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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Democrats Officially Lose Control Of Washington Senate

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network

OLYMPIA, Wash. –A new governing coalition of 23 Republicans and two Democrats is now in control of the Washington state senate. The power shift happened Monday as the legislature convened for a 105-day budget writing session.

The day began as the first day of session always does with plenty of formalities – including an a cappella rendition of the national anthem.

But that harmony wouldn’t last. Soon Democrats lost a vote to lead the Senate as the majority party. That paved the way for the new philosophical majority to introduce its own governing rules.

Republican Linda Evans Parlette addressed the Democrats.

“You are our friends, our colleagues and while we may not always agree, we know that from this day forward our collective focus will be on what is best for the people of Washington state.”

Democrat Karen Keiser responded that respect was “sorely lacking” from the new majority.

“We’ve lost trust, I believe they’ve lost credibility and I think this is a sad day for the Senate.”

The opening prayer even caused controversy. A reference to marriage as God “ordained it” offended supporters of Washington’s new same-sex marriage law.

The new majority coalition had offered Democrats six committee chairmanships and three co-chair positions. Democrats voted not to accept that offer. Nevertheless, two individual Democrats have chosen to take a chairmanship and one other Democrat will co-chair another committee.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."