NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Manka Dhingra elected Deputy Senate Majority Leader; will also chair new Behavioral Health Subcommittee

A year after flipping the Washington State Senate from red to blue, Redmond’s Manka Dhingra (D-45th District) has ascended into the ranks of Senate leadership. The caucus announced today that Dhingra and Senator Rebecca Saldaña (D-37th District; Seattle) will be the chamber’s next Deputy Majority Leaders.

They will work alongside Majority Leader Andy Billig, Majority Floor Leader Marko Liias, Caucus Chair John McCoy, and Majority Whip Mark Mullet.

“I think it’s fair to say that a Washington legislative caucus has never had the benefit of this diverse a range of representation,” Billig said in a statement.

“It’s one thing to talk about someone else’s needs and another thing altogether to have lived them. No one needs to explain Eastern Washington priorities to me; I’ve been fighting for them ever since I was elected to the Legislature.”

“The Legislature is full of smart, insightful elected officials who can write strong, sensible laws, and our knowledge is further enlightened by our personal life experiences,” Saldaña said. “Representation matters, and when we apply a more diverse range of experiences to our work, we wind up with better laws that apply more fairly and equitably to the very diverse communities that make up our state.”

“As a King County prosecutor in my day job, I have the benefit of a specialized skill set that increases my awareness of the legal ramifications of any legislation I touch,” Dhingra said. “In the same light, I know that when women of color advance into leadership roles, we flourish. We uplift our communities.”

“We uplift us all.”

Dhingra was just reelected to a four year term representing the 45th District (Redmond, Kirkland, Woodinville, Duvall, Sammamish).

She is also one of five current boardmembers governing NPI’s newly formed sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. The Senate Democrats have certainly made a wise choice by elevating her to their leadership team.

Here’s the complete caucus leadership team roster for 2019-2020:

  • Majority Leader: Andy Billig (D-Spokane)
  • Deputy Leaders: Manka Dhingra (D-Redmond); Rebecca Saldaña (D-Seattle)
  • Caucus Chair: John McCoy (D-Tulalip)
  • Floor Leader: Marco Liias (D-Mukilteo)
  • Whip: Mark Mullet (D-Issaquah)
  • Vice Caucus Chair: Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle)
  • Assistant Floor Leader: Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue)
  • Assistant Whip: Claire Wilson (D-Federal Way)

The majority has the power to choose the Senate’s officers in addition to naming its own leadership team (it’s one of the big perks of having a majority) and the caucus’ two nominees for those posts are the people who hold them now:

  • President Pro Tempore: Karen Keiser (D-Federal Way)
  • Vice President Pro Tempore: Steve Conway (D-Tacoma)

Keiser and Conway will be responsible for assuming presiding duties in the stead of Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib when he is away or unavailable.

The Senate Democrats also announced a restructuring of the chamber’s committees. The biggest change is the creation of the new Housing Stability & Affordability Committee, which will be chaired by Patty Kuderer (D-48th District: Redmond, Kirkland, and the Points communities). The Senate is also creating a new Behavioral Health Subcommittee that will be chaired by Dhingra.

“I’ve heard from people across the state, and these two issues consistently rise to the top,” said Billig. “Every community, and really every family, has in some way been touched by a mental health crisis and the intersection between that issue and our state’s housing and homelessness crisis is clear as glass. The creation of these new committees will enable us to intensify our efforts to create solutions in these areas while providing Washingtonians more opportunity to articulate their needs.”

But that’s not all.

The Senate is also gaining a new Environment & Tourism Committee, chaired by Kevin Ranker (D-40th District: San Juan Islands, Whatcom and Skagit Counties).

The committee’s primary focus will be environmental health through improved water quality, oil spill prevention and other measures to protect our state’s ecosystems, according to the caucus. It will work in cooperation with the Energy, Climate and Technology Committee on environmental issues.

“The environmental health of our country and our state have reached a critical tipping point,” Billig pointed out, alluding to recent reports from the IPCC and the United States federal government concerning the severity of the climate crisis. “Washingtonians want and deserve action on this critical concern. It’s up to us to lead on this issue and accomplish what the other Washington can’t or won’t.”

NPI congratulates the Senate Democrats on the creation of these new committees. We look forward to working with the Senate to advance legislation that will result in a more inclusive economy and a better society for all Washingtonians.

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