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.
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.