November 26, 2014

Wisconsin Assembly GOP touts conservatism, reaches out to Dems

Jim Steineke

Jim Steineke

Several members of the Assembly last week touted the level of their conservatism.

Jim Steineke of Kaukauna has been elected as the new majority leader of the 63 members of his chamber — the largest majority since 1957. He says their conservative views on the role of government will help “keep the size and scope of government in check while being fiscally responsible.”

“It should be as limited as possible, providing the services that people need, giving people a hand up when they need it, but not making that a generational dependence on government.”

In lieu of raising taxes to cover state programs, Steineke — the second most powerful man in the state Assembly after Speaker Robin Vos — says they expect to generate revenue through economic growth.

“What we want to do is make sure that every single taxpayer dollar that’s being spent is being spent wisely, because people work hard for their money. We want to make sure if they’re sending it down to Madison that we are not wasting it.” So, he says, “We wanna reduce the tax burden to a level that’s commensurate with that way of thinking.”

Steineke realizes there are basic services government needs to provide — schools, roads, infrastructure. So, there’s a limit to how much they can reduce government spending. The Assembly majority leader-elect says in the coming weeks, he’ll be having conversations with the other side of the political aisle, promoting an open-door policy to hear about their legislative ideas.

First elected to the Assembly in 2010, Steineke says there is definitely room to compromise in the new 102nd Legislature. “Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don’t know where in our political discourse ‘compromise’ became a dirty word. It’s unfortunate,” he says, “because I think there’s a lot of room for that and I think we did that last session on a lot of different issues.” Though, he admits, they aren’t always the “sexy” issues that make front page news.

Steineke’s counterpart across the aisle, Peter Barca of Kenosha, is re-elected to lead his caucus. In his speech, the minority leader focuses on regaining the majority.

Like Steineke, Senate minority leader-elect Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse also reaches out to the other side of the aisle, saying one party doesn’t have all the answers. “I congratulate our new Republican leadership and I pledge to work with them when we can.” Shilling adds, “The citizens of Wisconsin want their elected officials to work together to be problem solvers for the betterment of our great state.”

Shilling admits the conversation frequently gets “vigorous” on the floor, but says, at the end of the day it’s important for lawmakers to leave their political hats at the door and recognize they are all colleagues.

Senator Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau is re-elected to be that chamber’s majority leader.

Former Representative Bill Kramer of Waukesha was the majority leader before being ousted amid a sexual assault scandal and replaced by Pat Strachota of West Bend, who didn’t seek re-election. Steineke says it’s an honor to be selected by his colleagues to represent them and, he says politicians — regardless of political persuasions — do associate in social settings every once in a while.

Democrat Dick Cates concedes 51st Assembly District race


State Assembly chambers (Photo: Jackie Johnson)

Republicans will return to the Capitol next year controlling 63 of the 99 seats in the state Assembly, after Democrat Dick Cates announced he will not seek a recount in a close race for a seat in the 51st Assembly District.

The decision means Republican Todd Novak’s Election Night victory will stand and the GOP will have its largest majority in the chamber since 1957. An initial tally of the vote on November 4 showed Cates losing the race by 59 votes. An official canvass done this week increased that margin by five votes, to 64.

In a statement, Cates said “The voters have spoken, and the margin of 64 votes is too much to overcome in this race. I have decided-reluctantly-not to ask for a recount.”

Representative Mandy Wright will not seek recount

There will be no recount in Wisconsin’s 85th state Assembly District. Representative Mandy Wright conceded the election on Tuesday. Wright trailed David Heaton by 86 votes on Election Night out of more than 22,000 ballots cast. After the canvass, Heaton’s lead was 85 votes. Wright was entitled to a recount since her margin of defeat was less than one-half-of-one-percent. The recount must be requested by the losing candidate. Wright has declined to make that request.

Wright, a Democrat from Wausau, served in the state legislature for one term. Heaton’s victory will increase the Republican majority in the assembly to 63-36 if the results hold another close election. Republican Todd Novak was leading Democrat Dick Cates by 59 votes in the 51st District. The new legislative session begins on January 14.


Governor Walker gives pep talk to Assembly GOP caucus

Governor Walker addresses Assembly GOP lawmakers

Governor Walker addresses Assembly GOP lawmakers

Governor Scott Walker congratulates the new Republican lawmakers in the state Assembly, saying their new majority following the general election gives them a great opportunity to lead. “We have a chance to not only make this state better, but we literally — and I don’t think this is an overstatement — we have a chance to make this country better because for right or for wrong, the people of this country are looking at states like Wisconsin.”

Walker makes a comparison to Washington, says Wisconsin can do better. He says the reason people hate Washington is because they don’t get anything done, they are “dysfunctional.”

Walker tells the Assembly Republicans as they meet to elect their leadership, “It’s important to stick together like a family.” In the next few months, he says, members of the Assembly and the Senate will be more actively engaged … in preparing the legislative agenda and the budget. Walker set out to affirm and grow their partnership.

“We’re a team that’s gonna get things done together. We can show, not only the people of the state, but I think people across the country, that this is what the counter to the dysfunction in Washington is.”

Walker says the Republican majority is “entrusted to do things right for all the people of this state, not just the folks that voted for us, but for all the people of this state.” He says, more than anything, voters want results. The governor sang the praises of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, saying, “There hasn’t been a better spokesman” for Republican reforms.

Robin Vos re-elected as Assembly Speaker

Assembly GOP

Assembly GOP

Assembly Republicans meet in open caucus for four hours Monday as they elect new leaders for their chamber.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester holds on to his leadership position by a unanimous vote of his caucus. Vos was first elected to the Assembly in 2004. He was not challenged for his job.

Jim Steineke of Kaukauna is the new majority leader — the second most powerful position in the Assembly after the speaker. He was first elected to the Assembly in 2010. Former Representative Bill Kramer of Waukesha was the majority leader before being ousted amid a sexual assault scandal and replaced by Pat Strachota of West Bend, who didn’t seek re-election.

Jim Steineke

Jim Steineke

Dan Knodl of Germantown is now the assistant majority leader for the upcoming legislative session. He was first elected to the Assembly in 2008. Steineke currently serves in that post but will move on to the role of majority leader.

The inauguration of the 102nd Wisconsin State Assembly is slated for January 5, 2015