Earlier this month, Stateline reported:
Voters in Washington State last month elected a state Senate with 26 Democrats and 23 Republicans. But starting next month, those Republicans will serve in the chamber’s majority after a coup Monday (December 10) that will bring a bipartisan coalition to power.
Two centrist Democratic senators, Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon, announced they had banded together with the Republicans to form the new “Majority Coalition Caucus.” The two Democrats will serve in the chamber’s top positions. Tom, a former Republican who became a Democrat in 2006, will lead the Senate as majority leader. Sheldon will serve as president pro tempore.
Under the plan, Republicans and Democrats will split committee chairmanships, but, as Publicola reported, Republicans will lead many of the committees that are considered most important, including K-12 Education and the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee.
The coalition presented the arrangement as a way for Republicans and Democrats to join together to solve the state’s problems. “We are Washington State, not Washington, D.C.,” the group wrote in a statement laying out its principles. “We commit ourselves to establishing a style of lawmaking that promotes policy over politics, an approach seen all too rarely in politics today.”The New York Times adds today:
Here in the capital, legislative staff members and senators alike were pondering where they stood, and where they might sit — office space in the new power-sharing arrangement being one of the unknowns of the holiday season. What seemed increasingly clear, though, is that in the coalition agreement, Mr. Sheldon and Mr. Tom had achieved a kind of coup within a coup, silencing Republican social conservatives on one hand and distancing Seattle Democrats on the other, all in one karate chop.In New York, The Legislative Gazette reported:
Control of the state Senate during the upcoming session will be shared between Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Sen. Jeff Klein, the de facto leader of a five-member independent conference, all but eliminating the power of the Senate Democrats for the time being.
The two conference leaders together will administer "joint and equal authority" over the daily Senate agenda, the state budget process, board appointments, committee assignments and leadership posts. The title of "Temporary President" will alternate between Skelos and Klein every two weeks.