THE Washington state Senate chamber has been consumed by fractious internal politics since Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon joined with 23 Republicans to form a governing coalition.
Regardless of party, all 49 senators must focus on the greater mission of serving all of the state’s constituents, especially providing a stellar education for citizens between the critical ages of 3 and 23.
The state Supreme Court has started a five-year clock requiring lawmakers to reform and better fund public education. The message is clear: Students come first. Senators must keep that mission at the fore as they work under unusual circumstances.
That will require true bipartisanship. Three Democrats — state Sens. Steve Hobbs of Lake Stevens, Tracey Eide of Federal Way and Brian Hatfield of Raymond — wisely accepted the majority coalition’s offer to chair committees. Other Democrats rejected similar opportunities, reportedly in protest. The caucus must shelve hurt feelings and not turn simply into obstructionists.
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The larger burden is on the majority coalition, led by Tom, D-Medina, and Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, to govern magnanimously.
The coalition has the majority on the Rules Committee, which dictates which bills move to the full Senate for a vote. Using this committee to move a hyperpartisan agenda would be a power grab that distracts from the mission.
This session can show that this Washington is not seized by the partisan dysfunction that has overtaken the other Washington. And our state’s electoral history suggests the Senate may flip, back and forth, between Democrats and Republicans.
In other words, the majority may be the minority again someday. Legislators should govern with that in mind.
Reforming and fully funding education is a mammoth task. The reward could be a nation-leading system, from preschool to graduate school, worthy of a state with an innovative economy.
That is what voters had in mind when they cast ballots in November. Time to get to work.