Topic: Majority Coalition Caucus
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November 12, 2013 at 7:51 PM
State Senate Republicans are willing to consider a gas-tax increase of 11.5 cents a gallon for highway and ferry construction, and even to allow new local taxes for King County Metro Transit, according to a proposal forged over the holiday weekend.
It would avoid the tolling of Interstate 90 to help pay for construction of the nearby Highway 520 floating bridge — by allocating $1.3 billion from new gas taxes toward the Highway 520 account.
The biggest project is still $1.66 billion for extensions of Highways 509 and 167 between Seattle and Tacoma, which are freight routes between seaports, warehouses and airports. There’s also $1.3 billion to widen I-405, $750 million for the North Spokane freeway, $390 million for Snoqualmie Pass East, $350 million for highways around Joint Base Lewis-McChord, $219 million to rebuild the Seattle ferry terminal at Colman Dock, and $1.05 billion toward maintenance. Here’s the project list.
King County could send to the ballot a car-tab tax increase of up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value, to be split 60 percent for transit and 40 percent for county and city roads. Other car-tab fees of $20 to $60 are also conceivable for county roads and transit. Not only that, but Community Transit in Snohomish County could ask voters for a sales-tax boost of 3 cents per $10 purchase.
The transit-tax option will likely please urban Democrats, but there’s a big sticking point. The Majority Coalition Caucus, consisting of Senate Republicans plus maverick Democrats Rodney Tom, D-Medina, and Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, are also proposing that sales taxes on road construction be kept in the road funds, instead of flowing into the general fund. That would mean less money for schools, social services, environmental oversight or criminal justice.
And there are possible cost cuts around the margins, by reducing apprenticeship programs, watchdogging wage rates, and reducing environmental permit rules. The I-5 Columbia River Crossing is left out.
“Congestion relief” would be added to the state’s official transportation goals.
Whether this can pass both the GOP-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House is unclear. Committee meetings are expected next week.
The entire 10-year, $12.3 billion proposal phases in gas taxes the first three years, and requires $4.2 billion bond debt that would ring up interest costs for a couple of decades.
July 17, 2013 at 10:45 AM
Well, at least it wasn’t an F.
State lawmakers received a D+ from voters in a new poll about the 2013 Legislative session.
Seventeen percent of respondents to The Elway Poll did give the lawmakers an F, while 29 percent chose D, 34 percent chose C, 11 percent chose B and 1 percent chose A (and 9 percent had no opinion). That made for an average “GPA” of sorts of 1.34 — a D+.
The poll also found poor ratings for the Majority Coalition Caucus, a coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats that seized control of the state Senate by one vote this year.
Twenty-one percent of respondents said the coalition’s impact was positive, less than the 35 percent who classified it as negative. And 43 percent found the impact neutral or had no opinion.
On the positive side, the poll reported that more voters paid attention to the session this year — 58 percent, the highest since 1998, according to pollster Stuart Elway.
The poll surveyed 406 registered voters by phone (including cell phones) between July 9 and 11. The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
This session, lawmakers adopted a compromise $33.6 billion budget and approved a bill aimed at reducing drunken-driving, but did not reach agreement on much else.
January 31, 2013 at 9:48 AM
OLYMPIA — Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, it turns out, can appreciate quality artwork even when it’s a parody portrait depicting him as a monarch.
The Medina Democrat, who angered his own party by forming a majority coalition with Republicans, laughed off a “King Rodney Tom” painting when he encountered it outside the Capitol on Thursday morning.
But the other influential lawmaker walking with him, Senate Republican leader Mark Schoesler, was not as pleased.
“Why don’t I have one?” joked Schoesler, of Ritzville.
It was one of several good-natured exchanges prompted by the painting, a photo-shopped picture of Tom — adorned with robe and crown.
Fuse Washington, a progressive group, created it this week.
“King Rodney Tom’s ascension to power in Washington is a remarkable story of drama and palace intrigue,” read a scroll-shaped flier distributed Thursday by the artists, who also handed out coffee and donuts. “For King Tom, it’s all about ego, ambition and political power. Compromise means convincing others to agree with him, and loyalty comes from leverage, not trust.”
Tom and Potlatch Democrat Tim Sheldon see their coalition with 23 Republicans somewhat differently. They have framed the coalition, which holds a one-vote majority in the 49-member Senate, as an opportunity for the divided chamber “to work together in a collaborative manner.”
Erin Haick, a 31-year-old Seattle resident and the field director for Fuse Washington, said it took her five to six hours to create the portrait.
January 30, 2013 at 6:00 AM
A new take on Rodney Tom conversion? The new leader in the state Senate, he of the Majority Coalition Caucus, is an enigma for some Democrats who wonder how he can call himself a Democrat when he joined with Republicans to form the Republican-leaning group. Republican John Carlson has an interesting piece on Tom in Crosscut.
What do you think of the bill to change the state code to use gender-neutral language? Bye bye, firemen, fishermen and other such terms. If I am not mistaken, the University of Washington Daily has done something similar.
High marks for Washington’s charter school law. The charter bill is brand new and implementation will take time. But still the bill wins high marks for the way it is drafted. No. 3 in the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Oregon going to pot, well, maybe sometime. The Oregonian says Oregon could be one of the next couple of states to legalize marijuana , perhaps in 2014 or 2016. Oregon had a pot measure on the ballot this past year, but the measure was very broad and did not pass voter muster.
Good days and bad days, bad mornings followed by better afternoons: Tuesday morning, state Rep. Gary Alexander was part of an AP inquiry into lawmakers’ expense reports, dry cleaning expenses, to be specific. The story included Alexander’s cleaning bill. Uh oh.
Later in the afternoon, Alexander was announced as as the new Thurston County auditor, filling a spot vacated by Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Question for Alexander: Does he intend to become Secretary of State? Just asking. Both Wyman and former Secretary of State Sam Reed were Thurston County auditor before becoming Secretary of State.
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January 17, 2013 at 4:41 PM
In a rambling, hour-long news conference, beleaguered state Sen. Pam Roach on Thursday enumerated her life accomplishments, lectured reporters and announced that she is writing a book.
The book, to be titled “The Caucus,” will be about “what it’s like to be in the Senate Republican caucus,” the six-term Auburn senator said.
Roach called the news conference to respond to reports about a GOP-controlled Senate panel lifting sanctions that were levied against her in 2010 for allegedly mistreating a former Senate staffer.
Democrats say that Roach, who gave Republicans a critical vote allowing them to take control of the state Senate, did not satisfy the terms of her 2010 punishment.
Moreover, the decision came amid reports of a separate incident last year in which she allegedly verbally assaulted another Senate staffer.
On Thursday, Roach stated that “I have never mistreated anyone.”
She blamed the allegations on a “long, drawn-out campaign to ruin my good name” by her Senate Republican colleagues.
As in the past, she said the campaign was started by the late Jim West, a former Spokane senator whom Roach says was the subject of potentially damaging emails that her staff discovered. She said it was continued by Mike Hewitt, a Walla Walla senator whom Roach unsuccessfully challenged for leadership of the caucus.
“This is the largest, most concentrated effort to ruin somebody’s name in the Legislature that has ever happened in state history,” said Roach, adding that the effort was aided by a sexist Senate Republican caucus and a lazy and sensationalistic media.
Roach spent much of her news conference reviewing her record of accomplishment, in and out of the Legislature. She help up an iPad with a photo of her doing a radio show in Zambia, and she passed out a pamphlet about a school in Honduras where she volunteers.
“I do more arguably — not even arguably — than anybody else in this Senate,” said Roach, describing her successful five children and 16 grandchildren. “I care about people.”
Roach said she will seek re-election.
But she would not answer questions about why the Senate panel lifted sanctions against her, calling the explanation “personal” and saying only that “apparently (the committee members) were satisfied.”
“I’m done answering questions,” Roach said after an hour and just a handful of questions. “I just spent an hour of my time. Without lunch.”
January 11, 2013 at 5:35 PM
Rodney Tom may be about to formally become the most powerful member of the state Senate, but he is increasingly taking heat from his own party.
Democratic Party activists in central Seattle’s 43rd district are expected to vote Tuesday to censure Tom, a Medina Democrat, for joining with 23 Republicans and one other Democrat to form a coalition that should narrowly control the 49-member Senate when the Legislature convenes Monday.
A proposed resolution calls Tom’s behavior “perfidious” (“deceitful and untrustworthy,” according to Merriam Webster). Among other things, it would promise not to provide any volunteer or financial support to Tom in his next campaign, and encourage the state party operation to deny him access to its voter database.
Perhaps most striking, the resolution vows that the 43rd District Democrats will withdraw support for anybody in Tom’s district that offers or even implies that they will offer material support to Tom’s re-election.
“We don’t believe that Sen. Tom is doing what is best for his district or his state,” said Scott Forbes, chairman of the 43rd District Democrats. “We believe that he is doing what’s best for himself.”
Forbes said he expects the resolution to pass.
The proposal in the 43rd district comes days after Democratic Party activists in Tom’s own district, the 48th, approved a resolution stating that Tom’s move had made him ineligible for “future endorsement and support.”
Tom said he doesn’t make much of the reaction from activists.
“I’m down there in Olympia representing my district. I think I represent it well,” he said, noting that he voted the same way as his district on all four initiatives on the ballot this year: same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, charter schools and a two-thirds requirement for taxes.
December 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM
State Sen. Ed Murray — the Seattle Democrat who was set to lead the Senate before two members of his party defected to form a new majority caucus with Republicans — said Tuesday he would rather be in the minority than participate in the coalition’s “power-sharing” proposal.
“I don’t believe that the Democrats will be in the majority,” he said. “I don’t believe that at all. But I do think that we can find a more functional way for the Senate to operate than this.”
Speaking in an interview with members of The Seattle Times Editorial Board, Murray cautioned he was not speaking for anybody but himself. Senate Democrats plan to meet sometime in the next week to form a response to the proposal from the new coalition, which includes 23 Republican senators and Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom of Medina and Tim Sheldon of Potlatch.
The proposal would install Tom as majority leader and Sheldon as president pro tempore while giving each party equal committee chairmanships. The most powerful committees, however, would be reserved for the Republicans.
Murray said he hopes to negotiate “a more bipartisan way of moving forward.”
But if the choice is between accepting the proposal as announced or being the minority party with no committee leadership positions, Murray said he would choose the latter.
“I think it would be healthier for the institution if 24 of us are a strong minority influencing the process as a minority,” he said. “I think it would make for a better product in the end.”
December 11, 2012 at 3:56 PM
A day after Republicans announced they plan to make Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, the Senate majority leader, a key question remains: Who would he lead?
The GOP, with the help of Tom and Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlach, said Monday they expect to take control of the Senate.
Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, however, said in an interview Tuesday he’s still the leader of the GOP caucus and they will continue to meet and discuss issues and strategies important to Republicans.
Democratic Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, is still the leader of the Democratic caucus.
So if Schoesler is leading the Republicans and Murray is leading Democrats, who would Tom lead?
No one has a good answer at this point, other than the “majority coalition.”
Tom said Tuesday he expects to move into the corner office, on the Democratic side of the Senate chambers, traditionally held by the Senate majority leader. And that he plans to walk over to the GOP side to caucus with Republicans.
Asked what he plans to do in the GOP caucus, Tom said: “I’d be there to listen. I’m there to keep the coalition moving forward and together.”
Tom said he hopes other Democrats will eventually join his cause, but so far has no takers.
For now, this is less of a “power-sharing coalition” and more like a Senate controlled by Republicans — with the help of two Democrats.
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