Wisconsin State Legislature

From Ballotpedia
Revision as of 14:22, 3 July 2012 by PSletten (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Wisconsin State Legislature

Seal of Wisconsin.svg.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 10, 2012
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Michael Ellis (R)
House Speaker:  Jeff Fitzgerald (R)
Majority Leader:   Scott Fitzgerald (R) (Senate),
Scott Suder (R) (Assembly)
Minority Leader:   Mark Miller (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 2, 2010
17 seats (Senate)
99 seats (Assembly)
Next election:  November 4, 2012
16 seats (Senate)
99 seats (Assembly)
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.


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 begginning 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 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature will be in session from January 10 through a date to be determined by the Legislature.

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.[1] Going into the session, Republican leaders said they were focused on passing bills on only four main issues - clearing the way for on ore mine in northern Wisconsin, easing laws regarding development on wetlands, environmental regulation, and creating a venture capital fund to help start-up businesses.[2]

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.


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. [3] 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. [4]


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. [5][6]


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.[7]


According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Wisconsin's population increased from 5.36 million to 5.69 million between 2000 and 2010. This population growth was large enough to allow the state to retain its eight Congressional seats.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] The state Republicans unveiled their plan on July 8, 2011. Democrats criticized the plan as gerrymandering, but Republicans defended their map.[11] The maps passed the legislature on July 19, 2011, and signed into law by Governor Walker on August 9, 2011.[12]

Several lawsuits were filed as a result of the new maps.[13] 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.[14]


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.[15] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 162,536.[16] 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.

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

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.[17] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 54,179.[18]

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.

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



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2010, 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.[19]

The $49,943/year that Wisconsin legislators are paid as of 2010 is an increase over the $47,413 were paid during legislative sessions in 2007. Per diem is the same.[20]

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 ten standing committees:

External links


  1. Governor Journal, "Recalls Make for Quiet Session," January 16, 2012
  2. Appleton Post Crescent, "Wisconsin legislative agenda influenced by negative effects of recalls," January 16, 2012
  3. Wisconsin.gov, State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, accessed 7 March 2011
  4. Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin Legislative Spotlight, accessed July 1, 2011
  5. 2010 session dates for Wisconsin legislature
  6. Explanation of Wisconsin legislative floor-periods
  7. Wisconsin Legislature "Wisconsin Redistricting Profile"
  8. Northland's News Center "Minnesota and Wisconsin Both to Keep Eight Seats in House", December 21, 2010
  9. Chicago Tribune "Democrats cry foul over GOP hiring law firms" 5 Jan. 2011
  10. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker allows new legislative mapping, doesn't OK actual maps yet," July 25, 2011
  11. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Parties joust over Wisconsin redistricting plan," July 13, 2011
  12. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Walker signs legislation to redraw district boundaries," August 9, 2011
  13. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wisconsin's redistricting trial goes to judges," February 24, 2012
  14. Wisconsin State Journal, "Court strikes down GOP redistricting, orders just 2 districts redrawn," March 22, 2012
  15. Population in 2010 of the American states
  16. Population in 2000 of the American states
  17. Population in 2010 of the American states
  18. Population in 2000 of the American states
  19. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislator Compensation Data"
  20. Empire Center, "Legislative Salaries Per State as of 2007"