With the help of some conservative Democrats, Republicans may be ready to alter the balance of power in the state Senate.
A “bipartisan group” of lawmakers plans a news conference Monday morning “to discuss how the state Senate will operate during the 2013 Legislative session,” according to a news release sent by the Senate Republican Caucus Sunday evening.
Republicans earlier this month confirmed to The Seattle Times they were considering an alliance with two conservative Democrats to install state Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, as Senate Majority Leader.
Democrats hold a 26-23 majority in the state Senate, but that includes two lawmakers — Tom and state Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, who teamed up with Republicans last year to orchestrate a takeover during budget deliberations. If the pair breaks ranks again, Democrats would effectively be in the minority.
Sheldon declined to comment ahead of the news conference, but said he’d be in attendance. Tom and several prominent Republican lawmakers also could not be reached or would not not discuss their intentions Sunday night.
The Democrats’ choice for Majority Leader, state Sen. Ed Murray of Seattle, said he was not aware of what will be announced. Another variant of the rumored power-sharing plans would include the GOP demanding control or co-chairmanships for various legislative committees.
Murray said given the tenuous balance of power in the Senate, he has been open to negotiations on power-sharing. But he added it would be “unfortunate” if there was a repeat of last year’s budget coup, or an effort to remake the Senate’s rules.
The state Senate is the only place Republicans can flex any political muscle in the Legislature. Democrats hold a solid majority in the state House, and the party also maintained its three-decade hold on the governor’s office, thanks to Jay Inslee’s victory last month.