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Eickmeyer to head new House committee

With senators and representatives preparing to head to Olympia on Jan. 10 for the start of the 2005 session, leadership and committee positions are starting to shake out.

Last week, state Rep. Bill Eickmeyer (D-Belfair) found out he’d be heading a new seven-member, select committee dealing with Hood Canal issues, something the 35th District representative has championed for.

“The sole purpose is to deal with the problems with the Hood Canal and all the problems surrounding the canal,” Eickmeyer said on Monday. “We felt it was necessary given the dire straits it’s in.”

Eickmeyer, who was reelected in November to his fourth term, said the exact makeup of the seven member committee (which will include four Democrats and three Republicans) has yet to be determined. “We’ll know more what the committee will look like by the second week of January.”

The committee will have full powers, including the ability to pass legislation to the House floor for a full vote.

Eickmeyer said he’ll again also serve on the House’s natural resources, capital budget and rules committees.

Fellow 35th District Rep. Kathy Haigh (D-Shelton) will again serve as the chair of the state government committee after winning her fourth term. During the 2004 session, Haigh also served on the education and rules committees, as well as the joint legislative audit and review committee and the select committee on veterans and military affairs.

House newcomer Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) has already caught the eye of party leadership as she’ll serve as an assistant majority whip.

“It’s very exciting,” said Appleton, a former lobbyist and Poulsbo City Council member. “A lot of my lobbying skills are important to serving as a whip.”

By C-Span’s definition, a whip is “a member elected by his/her party to count potential votes and promote party unity in voting.” The Democrats control the House by a 55-43 margin.

Being a freshman legislator hasn’t stopped Appleton from requesting positions on high-profile committees such as transportation, health care, criminal justice and corrections, education and capital budget.

“The committee on committees is meeting Dec. 13 (in Olympia), so I’ll know then,” Appleton said. “I’m hoping to get at least transportation because it’s so important to this area.”

Her predecessor, Phil Rockefeller (D-Bainbridge Island), served as vice-chair of the transportation committee in 2004.

Twenty-third District Rep. Beverly Woods (R-Poulsbo), the standing Republican Caucus chair, should keep her seat on the capital budget, transportion and legislative transportation committees.

Sen.-elect Rockefeller is using his experience in the House to gain some valuable leadership positions in his first session in the Senate. He’s been selected as an assistant floor leader where he’ll help organize the Democrats’ strategy as they won back a 26-23 majority in November.

“I’ve got some things to learn, but I’ll be working with the majority floor leader and it’s a great opportunity,” Rockefeller said. “I hope I’ll be up for it.”

Rockefeller also was tabbed as vice chair of the Senate’s environment, energy and water committee which will likely be dealing with the aftermath of several oil spills this year in Puget Sound as well as the voter-approved Initiative 297 banning the importing of nuclear waste on to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. That measure is already being challenged by the federal government as non-binding and un constitutional. He’s also been named to the education committee which looks at the preschool through graduate school levels and the ways and means committee.

“I feel honored I have the opportunity and I know it’s not going to be easy,” he said.

Sen. Tim Sheldon (D-Potlatch) was downgraded from chair of the international trade and economic development to vice chair. The controversial senator from the 35th District was recently elected to serve a four-year term on the Mason County Board of Commissioners as an independent.

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