Difference between revisions of "Wisconsin State Legislature"

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===Role in state budget===
===Role in state budget===
::''See also: [[Wisconsin state budget]]
::''See also: [[Wisconsin state budget]]''
{{Wisconsin budget process}}
{{Wisconsin budget process}}
===Cost-benefit analyses===
::''See also: [[Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study]]''
{{Pew cost-benefit study|State=Wisconsin|Rank=Best}}
==Ethics and transparency==
==Ethics and transparency==

Revision as of 09:29, 6 June 2014

Wisconsin State Legislature

Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 14, 2014
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Mary Lazich (R)
House Speaker:  Robin Vos (R)
Majority Leader:   Scott Fitzgerald (R) (Senate),
Jim Steineke (R) (Assembly)
Minority Leader:   Jennifer Shilling (D) (Senate),
Peter Barca (D) (Assembly)
Members:  33 (Senate), 99 (Assembly)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (Assembly)
Authority:   Art IV, Wisconsin Constitution
Salary:   $49,943/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 6, 2012
16 seats (Senate)
99 seats (Assembly)
Next election:  November 4, 2014
Redistricting:  Wisconsin Legislature has control
The Wisconsin State Legislature is the state legislature of Wisconsin. It is a bicameral legislature composed of the lower Wisconsin State Assembly and the upper Wisconsin State Senate. It is based in Madison, Wisconsin.

As of April 2015, Wisconsin is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: Wisconsin House of Representatives, Wisconsin State Senate, Wisconsin Governor


Article IV of the Wisconsin Constitution contains provisions related to the meeting of the Legislature. Section 11 of Article IV states that the times for regular sessions are to be provided by law. Session times and dates are established by calendar, which is voted on at the beginning of each two year session. Section 11 also states that the Governor of Wisconsin has the power to call the Legislature into special session.


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature will be in session from January 14 through December 1.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session include income tax, public school funding, health care, and jobs.[1]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 7 to December 31.

Major issues

Following the extreme polarization of the last two years, Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he would push for a more moderate agenda in 2013. Alongside the creation of a new budget, main issues will include job creation, workforce development, tax cuts, education reform and transportation infrastructure.[2]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature was in session from January 10 through March 16 with a return for limited business on April 24.

Major issues

With potential recalls of Governor Scott Walker (R), Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (R) and four Republican state senators, debate on major legislation was expected to be limited.[3] Going into the session, Republican leaders said they were focused on passing bills on only four main issues - clearing the way for an ore mine in northern Wisconsin, easing laws regarding development on wetlands, environmental regulation, and creating a venture capital fund to help start-up businesses.[4]

The six recalls dominated the session. Ultimately on June 5, recalls against the Governor, Lt. Governor, and three of the state senators were unsuccessful. The fourth recall, that against Van Wanggaard, went to a recount. Wanggaard was defeated, giving Democrats control of the Senate.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the Legislature adjourned a special session at the request of Governor Scott Walker on January 4, 2011. The special session was called to consider legislation regarding tax credits, tort law, medical savings accounts, other legislation relating to taxation, and the budget repair bill. The legislature's special session will be ongoing.[5] The regular session began on January 11. An extraordinary session was called by the Legislature from June 13-30, with another extraordinary session scheduled for July 19-29. The next scheduled floor period is September 13, 2011. Though the January special session is ongoing, special session bills may be taken up in the interim.[6]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the Legislature convened its legislative session on January 19, and it ended its last scheduled floor-period on April 22.[7][8]

Role in state budget

See also: Wisconsin state budget

Wisconsin operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[9][10]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in June.
  2. State agencies submit budget requests in September.
  3. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Wisconsin State Legislature in January.
  4. The legislature adopts a budget in June or July. A simple majority is needed to pass a budget.
  5. The biennial budget cycle begins in July.

Wisconsin is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[10]

The governor is constitutionally required to submit a balanced budget. In addition, the legislature is constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget.[10]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Wisconsin was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[11]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[12] According to the report, Wisconsin received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 90, indicating that Wisconsin was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[12]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Wisconsin was given a grade of D in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[13]


See also: Redistricting in Wisconsin

Redistricting in Wisconsin is under the control of the state legislature. If the state legislature fails to reach an agreement, the maps are drawn by either state or federal courts. The State Senate and State Assembly draft maps for the new state legislative districts and the U.S. Congressional districts. Both chambers must pass the new map, and the governor can sign or veto the map for any reason.[14]


According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin's population increased from 5.36 million to 5.69 million between 2000 and 2010.[15] This population growth was large enough to allow the state to retain its eight Congressional seats.[16]

Republicans held the majority in the State Senate, State Assembly, and the governorship after the 2010 elections. As a result, the redistricting process was completely under the control of one party.

The Republican leadership dismissed the Democratic-hired firm that was going to aid with redistricting and instead brought in an outside group to aid the process. This new firm's leader had donated to Republican candidates in the past.[17] The redistricting process was accelerated by the summer 2011 recall elections, and Governor Scott Walker signed a bill that gave the legislature the power to redistrict state boundaries before the localities finished their redistricting processes.[18] The state Republicans unveiled their plan on July 8, 2011. Democrats criticized the plan as gerrymandering, but Republicans defended their map.[19] The maps passed the legislature on July 19, 2011, and signed into law by Governor Walker on August 9, 2011.[20]

Several lawsuits were filed as a result of the new maps.[21] The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board identified errors in the maps, likely due to the creation of the state boundaries before the localities finished drawing their boundaries. A court also determined that two Milwaukee-area districts needed to be redrawn to better represent minority-area populations.[22]


Interior shot of a dome inside the State Capitol building in Madison where the Wisconsin State Legislature meets.

The Wisconsin State Senate is the upper house of the Wisconsin State Legislature. Together, they comprise the legislative branch of the state of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Constitution ties the size of the State Senate to that of the State Assembly, by limiting its size to no less than 1/4, nor more than 1/3, of the size of the Assembly. Currently, Wisconsin is divided into 33 Senate Districts (1/3 of the current Assembly membership of 99) apportioned amongst the state based on population as determined by the decennial census, for a total of 33 senators. Each member represents an average of 172,333 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[23] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 162,536.[24] Similar to the U.S. Senate, in addition to its duty of passing all legislation passed through the legislature, the State Senate has the exclusive responsibility of confirming certain governor's appointments, particularly cabinet secretaries (as part of the system of checks and balances) and members of boards and commissions.

Senators are elected for four-year terms, staggered so that half the Senate is up for election every two years. If a vacancy occurs in a Senate seat between elections, it may be filled only by a special election.

Partisan composition

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 14
     Republican Party 19
Total 33

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Wisconsin State Senate from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Wisconsin State Senate.PNG

State Assembly

The Wisconsin State Assembly is the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature. Together with the smaller Wisconsin State Senate, the two comprise the legislative branch of Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Constitution limits the size of the State Assembly to between 54 and 100 members inclusive. Currently, Wisconsin is divided into 99 Assembly Districts apportioned amongst the state based on population as determined by the decennial census, for a total of 99 Representatives. Each member represents an average of 57,444 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[25] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 54,179.[26]

Representatives are elected for two year terms, elected during the fall elections. If a vacancy occurs in an Assembly seat between elections, it may be filled only by a special election.

Partisan composition

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 36
     Republican Party 63
Total 99

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Wisconsin State Assembly from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of the Wisconsin State House.PNG



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Wisconsin Legislature are paid $49,943/year. Legislators receive a maximum of $88/day per diem, set by the compensation commission. Based on the maximum, the leadership of each house determines what amount to authorize for each session.[27]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Wisconsin legislators assume office the first Monday in January following the election.

Joint committees

The Wisconsin State Legislature has the following standing committees:


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Wisconsin
Partisan breakdown of the Wisconsin legislature from 1992-2013

Wisconsin State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Wisconsin State Senate for 11 years while the Republicans were the majority for 11 years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the Wisconsin senate with all three years being Republican trifectas

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Wisconsin State House: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Wisconsin State House of Representatives for 5 years while the Republicans were the majority for 17 years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the Wisconsin House with all three years being Republican trifectas.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Senate and the Wisconsin House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Wisconsin state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Wisconsin state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the course of the study, Wisconsin experienced both Democratic and Republican trifectas as well as divided governments. The state's SQLI rankings were higher earlier in the study, with its highest ranking, finishing 7th, occurring in 1992, 1995 and 1998 during both Republican trifectas and a divided government. Its lowest ranking, finishing 30th, occurred in 2007 during a divided government. The state's rankings began to improve during the most recent years of the study, finishing 13th in 2012 during a Republican trifecta.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 21.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 10.00
  • SQLI average with divided government: 17.27
Chart displaying the partisanship of the Wisconsin government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

External links


  1. Wisconsin Realtors Association, "2014 Election Themes Take Shape," accessed January 14, 2014
  2. Wisconsin State Journal, "With state bitterly divided, Walker promises more moderate agenda," January 7, 2013
  3. Governor Journal, "Recalls Make for Quiet Session," January 16, 2012
  4. Appleton Post Crescent, "Wisconsin legislative agenda influenced by negative effects of recalls," January 16, 2012
  5. Wisconsin.gov, State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, accessed 7 March 2011
  6. Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight, accessed July 1, 2011
  7. 2010 session dates for Wisconsin legislature
  8. Explanation of Wisconsin legislative floor-periods
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  11. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  13. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  14. Wisconsin Legislature, "Wisconsin Redistricting Profile"
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Wisconsin Profile," 2011
  16. Northland's News Center, "Minnesota and Wisconsin Both to Keep Eight Seats in House," December 21, 2010
  17. Chicago Tribune, "Democrats cry foul over GOP hiring law firms" 5 Jan. 2011
  18. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker allows new legislative mapping, doesn't OK actual maps yet," July 25, 2011
  19. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Parties joust over Wisconsin redistricting plan," July 13, 2011
  20. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker signs legislation to redraw district boundaries," August 9, 2011
  21. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin's redistricting trial goes to judges," February 24, 2012
  22. Wisconsin State Journal, "Court strikes down GOP redistricting, orders just 2 districts redrawn," March 22, 2012
  23. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  24. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  25. census.gov, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  26. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population," April 2, 2001. Accessed February 13, 2014
  27. NCSL.org, "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013