6 legislators to watch

The Legislature convenes Monday with more than the usual squabbles between Democrats and Republicans. This time, as lawmakers tackle a budget shortfall and new demands for school funding, an unusual Senate coalition — 23 Republicans and two Democrats — may make things interesting. Here are some of the key players:

State Sen.

Rodney Tom


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Along with Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, Tom is crossing party lines to give Republicans 25-24 control of the Senate. Under the arrangement, Tom is expected to be elected Senate majority leader.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Murray D-Seattle

Murray will likely set a record for briefest term as majority leader. Democrats held 26 Senate seats after November’s election, and the caucus elected Murray as leader. Then Tom joined forces with the GOP and is in line for the job. Still, Murray will lead the charge for Democratic priorities.

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill


Hill, who has a Harvard MBA, is a relative newcomer. First elected in 2010, Hill was the ranking Republican on the higher-education committee last session and is now expected to become Ways and Means chairman, charged with writing the Senate version of the state budget.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ross Hunter


A former Microsoft program manager, Hunter was first elected to the Legislature in 2002 and has chaired the budget-writing committee in the House for the past two years. He’ll be negotiating with Hill to find a budget compromise.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Steve Litzow

R-Mercer Island

A partner with a global marketing-management company, Litzow last session was the ranking Republican on a key education committee. This year, he is the likely chairman and will be central in the K-12 education debate.

House Speaker Frank Chopp


Chopp is the longtime leader of House Democrats and the most powerful politician in the state aside from the governor. A defender of social services, he has the power to block legislation that cuts into programs he holds dear.

Coming Monday: A preview of the politics of this year’s Legislature