Senate Democratic Leader Sharon Nelson today proposed a change to Senate rules which would require committee chairs offer equal time to opposing viewpoints.

The rule was voted down by Republicans along party lines.

“Fair and balanced seems like a reasonable mantra to me,” Nelson said. “A pro panel and a con panel whenever possible, that’s how committees must be run. That is not happening and that limits public debate. This is their house and their process. People expect and deserve better.”

The rule is modeled after similar language in House rules. You can view the proposed addition by clicking here.

“My hope was that this rule would change the way some of the committees have been run this year,” Nelson said. “People travel from near and sometimes far to be heard. For too many, their voices have been ignored. Representative government is not supposed to operate this way.

“I’m concerned about sporadically scheduled committee meetings which result in dozens of bills into a single two hour agenda. The Democratic process takes time and people deserve better than its Cliff’s Notes equivalent.

“Committees are at the very heart of representative government. It’s the most direct way people can speak to the policies that will impact their lives. Washingtonians are not being given that chance.”

Below are a few examples from the Commerce & Labor Committee of incidents the rule change was written to fix:

1/30: Person testifying cut off, told “written testimony isn’t compelling”

2/4: Partisan think tank presents in place of non-partisan staff on workers compensation

2/13: Person testifying cut off, told “just get to the bottom line”

2/18: Another person testifying cut short, pushes back