This is dis­turb­ing news. From Andrew Gar­ber at The Seat­tle Times:

Sen­ate Democ­rats raised con­cerns Fri­day that the GOP [Republican]-led major­i­ty in [the] Sen­ate is get­ting rid of top non-par­ti­san com­mit­tee staff managers.

Sen­ate Demo­c­ra­t­ic Leader Sharon Nel­son, D‑Maury Island, said it was her under­stand­ing there was pres­sure from the GOP [Republican]-led major­i­ty cau­cus to “hire some polit­i­cal-type indi­vid­u­als into the non-par­ti­san staff. Inter­views were done. Those indi­vid­u­als were not hired … I’m very con­cerned that may be the under­ly­ing cause of this” action to let the man­agers go.

Sen. Karen Fras­er, D‑Olympia, sent an email to the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus Fri­day after­noon say­ing, “I am stunned to let you know that the MCC [Repub­li­can] Lead­er­ship have advised (the com­mit­tee ser­vices direc­tor and deputy direc­tor) that their ser­vices are no longer need­ed and they should find oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties by ear­ly Jan­u­ary. My under­stand­ing is that Sen­a­tors Tom, Par­lette, and Fain con­sult­ed in advance and made this decision.”

Gar­ber says he reached out to Rod­ney Tom and Lin­da Evans Par­lette to ask them about this. They both declined to com­ment. Gar­ber also report­ed that he left a voice­mail for Joe Fain which has not been returned… at least not yet.

The News Tri­bune has post­ed the full emails from Nel­son and Fras­er.

Tom and Par­let­te’s silence says some­thing in and of itself. If they felt what Sen­a­tors Nel­son and Fras­er were say­ing was wrong, mis­lead­ing, or inac­cu­rate, they’d sure­ly want to cor­rect the record. But they had noth­ing to say.

We can only con­clude, then, that they are indeed telling non­par­ti­san staff to get lost. Pre­sum­ably this is because they want peo­ple more loy­al to them and their agen­da in sev­er­al of the top jobs. This is dis­turb­ing because the non­par­ti­san staff is sup­posed to be, well, non­par­ti­san. The cau­cus­es have their own staffs, but the Sen­ate also has a non­par­ti­san staff so sen­a­tors from both major par­ties can get answers to ques­tions from a neu­tral, pro­fes­sion­al source. Non­par­ti­san staff con­duct research and field inquiries, but they do not advocate.

Democ­rats are jus­ti­fi­ably con­cerned about Sen­ate Repub­li­cans’ per­son­nel moves, par­tic­u­lar­ly since it appears they weren’t con­sult­ed. The notion of non­par­ti­san staff serv­ing at the whims of the major­i­ty — any major­i­ty — does not sit well with us, giv­en that the non­par­ti­san staff are sup­posed to serve all legislators.

Per­haps state law needs to be changed to give House and Sen­ate minori­ties more input into hir­ing and per­son­nel over­sight decisions.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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