Opinion

Bipartisanship possible in Washington State Senate | Guest commentary

By State Sen. Joe Fain

Imagine picking up your local newspaper to find this story: “Today lawmakers from both political parties agreed to cooperate in support of a shared set of principles that include helping middle-class families and promoting a world-class public education system.”

As of this week that headline could be a reality, not in Washington, D.C. but right here in the Washington State Senate.

Earlier this week I helped lead a bipartisan majority of my colleagues to change the way the Senate operates. Members of this coalition of Democrats and Republicans agree on a set of ideals that reflect the things I believe our community expects us to work towards in the Legislature -- growing jobs, helping middle-class families, making government accountable, and supporting public schools. In order to realize these goals, we must first change the way the senate operates.

To appreciate these changes let’s look at how the Senate handles its workflow through its current committee structure.

Committee chairs are powerful people in the Legislature and decide the fate of proposals brought before them.

Currently, the partisan majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate controls every chairmanship in the Legislature.Unlike the current arrangement, we believe the organizational framework our bipartisan coalition has created will provide more balance, greater accountability, and allow -- even promote -- compromise.

When the 2013 legislative session begins in January, we will do so with a balanced committee structure.

Of the Senate’s 15 policy committees, six will be chaired by Democratic senators, six by Republicans and three chaired jointly by a senator from each party.

This new approach to governing is unprecedented in our state and we’re confident it will be a catalyst for the new ideas we need to address the serious issues facing Washington families.The results of what lawmakers in Olympia do next year are essential to shaping our future prosperity.

Like my colleagues in the Majority Coalition Caucus, I am committed to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans for a sustainable budget that takes a long-term approach towards shaping our state’s financial future.

Being your state senator is so much more than taking votes and developing legislation -- it’s engaging with our community and listening to people of all backgrounds and perspectives. It’s about spending time in our schools and listening to parents and teachers. It’s about studying stacks of budget documents on any given program one day, and visiting the homes of the people that program affects the next. It’s about brushing aside predetermined talking points and briefing memos and instead seeing and hearing things for myself. It’s about making difficult decisions with the greater good of our community in mind.

What I have heard consistently, from the time I started knocking on doors in 2010 through meetings I’ve had this very week, is that the public wants real value for the hard-earned money they send to Olympia, and they want their elected officials to work together to solve problems.People are rightfully demanding results and we are responding to that call, not settling for a traditional approach to making policy just because it has been done a certain way in the past. We will continue working together to achieve real results based on the quality of ideas and the interests of our communities.

We have taken these bold steps to ensure Washington state isn’t subject to the partisan gridlock that dominates Washington D.C.

State Sen. Joe Fain represents the 47th Legislative District in the Washington State Senate. He serves on the Transportation, Education, Financial Institutions, and Rules committees, and is the Senate’s incoming Majority Floor Leader. Fain is also a member of the senior leadership team for the Majority Coalition Caucus.

 

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