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Sen. Steve Hobbs Bumped to Co-Chair of Financial Institutions Committee – Will Share Duties With Jan Angel

Move Has Been Widely Rumored Since Floor Fight Early in Session

To be named co-chairs of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee: Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.

To be named co-chairs of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee: Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.

OLYMPIA, Jan. 21.—State Sen. Jan Angel moves up and Steve Hobbs moves over – that’s the word, official at last, from the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus.

The two will be co-chairs of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee. The decision, widely rumored in the Legislature for more than a week, is expected to be ratified in a floor vote Wednesday in the Senate. Majority Caucus Chair Linda Evans Parlette, R-Wenatchee, confirmed the move Tuesday afternoon.

Until now, Hobbs, a Democrat, has had the gavel to himself, and for days the move has been a subject of speculation among legislative observers – not just whether the Senate Majority Coalition would do it, but also what it means. Hobbs is one of three members of the Senate Democratic Caucus who accepted gavels when power shifted last year to a bipartisan-but-largely-Republican majority coalition caucus in the Senate. There are currently 24 Republicans and two Democrats in the coalition. Hobbs, a moderate “Roadkill’ Democrat, continued to caucus with the Democrats but demonstrated willingness to work with both sides of the aisle. Before the power shift Hobbs held the chairmanship under the former Democratic majority; that fact that he was willing to accept a chairmanship from the Majority Coalition caucus was touted as a sign of bipartisanship under the new regime. 

Now it seems there will be a bit more sharing than there used to be, and it will be of a different sort. Hobbs will be the Democratic chair and Angel will be the Republican chair, and decisions will be made jointly. It might be read as a slight tick in the direction of the Majority Coalition, but symbolic importance may seem greater than any effect it will have on legislation – the committee is rarely a hotbed of controversy.  A similar shared-leadership structure exists on the Senate Transportation Committee, where Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, shares a gavel with Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way.

Official Reason

Official reason for the move is that Angel, R-Port Orchard, a former House member who moved up to the Senate last fall, has considerable experience in the banking field. “The reason we are putting Sen. Angel in as co-chair of F&I committee is because of the talent she brings due to her experience in banking,” Parlette said. “She spent 14 years in banking, and she served, going on memory, eight years on a housing authority board, and she owned a property and casualty insurance company. So her talents would be a big value added to the committee.”

Parlette said the move is not intended as a reflection on Hobbs. The committee requires a certain level of specialization, she said, and “anybody who has knowledge of those issues can really add value, and that is why we did it. It will work just as it does with Sen. Eide and Sen. King; that seems to be working, where each have veto power, and so we are expecting it to be a successful committee using the talents of one of our new members.”

Hobbs is Tightlipped

Hobbs was saying little Tuesday, though he said he would prefer to keep the full chairmanship. “I don’t want to say anything until it is a done deal,” he said.

Rumors that Hobbs might be asked to step sideways surfaced last week after the Democrat mounted a floor fight over the referral of a bill. Hobbs objected that a bill revising the state Landlord-Tenant Act ought to go to his committee. But Senate Judiciary Chairman Mike Padden, R-Spokane, wanted the bill; he had held a workshop session on the measure last year, staking out a claim, and the Senate went along with Padden.

Floor fights over referrals are rare, and they are even rarer when they take place between chairmen of two political parties. Parlette said the floor fight was not the reason for the shift. 

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