Wisconsin News

Republicans lose full control of Wisconsin legislature

Democrats now have 17 - 16 majority in State Senate

MADISON, Wis. -- There was a shift in power Tuesday in Wisconsin politics but it may be nothing more than symbolic.

Democratic State Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) was sworn into office during a brief ceremony at the State Capitol. His recall victory last month gave the Democrats a 17 - 16 majority in the State Senate.

Joe Heim, a political science professor at UW-La Crosse, says the shift has little practical meaning.

That's because the legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until next January. Also, 16 of the 33 State Senate seats are up for election in November.

"I'm not sure if it's even worth moving chairs around and offices (at the Capitol)," said Heim.

"If had to put money on it, I would say those (redistricting) lines have been drawn so that Republicans should pick up one, two....maybe even 3 seats," he added.


Not everyone, however, is downplaying the importance of the power shift.

"The momentum, I think, is on the Democrats' side as we go into the November elections," said State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse).

The change in the State Senate, also means the seats on the powerful Joint Finance Commiteee will now be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans.

Shilling, who is on Joint Finance and up for re-election, says that could have an impact before November.

"The (Joint Finance) committee very well could be reconvened between now and November to take a look at some of those administrative rules that are going into effect," said Shilling.

"To Republicans right now, it looks like we're poised to retake the majority," said Bill Feehan, Shilling's Republican opponent in the 32nd Senate District race.

Feehan believes the shift in power will be short-lived.

"I think the Democrats are using it for political purposes to get their people excited. I think in terms of importance on our state, there really isn't going to be any," said Feehan.

The new Democratic Majority Leader, Mark Miller, said Tuesday he wants to bring the legislature back before November for another special sessions on jobs. Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, who would have to agree to the move, dismissed the idea as politically-motivated.

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