Posted by: sweeneyblog | January 8, 2014

Committee Assignments Key Indicators of Influence

For the 2014 session, I will be providing weekly updates on your state legislature thanks to the generous support of donors like you.

Capital Beat

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In a legislature, one of the key features  that indicates power and influence is the committee system. Every legislator is assigned a handful of committees where they examine legislation in smaller groups, make changes and then send it back to the larger body for a vote. Sometimes a piece of legislation will pass through multiple committees before finally appearing back on the floor.

To further complicate things, which committee gets a crack at the legislation can be very important. Say there was a bill that created stricter hiring practices and auditing for government contractors on transportation projects. The speaker of the house (or the majority leader in the Senate) could send the bill to either the transportation OR government oversight committee depending on who was on those committees and what they wanted to happen to that bill (i.e. “send it to Transportation, they will kill it”).

The legislators who chair the committees wield huge amounts of influence in choosing which bills to bring up within their committee and how much time to spend on each. Last year, Sen. Doug Ericksen illegally used his power as chair to shut down debate on a bill that had already been opened for a vote. Despite the violation of procedure (and law), this was allowed to stand because it was his ruling as chair.

So what committees are blessed with our legislators from the 42nd and 40th? Rep Jason Overstreet’s committee assignments have actually been scaled back since last year. He used to be the assistant ranking minority member (the #2 Republican) on the Government and Tribal Affairs committee, and hold a seat on Transportation, Early Learning and Human Services, and Health and Human Services Appropriations Oversight. After his lackluster year of legislating in 2013, he is now the assistant ranking minority member on Transportation, and a member of two other committees (Early Learning and Environment).

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys

Rep. Vincent Buys kept all of his committee assignments from last year (Agriculture and Natural Resources, Government Operations and Elections, Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Government, Local Government), the only change is that he went from being the ranking minority member (#1 Republican) on the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee to the ranking member on Government Operations and Elections. His assignments to the Appropriations committee show that the state Republicans are putting quite a bit of faith in Buys, assuming that he will stick around for a while. Appropriations is responsible for all spending bills and is a hotly sought after committee.

Sen. Doug Ericksen continues to wield an impressive amount of influence from his seat as chair of the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee and he held on to the rest of his committee assignments (Transportation, Rules and Health Care). Rules is an interesting choice for someone dogged by ethical charges since the rules committee establishes the framework for how the legislature functions (an oversimplification, but a basic description).

Rep. Jeff Morris, the long-time representative from the 40th, stayed with his committee assignments from last year. He remains chair of the Technology and Economic Development committee, where he has shepherded through tons of green energy subsidies and programs. He also sits on the Environment and Transportation committees.

Rep. Kris Lytton

Rep. Kris Lytton

Rep. Kris Lytton’s portfolio of assignments has expanded greatly this year. She continues a role in the leadership of the House Democrats as the Deputy Majority Floor Leader, and retains her seat as the vice-chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources committee. She also keeps her seats on the Education and Finance committees, however, they have added to her platter Rules, Appropriations and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, giving Lytton increased influence over not just the laws that govern our schools but the funding mechanisms that keep them running.

Sen. Kevin Ranker keeps his assignments from the year before. He continues as the Ranking Member (#1 Democrat) on the Energy, Environment and Telecommunications committee, yes, the one run by Ericksen. He also sits on the Ways and Means committee, an influential group that connects the funding to specific programs and is instrumental in crafting the budget each year.

In summation, Overstreet got scaled back, Buys and Lytton continue to rise and Ranker, Morris and Ericksen stay where they are, in positions of power.

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Responses

  1. Riley,

    What qualifications does Overstreet have concerning Early Learning?

    Tom Gilmore

    So what committees are blessed with our legislators from the 42nd and 40th? Rep Jason Overstreet committee assignments have actually been scaled back since last year. He used to be the assistant ranking minority member (the #2 Republican) on the Government and Tribal Affairs committee, and hold a seat on Transportation, Early Learning and Human Services, and Health and Human Services Appropriations Oversight. After his lackluster year of legislating in 2013 , he is now the assistant ranking minority member on Transportation, and then is a member of two other committees (Early Learning and Environment).

    • I’m not really sure. The committee assignments are decided by the leadership of each party so the state republican legislators must believe he could contribute to the Early Learning committee in some capacity.

  2. He’s got kids. Our state gov is designed to have citizen legislators who bring their presonal experience. So if a former (or current) policeman is elected, he will likely be assigned to justice and crime related committees, Teachers who get elected go to education committees etc … but often there are no perfect matches, and they just assign anyone who has the slightest connection to the subject matter.

  3. […] with her increased leadership role, Lytton is involved in budget negotiations and other large-scale legislative motions but for her […]

  4. […] education advocate and rising star among Democratic leaders, Rep. Lytton brought a full plate of legislative offerings this year. You can find my earlier […]


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