Sheldon joins Senate Rules Committee as membership is finalized

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch.

OLYMPIA… State Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, will return to the Senate Rules Committee as part of a deal that finalizes the membership of the quiet-but-powerful panel.

Membership of the committee will expand by three, two positions going to Democrats, Sheldon and Andy Billig of Spokane. Also joining the committee is state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale. Total membership of the rules committee will grow from 18 to 21 members.

The necessary rule change and appointments were ratified by a voice vote on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon.

Sheldon had served on the Rules Committee for the last two years, but he lost his seat when he was defeated for re-election as Senate president pro tempore on the opening day of the 2015 legislative session. The Senate rules give the president pro tem an automatic position on the committee.

“I was proud to serve as president pro tem, and I am very happy to be returning to the Senate Rules Committee,” Sheldon said. “It’s the most powerful committee you’ve never heard of. Its meetings are held in public, but it doesn’t meet according to a regular schedule and it doesn’t take testimony. Yet every bill that passes the Senate passes through the Rules Committee.”

Bills passed by Senate committees are funneled through the Rules Committee, whose members decide which measures advance to the Senate floor.

Sheldon is one of two Democrats who joined with Senate Republicans to create the Majority Coalition Caucus in 2012. “There are two ways you can look at it,” he said. “I am a Democrat, and we are adding two Democrats to the committee. But we’re also adding two members of the majority caucus and one member of the minority caucus, so we maintain our numerical advantage.”

Under the new arrangement, the committee has 13 members of the Majority Coalition Caucus, including Sheldon. There are seven members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and the committee is chaired by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat.