McAuliffe fighting to retain Senate committee chairmanship

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe

First District State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe hopes to retain at least a co-chairmanship role on the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee during new negotiations being sought by Senate Democrats with the new Majority Coalition Caucus in Olympia.

When two Democratic state senators announced they were joining with Republicans to form a coalition to wrestle Senate control from the remaining lawmakers, McAuliffe’s long-standing role as chair of the body’s education committee was in jeopardy. The Majority Coalition Caucus had announced Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, would serve as the new chairman.

State Senate Democrats met in Sea-Tac Monday to develop strategy for facing the prospect of losing key committee positions, such as McAuliffe’s in education, to the coalition.

“The majority of the Democrats voted to make the offer to co-chair all the committees,” McAuliffe said following the Democrat Caucus meeting. “We are in sensitive negotiations with the Republicans. We feel like this an opportunity to work in a bipartisan manner.”

While McAuliffe isn’t fully satisfied with sharing the chairmanship of the education committee with Litzow, it may be the best she and fellow Democrats can hope for in light of the alternative plan offered by the Majority Coalition Caucus, which has 25 members in comparison to the 24 remaining in the Democratic Caucus.

McAuliffe and other Democrats don’t necessarily accept the Majority Coalition Caucus, but are trying to salvage some authority in the face of the numbers being stacked against them.

“I would state that I don’t recognize the coalition at this point in time because there is nothing in the rules that says there can be a coalition,” McAuliffe said. “So it’s up to the Senate Majority Leader and the Senate Minority Leader to negotiate right now.”

Even if Democrats are able to negotiate terms for co-chairmanship positions of Senate committees, McAuliffe isn’t too sure that key legislation could be passed through the education committee with both her and Litzow sharing the leadership. “I don’t know; I have not spoken to Sen. Litzow, so I’m not sure,” McAuliffe said. “I would have to have that conversation with him.”

When asked if she would join the Majority Coalition Caucus in order to keep her committee chair, McAuliffe emphatically answered no. “I don’t think he (coalition leader Sen. Rodney Tom, R-Medina) would represent me well in education. I think his actions in the past have shown that he does not support the positions that I and my colleagues have taken on education. So I don’t think I could work under his leadership.”

“I know I couldn’t work under his leadership,” McAuliffe added.

McAuliffe (D-Bothell) was first elected to the State Senate in 1993; she is beginning her sixth consecutive term serving the 1st Legislative District, which includes Mountlake Terrace and Brier.

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