“It’s Good to be King”

“It’s good to be king and have your own way

Get a feeling of peace at the end of the day
And when your bulldog barks and your canary sings
You’re out there with winners, yeah, it’s good to be king.”      

Tom Petty

On Monday morning Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate are slated to hold a news conference to announce their power sharing agreement. Twenty-six Democrats were elected to the 49-member Senate in November. In a normal year, that would be enough to declare a majority. But this year, “majority” is taking on new dimensions.

Two Democrats have decided to vote with Republicans, effectively giving them the majority in the Senate. Majority rules in th legislature. In the Senate that means you have to have 25 votes to do anything. With two D votes, the Republicans have the votes they need to do what they want.

What could have motivated this take-over, pundits ponder? What is their real plan? To dethrone the Speaker of the House, Frank Chopp? To thwart the implementation of health care reform? To remake public K-12 education?

My theory is far less complex. I believe we may be over-thinking things. The reason for the power grab?  To borrow from Tom Petty,  It’s good to be king.”

When you have the majority, you run the show. You say what committees will exist and who will chair them. You decide which bills come up for a vote. You get more staff, better offices, and better parking. It is, in fact, good to be in charge.  You get the chance to BE in charge? You take it. So it always has been–and when the Ds have been in the minority, they’ve been as eager regain control as the Rs are now.

Two weeks ago Senate Republicans offered a “power-sharing” agreement that would have put them in charge of six of the most powerful committees and would have reassigned the title of “Senate Majority Leader” from ed Murray, elected majority leader by Senate Ds, to one of the two Democrats who decided to work directly with the Republican caucus, Rodney Tom.

The Senate Democrats responded with a civil, “No thank you,” preferring to be a spunky minority.

Last week the Rs and Ds agreed to ask Lt. Governor, Brad Owen, to attempt to negotiate a more workable set-up. Governor Owen is an excellent choice for this arbitration for several reasons. First, he served in the Senate for many years, representing the 35th legislative district as a conservative Democrat who was known on occasion to cross the aisle to vote with Republicans.  He is acutely aware of the bitterness and emotion that can be generated when the majority becomes the minority in one fell swoop.  Having served in the senate and, as lt. governor, having presided over the senate for more than a decade, he’s also steeped in the rules of the place, which positions him to help divise a solution that is both workable and palatable.



About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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