Can Whatcom Co. senator serve in Olympia and D.C.?
OLYMPIA. Wash. -- A state senator is coming under fire for being both part of President Trump's transition team and the Legislature in Olympia.
Republican Sen. Doug Ericksen, of Ferndale, has been away for the Senate for several weeks. He flew back from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Democrats say his absence now and in the future just isn't going to work. "I just wanted to express some measure of disappointment in the lack of progress this session," said state Sen. Marko Liias, D-Lynnwood.
The state Senate was slated to go into full session Wednesday morning. The original idea was to vote on the Republican plan to fully fund education. Newly appointed Sen, Shelly Short had just been seated. But behind her, the desk of Sen Ericksen sat vacant.
Senate Democrats say Donald Trump's tapping of Ericksen for his transition team in the 'other' Washington is getting in the way of doing business in 'this' Washington.
"Sen. (Brian) Dansel faced the same sort of situation. He stepped down. We have a replacement here today and we can move on. I think it's time for Sen. Ericksen to really consider that," Liias said.
Dansel resigned last week to take a job as special assistant to the U.S. secretary of agriculture. Short is his replacement
Ericksen's presence is critical because Republicans have a 25-24 majority in the senate and need his vote to pass key legislation.
Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, "It's really hard to serve the people of Washington as a full-time state senator during the legislative session and to be in Washington DC. serving the Trump administration," said state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle "At some level, you've just got to choose."
Ericksen returned to Olympia Wednesday afternoon. "It's great to be here working on the important issues," he said. "I didn't really stop working on them. I've been working in D.C. on my off hours on all my legislative duties."
On Wednesday, Ericksen hand to cancel a morning news conference he had scheduled in Olympia to discuss how he's handling his dual roles. His flight from the East Coast was canceled.
Ericksen said his job in D.C. is temporary and that he cleared his dual role with legal staff at the Capitol. Ericksen, "We'll be here as much as possible. Be here for the key votes as much as possible working on Senate duties and going back and forth to Washington, D.C.."
One of Ericksen's constituents, Dr. Michael Shepard, is unhappy and has filed an ethics violation complaint over the dual jobs, The complaint asks his to resign. "If he chooses not to resign his position, we think it's fair for him to begin refunding the taxpayers for half of this salary.," the complaint said.
"I've had an incredible outpouring of support from my district from people wanting me to do this because they know how important it is to Washington state and the 42nd District," Ericksen said,
The education plan vote debate occurred Wednesday evening.