Today starts the three-day Organizational Session for the 65th Legislature. Three days of computer training, learning the basic division of powers, and understanding your role as a legislator. Seems rather boring, right? Here is why you need to pay attention: committee assignments are decided at this session, and that greatly impacts the outcome of legislation.
Following election night, those individuals who came out on top receive a packet to fill out. Amongst the materials is a sheet where new and returning members prioritize which two committees they’d like to serve on. “A” committees meet Monday through Wednesday. “B” committees gather on Thursday and Friday.
Logically you’d assume legislators would request and be placed on a committee they’re knowledgeable in. For example, you’d predict a former teacher would serve on the education committee. You’ll learn quickly logic doesn’t always prevail in the Legislature. Members may request a committee so they can act on their ideological bend on a specific policy rather than one they’re experienced in. Or which is more often the case, leadership intends to punish a member for a previous action or vote. Take for example former Rep. Kathy Hawken who was removed from House Appropriations by House Leader Al Carlson after being an outspoken critic of her own party’s actions.
This session is also the time where rules will be agreed upon. Sometimes the smallest change in one rule can tip the scale in how the debate is held or how legislation moves through the process. With an even more lopsided makeup this session, it will be interesting to see if there is a shift in rules that keep the process open and fair. Honestly, there shouldn’t be a need to change the rules because the numbers allow the majority to do whatever they want anyway. History shows they aren’t afraid to do just that.
What I’m saying to you is pay attention. We know the makeup of members. After these three days we will have a more clear understanding of how the body will function. Check back for updates as decisions are made in the Capitol.