Letter from Rep. Danou: The majority party in the LegislatureMy previous week’s column about the upcoming legislative session has brought up more questions regarding institutional practices of the legislature.
By: Rep. Chris Danou , Pierce County Herald
My previous week’s column about the upcoming legislative session has brought up more questions regarding institutional practices of the legislature. Specifically, someone contacted me to ask for more details when it comes to the majority party and its power. We had a great discussion that I believe most people would find informative.
It has always been the priority of any political party, whether it was the Federalists, Anti-Federalists and Whigs of the past or the Democrats and Republicans of today to have enough of people elected from their party to create a majority in the legislative branch. This has proven to be true at the state level and federal level because a party in the majority has the ability to push their agenda because they have a greater number of members than the other party.
For example, the Wisconsin State Assembly has 99 members so having at least 50 people from one party creates a majority. The greater the majority, the greater power the party in control has because if a few members stray from the party line, it won’t be enough to tip the scales to stop a bill from passing. In some cases, such as Act 10 from last legislative session, there were four Republicans who joined the Democrats and voted against the bill. While those four Assembly members voted against their party’s will, there were still enough votes from members on their side of the aisle for the bill to pass.
As we witnessed last session, we will experience one party control again this session. Republicans control both houses of the Wisconsin State Legislature in the Assembly and Senate. They also control the Executive Branch by holding the Office of the Governor. The Republicans have fairly significant majorities in both the Assembly and Senate with a 60-39 and 18-15 majority respectively. This means the Republicans chair and co-chair all of the legislative committees and control day-to-day business operations in the Capitol. With those kind of numbers, they enjoy a cushion so if a few members stray from the party line on legislative votes, the chance of a bill or amendment failing to pass is extremely unlikely.
The majority party has their leadership structure and team with one person in charge. These teams work in conjunction with one another to advance legislative ideas and goals with the ultimate authority resting with one person. In the Assembly, the Speaker is the most powerful member and the Majority Leader is the most powerful member in the Senate. Both of these positions have great power in their position. They determine the legislative agenda, committee structure and membership, office locations and any other rule or decision regarding day-to-day business operations in the legislature.
Even though the scales are significantly tipped in favor of the Republicans in Wisconsin State Government, I will continue to reach out and work with my colleagues on common legislative goals. It is my belief that while elected officials have a ‘D’ or ‘R’ behind their name, the majority of those in our community, state and country want to see us work together to pass legislation that reflects the will of the majority of the people. As always, hearing from you helps me be a better voice to represent our community in Madison. Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any ideas, thoughts or concerns you may have during the next legislative session.