February 14, 2016

Senate leadership transferred to Democrats

Sen. Mark Miller PHOTO:WRN

State Senate Democrats are now in charge of the chamber, but whether or not that will translate into any legislative action remains to be seen. The Senate’s Republican leader predicts his party will be back in the leadership role following elections in November. Monona Democrat Mark Miller is now Senate Majority Leader, with a narrow 17-16 advantage over the GOP. With no legislative floor periods scheduled between now and year’s end, Miller is talking of a special session. “We are focused on what we can do now, to get people back to work” Miller said. He’s proposing investments in training programs at the state’s technical colleges, and directing the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to focus on the communities with the highest unemployment. “These are simple measures that will work” 

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald PHOTO:WRN

Senator Scott Fitzgerald, now the Minority Leader, sees “zero” chance of a special session, and little significance to the transfer of power. “To the majority go the spoils, so the Democrats want bigger offices and a few new parking spots, and they’re going to get those,” Fitzgerald said. “Can you talk to the governor’s office, can both houses continue to communicate? Absolutely. But I’m being realistic. I just don’t see that happening right now. Fitzgerald, during remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday, highlighted what he sees as the accomplishments of Governor Scott Walker and the Republican Senate. In a press release, he compared that to what he called the dismal Democratic record when they last controlled the legislature. Democrat John Lehman, who was sworn in Tuesday, was defeated in 2010 by Republican Van Wanggaard. Lehman’s win in a recall election gave Democrats this new majority, but Fitzgerald predicts it will be brief, with the GOP retaking control following November elections. “The 12th the 13th, the 18th, the 32nd, all these Senate districts look like they’re going to break Republican in November,” he said. “I feel really good.” The Republicans retained control of the Wausau area 29th district, where Jerry Petrowski, a longtime Assembly member, won an election to fill the vacant seat.

Senators elected Madison Democrat Fred Risser, the legislature’s longest-serving member, to serve as Senate President, and Milwaukee’s Tim Carpenter as President Pro-Tem. Senator Fitzgerald’s brother, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, said he’d be willing to consider a special session — but that it’s disingenuous for Democrats to be talking jobs now, after earlier killing a mining bill that would have created jobs in northern Wisconsin. “It doesn’t seem to pass the smell test to me,” he said.

Miller, who named Milwaukee state Senators Lena Taylor and Chris Larson to the budget writing Joint Committee on Finance, and a host of new committee chairs, extended a dinner invitation to all the Senators for Tuesday night. Fitzgerald thought some Republicans would be attending, but said he wouldn’t make it. “It’s not because of any animosity or because I don’t think it’s appropriate. I came kind of late, and just didn’t work with my schedule.”

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