Wednesday, December 12, 2012

An interesting coalition proposal . . .

Today's Seattle Times editorial suggests that the Majority Coalition Caucus formed in the Senate when two state democratic senators joined with republicans to take control of the senate will be better for public education.

The state Senate’s new bipartisan coalition offers the best opportunity for credible education reforms.

Republicans have had good ideas on education but have been frustrated by their minority status in a Democratic-controlled Legislature. Now that Republicans are in charge of key Senate committees, including education and the budget, they must deliver.

The plan being proposed by the coalition is for Senator Tom to become majority leader and to share committee leadership between the two parties with the republicans controlling the most powerful committees including budget and education.  Senator Litzow would replace Senator McAuliffe as chair of the education committee, a move identified in the editorial as a key to education moving forward.

Removing Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, from atop the education committee was key to moving forward. McAuliffe and her counterpart in the House, Education Chair Sharon Tomiko Santos, D-Seattle, used their leadership prerogative last session to weaken or kill promising reforms.

By contrast, Litzow has led on reforms. He pushed for replacing a seniority-based layoff policy for teachers with one based on performance. He supports restructuring health-insurance benefits for school employees. Scrutinizing a program that costs the state $1 billion annually is not anti-teacher, it is common sense.

As I shared in this blog post, I support the need for collaboration and see it as a necessity for the legislators to deal with the complex issues they face.  Unfortunately, reading this Times piece about Senator Murray's response to the coalition proposal makes me wonder how long collaboration will prevail or if it will even get off the ground.  There are many democrats across the state upset with the action of these two senators even though it was predictable since they made the same move toward the end of last year's session.

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.”

Can this proposed coalition with a declared democrat leading a majority republican caucus be the change necessary to transform how this chamber approaches their business?  How collaborative will this new coalition be with the democratic controlled house?  Will this session bring us closer to meeting the state's requirement to fully fund public education or will it produce another budget that puts off the difficult decisions that must be made under the McCleary decision?  The waiting game now begins and a long wait it will probably be.  

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