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{{Wikipedia|Fred Risser}}
{{Wikipedia|Fred Risser}}
*[ Sen. Risser's Wisconsin State Legislature website]
*[ Sen. Risser's Wisconsin State Legislature website]
*[ Profile from Open States]
*[ Legislative Profile from Project Vote Smart]
*[ Legislative Profile from Project Vote Smart]
*[ Biography from Project Vote Smart]
*[ Biography from Project Vote Smart]

Revision as of 10:14, 7 April 2014

Fred Risser
Wisconsin State Senate District 26
In office
1963 - Present
Term ends
January 2, 2017
Years in position 52
Senate President, Wisconsin State Senate
1979-1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2009-2011, 2012-2013
Minority Leader, Wisconsin State Senate
Base salary$49,943/year
Per diem$88/day
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 6, 2012
First elected1962
Next generalNovember 8, 2016
Term limitsN/A
Prior offices
Assembly Member, Wisconsin State Assembly
Bachelor'sUniversity of Oregon, 1950
OtherLLB, University of Oregon, 1952
Date of birth05/05/1927
Place of birthMadison, WI
Office website
Fred Risser (b. May 5, 1927) is a Democratic member of the Wisconsin State Senate, representing District 26. He was first elected to the chamber in 1962. He has previously served as the Senate President (1997-2001, 2009-2010, 2012-2013), Assistant Minority Leader (1995), President Pro Tempore (1975-1979) and Minority Leader (1967-1973).[1]

Risser served in the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1957 to 1962.

There are 1,971 state senators in the United States and heading into the state senate elections of 2012, Risser had served in office longer than all other state senators.


Risser attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He earned his B.A. from University of Oregon and L.L.B. from University of Oregon. Risser's professional experience is as an attorney and the United States Navy.[2]

In August 2013, Risser was honored by the National Conference of State Legislatures as one of six World War II veterans serving in state legislatures.[3]

Committee assignments


At the beginning of the 2013 legislative session, Risser served on the following committees:

Wisconsin Committee Assignments, 2013
Judiciary and Labor
State and Federal Relations
Joint Legislative Council


In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Risser served on the following committees:


In the 2009-2010 legislative session, Risser served on the following committees:


Legislative walkout

Risser and the 13 other Democratic senators participated in a legislative walkout on February 17, 2011, in opposition to Assembly Bill 11 - a Republican-sponsored bill aimed at limiting collective bargaining rights, compensation and fringe benefits of public employees.[4] The Democratic departure left the Senate one vote shy of a quorum. Reports confirmed the senators fled to a hotel in Rockford, Illinois.[5] State police were dispatched by Governor Scott Walker (R) to retrieve the senators, but were unable to cross state lines.[6] The 14 state senators who left the state were described as the "Badger 14" or "Fab 14."[7][8]

On February 22, speaking from the basement of an Illinois hotel, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller provided the minority response to Gov. Scott Walker, saying, "The governor has the tools at his disposal to put this issue to an end. As soon as he is willing to take a compromise, we will go back to work in an instant." Miller stated that the legislators payed for the trip themselves, and that no taxpayer money was spent.[9]

Walker called on the Democratic senators to return to the state by March 1 in order to vote to restructure the state's debt. If they did not, he stated he may have to start cutting state jobs, saying:
"It’s not just a number, it’s not just a budget, it’s ultimately a real person with a real family, so I’m going to push that back as far as I can. We’ve got to have real numbers to balance the budget to avoid layoffs. My hope is those 14 state senators … realize that in the end, it’s much better off to avoid those cuts, it’s much better off to avoid the most dire consequences that will come if we don’t pass this bill."[10]
The Democratic senators said they would not return until the governor was willing to compromise on the budget-repair bill.

Democrats threatened with arrest

Republicans passed a unanimous resolution on March 3 finding the missing legislators in contempt and threatening them with arrest. It gave them until 4 p.m. to return or the sergeant-at-arms was ordered to take "any and all necessary steps, with or without force, and with or without the assistance of law enforcement, by warrant or other legal process, as he may deem necessary in order to bring that senator to the Senate chambers."[11]

The constitutionality of that resolution was unclear, however, as the Wisconsin Constitution only allows for the arrest of legislators while in session if they are suspected of committing a felony, treason, or breach of the peace. Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said the resolution was an "unreasonable abuse of police power."[12]

Sen. Jon Erpenbach provided the Democratic response, stating, "All 14 of us remain in Illinois, very strong in our convictions. Issuing arrest warrants at 4 p.m. isn't going to solve the problem. This is a debate about protection of the middle class in Wisconsin; that is what the Republicans should be focusing on."[11]

The move by Republicans came the day after they issued fines of $100 a day for not showing up at the Capitol, along with taking away parking spaces.[13] The week before Republicans also passed a rule suspending direct-deposit of paychecks. Sen. Erpenbach found a way around this by granting power of attorney to two of his aides, giving them power to, among other things, pick up his paycheck. In the end Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald mailed the check to Erpenbaach.[14]

Meeting and possible compromises

On March 7, Democratic leader Sen. Mark Miller sent a letter to the governor and senate majority leader asking for a meeting near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to restart talks on the collective bargaining issue.[15] Gov. Walker responded at a press conference, calling the letter "ridiculous," and saying that several meetings between the two sides have taken place, but that Miller has stood in the way of a compromise.[16]

Sen. Chris Larson said, "Dems will return when collective bargaining is off the table. That could be soon based on the growing public opposition to the bill and the recall efforts against Republicans."[17]

On March 8, the Governor's office released an email exchange dated March 6 between Eric Schutt, Walker's deputy chief of staff, and Democratic Senators Cullen and Jauch. The exchange discusses possible compromises on the bill, including allowing unions to bargain for wages beyond inflation rates, permitting collective-bargaining on certain economic issues, allowing public workers to collectively bargain workplace safety issues, and limiting collective bargaining agreements to 2 years or less.[18]

Republicans pass bill

Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
2011 Wisconsin Senate Recalls

Senators Facing Recall
Robert CowlesAlberta DarlingSheila HarsdorfDave HansenJim HolperinRandy HopperDan KapankeLuther OlsenRobert Wirch

Other Recall Information
Recalls by YearRecall Law in WisconsinRecall laws in other statesRecalls in Wisconsin2011 Scott Walker Budget Repair BillProtests over Budget Repair BillWisconsin Government Accountability BoardRecall timelineElection Results

In a surprise maneuver, Senate Republicans on March 9 passed controversial reforms to the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. In a process that took just over two hours, Republicans passed the bill by a vote of 18-1, with Sen. Dale Schultz (R) casting the only no vote.[19]

Republicans skirted the need for a quorum by removing the sections of the bill that had to do with appropriating funds. With these removed, the bill only needed to be passed by a simple majority -- rather than requiring a quorum of 20 senators. At 4 p.m. on March 9 a conference committee on the budget-repair bill was convened. Two hours later the committee met and advanced the new measure without debate. Immediately following that, the Senate met and passed the new version, also without debate. It was then sent to the Assembly.[20]

The only Democrat present at the meeting, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D), attempted to stop the proceedings, stating that the committee was in violation of the state's open meeting law. According to the law, most public bodies are required to give 24 hours notice before a meeting. The two hours notice that the committee provided led Barca to declare, "Mr. Chairman, this is a violation of law! This is not just a rule — this is the law."[19] Ignoring Barca, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R) ordered the vote taken as shouts of protest rang from the galleries.

The bill was given a stay by Dane County Court Judge Maryann Sumi. On May 26, 2011, Sumi struck down the legislative actions leading to the bill eliminating public employee collective bargaining on the grounds that it violated the state's Open Meetings Law. The state Departments of Justice and Department of Administration appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.[21][22] On June 14 the Wisconsin Supreme Court overruled the district court decision, stating it "exceeded its jurisdiction, invaded the legislature’s constitutional powers...and erred in enjoining the publication and further implementation of the act."[23]

Recall campaigns

In the wake of events surrounding the bill, both Democratic and Republican senators were targeted by active recall campaigns. Recall sponsors filed signatures on petitions targeting six Republican state senators and three Democratic state senators. Challenges were filed in all nine of those campaigns, and the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board approved the six campaigns against Republicans at meetings on May 23 and May 31, and approved the three campaigns against Democrats on June 8. Democrats held onto the 30th District seat on July 19. Republicans lost two seats in the August 9 recalls, but held onto four. Two incumbent Democrats successfully retained their seats on August 16.

Recent legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Risser includes:[24][25]

  • A bill prohibiting the use of a cell phone while driving a school bus or other vehicle while transporting students[26]
  • A bill increasing the legislature's power in approving the expenditure of federal economic stimulus funds[27]
  • A bill creating a complete ban on smoking indoors or at a workplace[28]

Campaign themes


Risser's website highlighted the following campaign themes:[29][30]

  • Supports increased mass transit aids and downtown development in Madison
  • Supports environmental programs such as park creation and recycling programs
  • Supports competitive salaries and opposes excessive tuition increases at the University of Wisconsin
  • Supports affirmative action
  • Pro-choice regarding abortion

See also: Fred Risser's issue positions on Project Vote Smart



Risser won re-election in the 2012 election for the Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 seat. He ran unopposed in the primary election on August 14, and he was also unopposed in the general election, which took place on November 6, 2012.[31]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 26, General Election, 2012
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngFred A. Risser Incumbent 98.9% 87,144
     - Scattering 1.1% 943
Total Votes 88,087


See also: Wisconsin State Senate elections, 2010

Risser's seat was not up for election in 2010.


On November 4, 2008, Risser won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate, District 26. He ran unopposed[32]

Fred Risser raised $32,701 for his campaign.[33]

Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 (2008)
Candidates Votes
Green check mark transparent.png Fred Risser (D) 80,923

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Risser is available dating back to 2000. Based on available campaign finance records, Risser raised a total of $219,932 during that time period. This information was last updated on June 4, 2013.[34]

Fred Risser's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Won $22,177
2010 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Not up for election $5,025
2008 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Won $32,701
2006 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Not up for election $4,576
2004 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Won $41,269
2002 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Not up for election $67
2000 Wisconsin State Senate, District 26 Won $114,117
Grand Total Raised $219,932


Risser won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2012. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $22,177.


Risser was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2010. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $5,025.


Risser won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2008. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $32,701.


Risser was not up for election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2006. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $4,576.


Risser won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2004. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $41,269.


Risser won re-election to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2000. During that election cycle, Risser raised a total of $114,117.


Risser and his wife, Nancy, have three children.

Recent news

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External links

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Wikipedia® has an article on:


  1. Wisconsin Radio Network, "Senate leadership transferred to Democrats," July 17, 2012
  2. Project Vote Smart - Senator Risser
  3. The Associated Press, "Risser honored as 1 of 6 World War II veterans serving in a state legislature," August 17, 2013
  4., ASSEMBLY BILL 11, accessed 17 Feb. 2011
  5. Green Bay Press Gazette, Wisconsin Democrats flee to Clock Tower Hotel in Rockford, Ill., to block anti-union bill, 17 Feb. 2011
  6. Bloomberg Businessweek, Senator: Missing Wis. lawmakers left the state, 17 Feb. 2011
  7. The Badger 14
  8. Fab 14 Facebook page
  9. WISN, "State Sen. Minority Leader Responds to Walker," February 22, 2010
  10. Christian Science Monitor, "Wisconsin governor to missing senators: Come back or I'll lay off 1,500," February 28, 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 Wall Street Journal, "Pressure Mounts on Absent Democrats in Wisconsin, Indiana," March 3, 2011
  12. Wisconsin State Journal, "Senate orders arrest of missing Democrats," March 3, 2011
  13. My Fox Chicago, "Wisconsin GOP Slaps Missing Dems With $100 Daily Fines," March 2, 2011
  14. Talking Points Memo, "AWOL Wisconsin Dem Beats The System, Gets His Paycheck Mailed To Him," March 3, 2011
  15. New York Times, "Wisconsin Democrats Urge New Talks on Labor Bill," March 7, 2011
  16. CNN, "Wisconsin gov: Democratic senator's border meeting idea 'ridiculous'," March 7, 2011
  17. Talking Points Memo, "Wisconsin Dems Deny WSJ Report Of Imminent Return," March 6, 2011
  18. CNN, "E-mails: Wisconsin governor offers concessions on budget bill," March 8, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 Miami-Herald, "Wisconsin Republicans bypass Democrats on union bill," March 9, 2011
  20. Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, "Senate advances collective bargaining changes; Democrats to return after Assembly vote," March 9, 2011
  21. Wisconsin State Journal, "Judge strikes down Walker's collective bargaining law, case moves to state Supreme Court," May 26, 2011
  22. Wisconsin Reporter, "Judge: Collective bargaining bill violated open meetings law," May 26, 2011
  23. Shorewood Patch, "UPDATE: Unions Sue to Block Supreme Court's Reinstatement of Controversial Budget Repair Bill," June 14, 2011
  24. Legislation
  25. Fred Risser on State Surge
  26. Bill 91
  27. Bill 50
  28. Bill 181
  29. Biography
  30. Legislative accomplishments
  31. Wisconsin Government Accountability Board "2012 Candidate List
  32. Wisconsin State Election Results, 2008
  33. Follow the Money 2008
  34., "Risser, Fred A, accessed June 4, 2013
Political offices
Preceded by
Wisconsin State Senate District 26
Succeeded by