Morning Fizz

Morning Fizz: Senate Republicans Set to Demote Moderate Democrat

Caffeinated News and Gossip featuring demotions, voting rights, salaries, and new staffers.

By Morning Fizz January 22, 2014

Morning Fizz

UPDATE: The vote has reportedly been postponed because a couple of GOP votes were absent today.

1. The Republican dominated Majority Coalition Caucus is about to get more Republican-dominated.

In a floor vote over committee chairs this morning, the MCC is expected to take away State Sen. Steve Hobbs' (D-44, Lake Stevens) sole chairmanship of the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee and make him co-chair with freshman Republican Sen. Jan Angel (R-26, Port Orchard).

Hobbs, a moderate Democrat on fiscal issues and leader of what was once called the Roadkill Caucus, a conservative force in the Democratic caucus that foretold the MCC era, was one of a few Democrats who, giving a veneer of bipartisanship to MCC rule, agreed to chair a committee after the MCC coup last session.

Although Hobbs had led Roadkill and chaired a committee for the MCC, he has continued to caucus with the Democrats and even sponsored the Democratic priority bill that rattled the MCC, the pro-choice Reproductive Parity Act

The GOP says the demotion isn't a reflection on Hobbs, but rather a reward for Angel—who won a big deal special election in November that increased the MCC's numbers to 26-23 and has a background in the banking industry.

Moderates like supposed senate majority leader, Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) are rapidly losing control of the MCC.

It's worth noting, in light of Hobbs' pro-choice bill—he says he's introducing it again this year—that Angel is a staunch anti-choice Republican, and in fact spoke at a pro-life rally on the capitol steps yesterday. (Hobbs also introduced a bill—a diligent response to the recent McCleary remprimand from the State Supreme Court—to give K-12 teachers cost of living raises; the move irked the GOP, whose alternative response to the K-12 funding issue has been to propose teacher accountability reform bills.)

The other thing (more) worth noting: Sen. Mike Padden (R-4, Spokane Valley), Republican chair of the Law and Justice Committee, introduced a pro-landlord bill that will undo a recent pro-tenants' rights decision by the state Supreme Court (opponents are calling Padden's bill "The Rats Bill"). Hobbs, annoyed that a housing bill (one he opposed) was circumventing his housing committee, introduced his own version, a parliamentary ploy that gave him the ability to run it through his own committee where he could pursue a more collaborative approach on the bill. 

The turf war led to a backroom GOP caucus vote that Fizz reported on last week where the Republicans split, and so failed, on removing Hobbs as housing committee chair.

Well, they've reportedly got the votes to demote him now.

Hobbs didn't want to talk before the vote telling Fizz simply: "I hope reasonable heads will prevail," and joking that he hopes he "doesn't pull a Richard Sherman" if the vote doesn't go his way.

Meanwhile, Padden's bill is scheduled for a hearing in his committee this afternoon. Hobbs' version of the bill is not on the schedule.

Hobbs hopes he "doesn't pull a Richard Sherman" if the vote doesn't go his way, he jokes. Looking for the macro story here: Moderates like supposed senate majority leader, Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina) are rapidly losing control of the MCC.

2. Speaking of rattling the GOP with Democratic bills—which is shaping up as the theme of this all-posturing election-year session—the Democratic house, which passed the Dream Act on the first day of session last week challenging the MCC to pass a popular Democratic agenda item, is reportedly going to launch another civil rights bill the senate's way.

Look for the house to pass Rep. Louis Moscoso's (D-1, Bothel) Washington Voting Rights Act—legislation that would allow local jurisdictions to switch to district voting if there's a history of discrimination against minority voting blocs—as early as Monday. 

The house passed the Voting Rights Act last year, but it disappeared in the senate. As they did with the Dream Act, because the bill passed the house floor last year, watch for the VRA to bypass the committee process and go straight to the floor.

3. Legislation proposed Sen. Sharon Brown (R-8, Kennewick) would give the two major political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, the ability to appoint four of the five members of the Public Disclosure Commission, the body that oversees campaign-finance disclosure and compliance with state campaign finance laws. Those four members would elect a chairperson to complete the five-member roster.

Additionally, PDC members would be able to serve for more than one term; current law limits them to a single term.

According to Collin Jergens, spokesman for the progressive group Fuse Washington, the proposal "risks significantly politicizing the PDC. Why would we hand over enforcement of our election laws to the political parties? Currently, the commission's five members are appointed by the governor, with the stipulation that only three of the five may be members of a single political party." 

Perhaps more significantly, since commission members must reach a consensus on their fifth participant, there's always the possibility of a 2-2 stalemate, with two Democrats allied against two Republcians over control of the commission. 

4. City Council member Kshama Sawant will announce later this week, according to her staff, how she plans to dispose of the two-thirds of her salary she has said she will contribute to benefit the "working people" of Seattle.Sawant's staffers declined to say how the socialist council member planned to donate her salary (and to which causes); last week, Sawant said she plans to put $15.000 of her $120,000 city council salary toward efforts to increase Seattle's minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Sawant, who is on a committee appointed by Mayor Ed Murray to come up with a plan to increase Seattle's minimum wage, has indicated that she plans to work outside the official city system, as well as inside it, to pass a $15 minimum. 

5. City council member Tom Rasmussen announced yesterday (in an exuberant email that concludes, "Hooray!") that he has hired a new legislative assistant to replace Bill LaBorde, the former Transportation Choices Coalition lobbyist we once called a council "aide extraordinaire"—Washington, D.C. lobbyist Anthony Auriemma, a former Seattle U law student and legal "extern" for ex-mayor Greg Nickels. 




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