of her caucus two years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. She was allowed back in earlier this year when Republicans built a similar coalition to take over the budget process, but she is still currently barred from interacting with most Senate staff.

Tom has said that Roach, who has been named chairwoman of the Senate Government Operations, Tribal Relations &Elections Committee under the new plan, would have those sanctions against her lifted, even though they were recently reaffirmed under a legal settlement announced in September.

In a written response to Murray on Monday, Tom wrote the new coalition would take steps on the first day of session to establish themselves as the majority caucus.

“We believe it would be best for the institution and by extension, the people of Washington, if the current majority would accommodate our incoming majority in the various ways that will enable the Senate to be fully functioning on January 14,” Tom wrote. “The alternative would be to risk the very chaos you have publicly warned might accompany a change in the Senate majority. Surely, no one wants that.”

More in Local News

Designed for special emergencies, texting 911 widely misused

The majority of texts dispatchers receive are better handled by calling, a SNOPAC official says.

Signs show the rates for using the express toll lanes for traffic headed southbound on Interstate 405, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Bothell, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans Tuesday to try to decrease congestion on I-405 in answer to commuter complaints that the new express lane tolling system is making traffic worse. The governor said he would not be shutting down the tolling system as some people have called for. But the state transportation department is making plans to add new northbound general purpose lanes to ease some of the congestion and also plan to make it easier to move into and out of the express lanes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
After a 2-year trial, are I-405’s toll lanes here to stay?

Lawmakers will decide whether to keep them or end the experiment and try something else.

Weary drivers using toll lanes say they have little choice

Congestion continues to be a tedious reality for commuters on I-405, which is as clogged as ever.

Arlington woman dies 4 days after Marysville crash

She was on the northbound onramp from Fourth Street to I-5 when her pickup hit a tree and fence.

Council passes six-month moratorium on safe injection sites

Proposal by County Councilman Nate Nehring passed unanimously.

Terrace woman held following collision in Everett

The three occupants in vehicle were transported to a local hospital in serious condition.

Information sought on drive-by shooting in Everett

Debris from an apparent crash, evidence of gunfire found in the 2800 block of California Street.

Longboarders from near and far hit the trail in Arlington

The Centennial Sk8 Festival was serious competition for some and just for fun for others.

Everett’s lawsuit against maker of OxyContin can proceed

Purdue Pharma says it’s not liable for the impacts of opioid addiction and wanted the case tossed.

Most Read