Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: "The Power Vested in Me by the State"

Caffeinated News & Gossip featuring the new King County Democratic Party chair, the new state house Finance Committee chair, newlyweds, and a new way of doing business in the state senate.

By Morning Fizz December 10, 2012

Caffeinated News & Gossip

1. It was a historic Sunday—with most of the attention focused on the mass gay wedding at City Hall where 142 couples got married. 

Fizz was at the Lake Union Cafe, where there was a small but exuberant ceremony for nine couples. Fizz got to sign as a witness for one of the couples (mazel tov, you two).

The part where we teared up, though, was when the Rev. Bill Wood said: "And by the power vested in me by the state..." 


2. Despite the official 26-23 Democratic advantage in the state senate, the Republicans are expected to call for a power sharing agreement this morning.

The Republicans responded coolly to Murray's olive branch. Two dissident Democrats, Sens. Tim Sheldon (D-35, Potlatch) and Rodney Tom (D-48, Bellevue), give the GOP a 25-24 working majority, and they are expected to join the GOP caucus leaders at a press conference today where the "bipartisan" group will talk about how they believe the senate should be organized this session. 

As the Tacoma News Tribune reported last month, the GOP setup is likely to include co-chairmanships of legislative committees

Trying to head off a GOP insurgency, Democratic state senate caucus leader Sen. Ed Murray (D-43, Capitol Hill) extended an olive branch in late November when he made Sheldon vice-chair of the powerful Rules Committee (the Lt. Governor is the automatic chair), called for a new co-chaired, bipartisan committee on education funding, and made conservative Sen. Jim Hargrove (D-24, Hoquiam) head of the all-important Ways and Means Committee. 

At that time, however, the Republicans responded cooly. Republican Sen. Mike Hewitt (R-16, Walla Walla), the GOP leader at the time, said: "I know there may be additional leadership strategies that could do a better job of delivering the ongoing reforms the public is demanding."

The Republicans plan to meet with the Democrats later this week.

3. Over in the house, though, the Democrats have complete control. They began lining up their committee chairs and assignments on Friday.

Their wonderfully named Committee on Committees (headed up by powerful speaker Rep. Frank Chopp, D-43, Wallingford) sent out their picks on Friday.

And—learn to trust the Fizz—as we predicted, Seattle-area Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne) was indeed nominated to be chair of the new, big-deal state house Finance Committee.

The house Ways and Means Committee was split into two new house committees: Appropriations (what to spend money on) and Finance (where to get the money). 

Establishing a lone Finance Committee, it seems to Fizz, is a recognition of the Democrats' desire to overhaul the state's regressive tax system and call for new revenue.

Carlyle has been determined to close tax loopholes and has been critical of the inequity in the current tax system in which urban counties subsidize rural counties.

Rep. Carlyle

He's also a big education reformer; look for Carlyle's new committee to focus on the state Supreme Court's McCleary decision—a court mandate that the legislature come up with an extra $1 billion for K-12 education in the next biennium in addition to the approximately $13 billion they currently spend. 

Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), the chair of the soon-to-be-gone Ways and Means Committee, was picked to chair Appropriations.

4. Speaking of committee assignments, Fizz is happy to report that PubliCola-endorsed newbie North Seattle Rep. Jessyn Farrell (a real environmentalist and former executive director of Transportation Choices Coalition, whom we picked in a Democratic intramural), has been nominated to be on both the Transportation Committee and the Environment Committee.

Added bonus: new Rep. Jake Fey (D-27, Tacoma)—a green urbanist who we also think will help refocus the Democrats on the environment—has been nominated to be vice chair of Transportation.

5. You may remember that we wrote a little bit last week about the then-pending contest for chair of the King County Democrats between current chair Steve Zemke and challenger Marvin Rosete.

"For someone who didn't run for chair to be nominated from the floor, and beat out the incumbent, is unheard of."

It turns out that after a kooky five-hour Saturday afternoon of nominations and alternative nominations and hats in the ring and hats withdrawn from the ring, neither Zemke—who's been chair since getting the job in late 2010—nor Rosete got the gig.

Karl de Jong, a 34th District activist and the chair of the King County Democrats Endorsement Committee, won in a scrambled afternoon following a nomination for "anyone who isn't the two running"—which came after Zemke and Rosete were nominated.

That obvious protest nomination opened the floodgates: Michael Maddux, the 43rd District's rep on the King County Democrats' Central Committee; de Jong; Scott Forbes, the 43rd District Chair; and the only woman to get nominated, Omaha Sternberg, the 33rd District Chair, all got nominations. 

"I've never seen anything like this," Maddux says. "Normally, re-orgs are very well planned and more of a formality. For someone who didn't run for chair to be nominated from the floor, and beat out the incumbent, is unheard of in my memory."

After Zemke and Rosete spoke, Maddux withdrew his nominations and endorsed de Jong, which prompted Rosete to withdraw and endorse de Jong. Then de Jong spoke, surprsing many by not withdrawing. Insead, he made an effective nuts and bolts speech (and evidently a dig at Zemke), saying: "I can run a meeting, follow a budget, and play well with others."

Forbes then withdrew and endorsed de Jong. Sternberg stayed in.

On the first round of voting,  Zemke and de Jong tied with 74 votes a piece, and Sternberg came in a distant third. She then withdrew and endorsed de Jong. On the follow-up vote de Jong won, but just barely—91-86.

But it wasn't over yet. There were more votes (177) than there were credentialed voters (175). State Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-33, Des Moines), who was chairing the meeting, ruled that the disparity didn't change the outcome—and after no one contested the result, de Jong was officially made new chair of the King County Democrats.

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