Days away from the start of the 2013 legislative session, Senate leaders still disagree on how they will share power on committees.
Senate Republicans will control the chamber with the help of two breakaway Democrats, Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon. The coalition has proposed that each party chair six committees, and co-chair three committees.
Under the proposal, Republicans would chair the most powerful committees — including the budget, education and healthcare — while Democrats would get six lower-tier committees.
At the Associated Press Legislative Preview event today, Senate Democratic leader Ed Murray said his members have voted to reject the GOP offer and they don’t intend to name chairs to the committees that the Republicans have offered.
“Offering the smaller committees to Democrats isn’t bipartisan,” Murray said.
Tom, who is the leader of the coalition, said the group is offering Democrats an “unprecedented amount of power,” and they’re still waiting for a response.
“We’re not doing this for window dressing,” said Tom. “We’re approaching this so we can have a vibrant dialogue.”
Tom said the coalition approached committee chairmanship like a business and selected the best qualified person for the job. For example, he said Sen. Andy Hill, the Redmond Republican who has been tapped to lead the budget-writing committee, holds an MBA from Harvard and is a former Microsoft executive.
Murray said he hopes both sides can “negotiate a bipartisan way to govern” before the start of session on Monday.
“We can move forward regardless of some of the complications that exist,” Murray said “The thing to focus on is the end result.”
The panel also featured Speaker of the House Frank Chopp and House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt.
On gun control, Chopp said lawmakers are considering two bills. One would create tougher penalties for juveniles caught with firearms, and the second bill addresses mental health.
“It’s not an easy process in this state,” Chopp said. “We’ll see what the Legislature wants to move forward on.”
Murray said he believes stronger gun laws will need to come incrementally, similar to the way same-sex marriage evolved out of a series of domestic partnership laws.
“We need to have a conversation on why citizens need uzis,” Murray said.
Legislative leaders also discussed education funding and Gov.-elect Jay Inslee addressed reporters at the event — we’ll post more about those on the blog later today.
Watch the leadership panel below: