Ericksen: Senate Duties Remain Key, But Would Consider Regional EPA Slot

State Senator Doug Ericksen (R-42) tells Lens his temporary post in Washington, D.C. serving the Trump Administration will not interfere with his duties in Olympia. But a full-time regional post for EPA in the Northwest isn't out of the question, and would require an appointment to replace him, plus a special election this fall. The Majority Coalition Caucus will need every vote it can muster during session, and beyond; it has only a slim one-vote edge. Seen here, the Washington Capitol. Photo: intexaminer.org.

In an interview with Lens Sunday evening, January 29, State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42) sought to tamp down any concerns that his high-profile temporary appointment serving President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C. could spell trouble for the slim one-vote majority the Republican-led Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) holds in the Washington State Senate.

“Back In Washington Working The Senate Gig”

“I’ll be back in Washington working the Senate gig,” and “going back and forth” between the Northwest and the nation’s capital as needed, Ericksen said. His appointment is for a maximum of 120 days, but could turn out to be “a lot shorter,” he said.

Ericksen acknowledged a permanent slot for the feds in Washington state is not out of the question for him, and would necessitate his replacement in the Senate. That in turn would add one more special election this fall to a growing list of such contests for the MCC.

Mischief Afoot

Ericksen’s comments come on the heels of an attempt at major mischief sparked by his absence and that of a colleague. Senate Democrats last Friday tried and failed to exploit a temporary count in their favor, and pass a bill to maintain local school district tax levy authority, that is set to soon expire. A Senate K-12 funding bill to be heard in Ways and Means Monday, January 30, addresses that so-called “levy cliff” situation.

The failed Senate take-over Friday was due to the absence of Ericksen and State Sen. Brian Dansel (R-7), who last week stepped down to take a permanent position with Trump’s team as a Special Assistant to U.S. Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue. Dansel’s replacement could be selected as early as Monday evening, January 30.

Ericksen is heading the transitional communications team for Trump at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Last week, he was quoted widely in national media as a re-set on EPA climate-related content online sparked a firestorm. However, as even the New York Times noted, such shifts are standard for new administrations.

Ericksen: Current EPA Stint Will Benefit 42nd

“It’s an honor when the President asks you to serve. We’re trying to get things on track for the EPA Administrator. This will pay off for my district” after the assignment ends, said Ericksen, when he can then approach the agency on policy matters on behalf of his constituents. The 42nd is home to several refineries and has been at the center of controversies around fossil fuel facility expansion, land use, and Native fisheries.

If Ericksen keeps his State Senate seat and merely serves out the rest of his 120-day-or-less temporary appointment, it could nonetheless pose real risks for the MCC, due to its narrow 25-24 edge in Olympia.

Key Votes Coming In Senate

This would be especially so, when full Senate votes are required on the MCC K-12 school funding plan, their budget, and other key bills which may bubble up this session on affordable housing, paid family leave, workforce development, wildfire prevention and planning, and more.

Any missed votes by Ericksen when it really counts in Olympia, would mean key MCC agenda items could become deadlocked on the floor. On lesser but sometimes important procedural matters, Senate ties could be broken by Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, a Democrat.

However, there’s still time to see where things settle. Other than measures necessary to implement the budget, which get more latitude, bills must wend through committee and clear their chamber of origin not until March 8, and clear the opposite chamber not until April 4.

The legislature is currently set to adjourn April 23, having finalized a new biennial budget, but an overtime session or two or three, would not be unexpected.

Regional EPA Slot Possible

Ericksen emphasized that the Washington, D.C. area is not any place he and his family want to live. “I have no interest in living in Washington, D.C.,” he told Lens.

Ericksen underscored he has not at any time specifically said he would be interested in the Seattle-based EPA Region 10 Administrator’s job, however he did affirm that a regional slot for the Trump Administration is something he would consider.

He added, “If I accept a full-time post, I would have to immediately resign” from the Senate seat.

While the 42nd has hewed Republican in recent years, as recently as 2008 to 2010, one of its state representatives was a Democrat. With control of the Senate already in play this year in the 45th District, the 42nd could serve as another point of attack for Climate Warrior campaign funders.

42nd Would Be Fourth ’17 Special Election For Senate MCC

In the 45th, the GOP holds only the Senate seat. Dino Rossi is the temporary-only appointee, filling the slot held by the late Andy Hill. Two Democrats, Larry Springer and Roger Goodman, hold the House seats. Neither party has yet revealed who will be its special election candidates.

A special election is also coming in the 31st District, where Republican Phil Fortunato was recently appointed to fill the seat of departing State Sen. Pam Roach, who won election to the Pierce County Council. A third Senate special election this fall will be faced in the 7th, by Dansel’s replacement. It is the state’s most Republican district.

As recently as 2008, House Position Two in the 42nd was held – and for numerous consecutive terms prior to that – by Democrat Kelli Linville, now Mayor of Bellingham. In 2010 she was narrowly defeated by Republican Vincent Buys. He held the seat against other challengers by wider margins in 2012, 2014 and 2016.

Ericksen moved from the State House to the Senate in 2010, handily beating Democratic challenger Pat Jerns, and easily dispensed with Democrat Seth Fleetwood in 2014 to hold the seat.

‘Don’t Equate Taxes With Environmental Policy’

Ericksen serves as Chair of the Senate’s Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee. Democrats are already advancing proposals for a carbon tax, in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget, and via a House Democratic bill. Also in the mix is a hike in the Hazardous Substances Tax (HST), via Inslee’s budget and emerging House Democratic legislation – although it is used less and less for its original purpose.

Asked if the environmental tax push by Washington Democrats accents the need for alternative measures from the MCC, Ericksen said, “I don’t equate tax increases with environmental policy.” If the House passes a carbon tax and and the HST hikes, “we will give them a hearing in the Senate,” he said.

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