State Sen. Brian Hatfield has accepted a new Senate power structure and taken chairmanship of a committee Monday — but that doesn’t mean he approves of the process.
Hatfield is one of three Democrats who agreed to lead a committee. The Republican-controlled coalition leadership offered six committee leadership slots to Democrats, but three of them refused.
Hatfield said he’ll still caucus with the Democrats and doesn’t support the coalition control, which he called “a coup.”
While Republicans are calling the coalition a bipartisan effort, Hatfield and other Democrats call it window dressing. They note the coalition has 23 Republicans and just two Democrats and the powerful budget-writing and rules committees are coalition-controlled. “It’s pretending to be bipartisan,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield said late last week that if he were offered a chairmanship with no strings attached, he’d take it because the work is important. He’s in charge of the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development committee, which he said is important to the 19th District, which includes parts of Cowlitz County, including the Longview-Kelso area, and Wahkiakum, Pacific and part of Grays Harbor counties.
“In accepting the chairmanship of this committee, I feel that I am ensuring that the voice of rural Washington will be heard and the areas that matter most to its residents will receive their deserved consideration from the Senate,” he said in a press release issued Monday evening.
He expects the hot topic of labeling genetically engineered foods to come before the committee, though he himself doesn’t support new regulations. Still, Hatfield said it’s important to let both sides have their say on the matter.
Hatfield also said that the 19th and 20th districts are well poised despite the power struggle.
There are three Democratic and three Republican legislators from the two closely-connected districts, and members are represented in all four of the caucuses. That means whoever is in power, the region “has someone looking out for them.”