Legislative update: Senate temporarily tied at 24-24

By Diana Carlen
WAWG Lobbyist

Senate republicans have temporarily lost the majority due to one of their members, Sen. Brian Dansel (R-Republic), resigning last week to take a job in the Trump Administration as a special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. With Dansel’s resignation, the Senate is currently tied at 24-24 until a replacement is appointed to fill the seat. The replacement is required to be a republican so the tie is temporary, and Senate republicans will regain the majority as soon as the appointment process is completed  While the Senate republicans hope that an appointment process is swift, the process is complicated by Dansel’s district encompassing five counties which requires commissioners from all five counties to vote on the replacement. The vote is expected to take place today.

The news of Dansel’s resignation came a day after the announcement that two other Washington senators have been tapped to work in the Trump Administration. Former Sen. Don Benton (R-Vancouver), who did not seek re-election this year, was named as the senior white house advisor supervising the transition of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale), the chair of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee, has been named the communications chair for the EPA transition. Sen. Ericksen has publicly stated that he does not intend to resign his Senate seat since the position is temporary for the transition.

Senate republicans release their education funding plan

Last Friday, Senate republicans released their education funding plan. The plan would reduce property taxes for many residents in 2019 by eliminating the current maintenance and operations levy for school districts and instituting a new statewide property tax levy.

Under the new plan, school districts would get a minimum of $12,500 per student. Salaries for beginning teachers would go up from about $35,700 to $45,000 per year, and the top 5 percent of teachers would get bonuses ranging from $25,000 to $50,000. Teachers would be prohibited from striking.

The proposal involves a major overhaul of state property taxes and would be referred to the voters in November to approve or reject. More information about the proposal can be found here. The Senate Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing on the proposal today.