Madison Matters: Wis. Dems to take Senate TuesdayRepublican and Democratic Senate leaders have agreed to meet Tuesday to name Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, president and Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, president pro tempore. The moves will officially mark the transfer of power, but Democrats probably won't be able to do much with it.
By: By Todd Richmond, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrats plan to officially take control of the Wisconsin Senate this week after a recall victory handed them a slim one-seat majority in the chamber.
Republican and Democratic Senate leaders have agreed to meet Tuesday to name Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, president and Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, president pro tempore. The moves will officially mark the transfer of power, but Democrats probably won't be able to do much with it.
The Legislature isn't scheduled to convene again until January. Senate Democrats can rearrange committee members and convene the chamber to consider confirming Republican Gov. Scott Walker's appointments, but they can't take up legislation unless Republicans who control the Assembly agree to call an extraordinary session or Walker calls a special session.
Assembly Republicans are busy campaigning for the November elections and almost certainly wouldn't agree to an extraordinary session to consider Senate Democrats' initiatives, especially when the GOP has a chance to retake the chamber in a few months.
Democrats have pressured the governor to call lawmakers back, saying they've developed a number of proposals designed to create jobs. Walker has said he would call a special session only if there's broad bipartisan support in both houses for a set of narrowly defined job creation bills — a tall order given the looming gridlock between the Senate and Assembly.
Democrats also have pressed Walker for a special session to move ahead with implementing President Barack Obama's health care mandates, but the governor has said he won't implement any changes until after the November elections. Asked about the prospects of a special session on implementation, Walker's spokesman, Cullen Werwie, simply responded, "No."
Bridget Esser, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, would say only that Democrats hoped to "eventually reach out" to Walker and the Assembly on a job creation special session.
Holding the Senate may not have much practical effect, but it at least equates to a moral victory for Democrats, who suffered one bruising defeat after another in the June 5 recall elections.
Spurred by anger over Walker's plan stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights, Democrats forced him, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators into recall elections this past winter. One of the Senate recall targets, Pam Galloway of Wausau, quit rather than defend her seat, but state election officials decided the election in her district would go on regardless.
But when election day finally arrived, Walker, Kleefisch and two GOP senators, Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, easily defeated their challengers. Rep. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, stopped Rep. Donna Seidel, D-Wausau, for Galloway's seat.
The only GOP casualty was Sen. Van Wanggaard of Racine, and he didn't go quietly. An official canvass showed his Democratic challenger, John Lehman, beat him by more than 800 votes. But Wanggaard, knowing a loss would give Democrats the Senate, refused to concede and demanded a recount. That tally confirmed Lehman's victory. Wanggaard threatened a lawsuit but ultimately backed off. He finally conceded last week but promised to return.
Risser will replace Neenah Republican Mike Ellis as Senate president when the chamber convenes just before noon Tuesday. The longest-serving state lawmaker in the nation, Risser has taken several turns in the president's chair. His latest stint came during the 2009-2010 session.
Carpenter, meanwhile, will replace President Pro Tempore Joe Leibham of Sheboygan.