Nov. 14, 2012 – Just months after losing control of the state Senate due to recall elections, Senate Republicans will return with the majority in January as a result of winning one open seat and likely retaking a seat lost during the recall election. Senate Republicans were able to win in the 12th Senate District left open by the retirement of Jim Holperin and won the 18th Senate District after challenger Rick Gudex defeated incumbent Senator Jessica King.
Currently, the Senate Republican majority currently stands at 17-15, with one open seat. The open seat is due to the resignation of Senator Rich Zipperer, who recently accepted the position of Deputy Chief of Staff in Governor Scott Walker’s office. A special election to fill his seat will occur in December, but it is expected that Republicans will retain the seat.
Assembly Republicans also received gains in the November election. Bolstered by a number of new districts from last session’s redistricting process, Assembly Republicans gained two more seats for a 60-39 advantage. The final Assembly numbers could change, as three races were too close to call and might be headed for recounts.
Preview of 2013-14 Session – Tax Cuts, Jobs, Regulatory Reform and Mining
By retaking the Senate majority and continuing to have a sizable majority in the Assembly, Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans will be able to set the agenda throughout the next legislative session. Governor Walker last month started to lay the groundwork for his next biennial budget proposal, indicating that his next budget will focus on five distinct areas: creating jobs, transforming education, developing the workforce, investing in infrastructure and reforming government.
One advantage that Governor Walker has for this upcoming session is that the state is currently dealing with a larger than normal budget surplus. The governor was able to deposit $109 million into the state’s rainy day fund as the state announced that it ended the first fiscal year with a $342 million surplus. Encouraged by the surplus, Republicans have started to study the cost of an across the board income tax rate reduction, as well as rolling back various other tax hikes that were implemented in previous sessions.
Republicans are also planning to revive a mining regulatory overhaul bill, and want to find a way to grow angel investments and venture capital in the state.
The Decline of Lawyer/Legislators Continues
The elections also continued the downward trend of the number of attorneys serving in the Wisconsin Legislature, from 17 at the end of last session to 13 beginning in January.
A total of ten attorneys will serve in the Assembly over the next two years (eight Democrats and two Republicans): Gary Hebl (D-Sun Prairie); Bill Kramer (R-Waukesha) ; Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee); Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee); Jim Ott (R-Mequon); Chris Taylor (D-Madison; Steve Doyle (D-Onalaska); Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee); Robb Kahl (D-Monona); and Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire).
Meanwhile, three attorneys will serve in the upper chamber beginning in January: Glenn Grothman(R-West Bend); Fred Risser (D-Madison); and Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).
Inauguration Day for the 2013-14 legislative session is scheduled for January 7, 2013.
Cales Battles is the government relations coordinator for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
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© 2012, State Bar of Wisconsin