Senate Republicans will take over the caucus room and office space now occupied by Democrats in the Senate wings, according to state Sen. Rodney Tom.
This is the first tangible sign of a new power structure in the state Senate. Republicans, with the help of Tom, D-Medina, and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, have a 25 to 24 vote majority and are taking control of the Senate.
Jeff Reading, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, confirmed the move but would not go into any other details. The agreement was made at a meeting between Senate leaders that was held in SeaTac on Friday and mediated by state Lt. Gov. Brad Owen.
Democrats, who’ve been in the majority since 2005, currently have more commodious digs than the minority party. Tom is expected to become the new Senate majority leader next month, with the support of the Republican caucus, and he will move into the office formerly occupied by retired Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane.
The SeaTac meeting went into other matters as well, but Republicans and Democrats would not discuss what was said. Republicans had offered to let Democrats chair six lower-tier committees while Republicans would chair six others, including the budget writing, education and health-care panels. Republicans and Democrats would co-chair three other committees, under the proposal. Democrats, so far, have refused the offer.
Tom said the move into new offices will happen quickly.
“We’ll start that process now,” he said. “But obviously those are very minor issues. We still have bigger issues to deal with.”