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‘#ZagsGate:’ Senator defends leaving budget debate to watch NCAA tournament

OLYMPIA, Wash. — During the heat of debate over the state’s budget and an important effort to fully fund education, a handful of senators came under fire for leaving the floor to watch Gonzaga’s victory over West Virginia in the Sweet 16 last Thursday.

Senator Kevin Ranker (D-Orcas Island) called his colleagues out during debate, and said it was disrespectful to their constituents, according to a tweet from Rachel LaCorte with the Associated Press.

Ranker told “Q13 News This Morning” that he did not want to name the senators, but recalled his frustration with their lack of attention during what he considered an important moment on the floor.

“We were in the middle of a very heated and very emotional debate about whether or not we were going to find programs for homeless youth and poor singles moms and people were teared up on the floor,” he said. “That’s when we hear from the wings just this barrage of screaming. I went over and told folks that they needed to calm down and we had a little back and forth. And then, one of the members came out and put it up on their laptop computer on the floor, which I just think is incredible disrespectful.”

Later, Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) admitted to being among those who left the floor to watch the game. Baumgartner agreed to join Q13 News This Morning to explain what jokingly referred to as “#ZagsGate.”