Will sharing power in Olympia work?


Sharing has not been part of the culture in the state Capitol — home to the House, Senate and governor’s office. That’s particularly true when it comes to power.

So when the Democrats in the Senate lost control of the Senate and were hit with a power-sharing plan they were furious. The shift in power came when two conservative Democrats joined forces with 23 Republicans.

The new Majority Coalition Caucus will be led by Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, with Democrats and Republicans chairing six committees each, with a majority of just one vote. Three committees would be evenly split and co-chaired by one Republican and one Democrat.

But on Monday, Senate Democratic leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, continued to stake claim to control. He sent a letter to Tom saying he was not ceding his leadership post until members of the Republican-fueled majority change the rules defining the majority caucus — and it has to be on the Senate floor.

Ironically, sharing power was sounding better to Democrats later on Monday. Murray proposed becoming co-leader with Republican caucus leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday. In addition, Democrats called for all Senate committees to have Republican and Democratic co-chairs.

“Our offer is, we will support your leadership and you will support our leadership and we will go into a co-arrangement for two years, and that way we will stabilize the Senate,” Murray said.

That plan was quickly rejected in a joint statement by Tom and Schoesler, who wrote that “to have co-chairs for every committee would be a recipe for gridlock, particularly in areas like education and the operating budget.”

Democrats have every right to try to regain their power, but — in the end — they must accept the reality of the new situation.

The Coalition’s offer to share committee chairmanships is generous and exactly the kind of bipartisan cooperation the public wants to see. This state (and nation) have a lot of serious problems lawmakers (including Congress) need to address.

The public is sick of Republicans and Democrats hunkering down behind their conservative or liberal ideological positions, unwilling to even talk about compromise.

The Majority Coalition could help change that. Its leadership seems to understand the need to at least attempt to compromise and govern closer to the political center.

Tom and Schoesler, in a column written for The Seattle Times, wrote their new coalition is committed to working together with Democrats.

“Citizens across our state and our nation are tired of the partisan gridlock they see going on in Washington, D.C. They are crying out for their leaders to work together in a cooperative and equitable way. Here in Washington state we will lead the way,” they wrote.


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