State Government and Politics Roundup: Twenty-eight new legislators will begin their terms January 7thWisconsin News
-- Twenty-five newly-elected state representatives will take their first oaths-of-office on January seventh – along with a trio of first-time senators.
MADISON - Twenty-five newly-elected state representatives will take their first oaths-of-office on January seventh – along with a trio of first-time senators.
Both houses of the Legislature will begin their two-year session on January seventh. State Assembly leaders said they’ve invited the 10 most recent speakers back as part of their ceremony. Majority Republican leaders have vowed to get Democrats more involved this time – but the GOP has the votes to ram through what it wants, with little chance that their party’s governor will object. That’s how they got the state budget, public union bargaining limits, and the voter ID law passed in the last session. Republicans hold a 60-to-39 majority in the Assembly. Waukesha County Republican Paul Farrow is unopposed for an open Senate seat in a special election next Tuesday. Once he’s elected, the GOP will have an 18-15 majority in the Senate.
Republicans say they’re willing to at least consider a recent study that proposes mental health treatment instead of prison for Wisconsin’s non-violent criminals. The Human Impact Partners of California says the Badger State can reduce crime and save money by helping non-violent offenders solve their addiction problems and get mental treatment. The group says Wisconsin should spent $75-million a year instead of the current one-million on its existing alternative treatment programs. And it said the state should budget $20-million for mental health care, job programs, and related items to help non-violent offenders. Yesterday, Republican Governor Scott Walker said the proposals are worth considering – even though it could take a long time for adult inmates to achieve a pay-off. Assembly Republican Garey Bies of Sister Bay, a former sheriff, said his colleagues are getting more interested in considering measures that can cut the growth in prison costs while maintaining public safety. Over the past two years, the GOP majority in the Legislature dropped a previous Democratic program that released prisoners early for good behavior. It was supposed to be for non-violent offenders, but Republicans said drug suspects and other hard-core criminals were being let go.
Governor Scott Walker has two more listening sessions planned today on what employees and their bosses think should be included in the next state budget. The Republican governor will hold court this morning at the Lang Furniture plant near Marshfield, and this afternoon at Torrance Casting in La Crosse. His first such meeting took place on Tuesday in Green Bay. At each meeting, Walker summarizes his general priorities for the next two-year budget that he’ll submit to the Legislature in February – including job creation and improvements in education, workforce training, and transportation. Tax cuts are also on his agenda – but he’s not sure if he’ll emphasize income or property tax reductions, or a mix of both. Democrats say he shouldn’t cut taxes at all unless he plans to return at least some of the state school aid that was cut two years ago to help get rid of a huge state budget deficit. The current budget is projected to have a net surplus of 342-million dollars by the time it runs out next June.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack has announced that she’ll run for a second 10-year term next spring. She’s part of the court’s four-member conservative majority. Roggensack says she has quote, “called the balls and strikes” as each case requires. And she points out that she’s the only justice who has previous experience as an appellate court judge. Lemon law attorney Vince Megna of Milwaukee has said he’ll run against Roggensack. Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi and Marquette law professor Ed Fallone have said they’re considering possible candidacies.