27 Dec Wisconsin 2019 Legislative Preview
By Jordan Lamb, JD, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.
Record numbers of Wisconsin voters turned out for the 2018 midterm elections, which were held November 6, and the results were classically Wisconsin. Our state voted “blue” at the top of the ticket, electing a new Democratic Governor, Tony Evers, and a new Democratic Attorney General, John Kaul, but the electorate voted “red” in the local legislative races resulting in a Republican majority in both the State Assembly and State Senate for the 2019 legislative session.
Congress. In Wisconsin congressional races, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin (D) easily defeated her Republican challenger, State Senator Leah Vukmir (R), and Senator Baldwin will go back to the U.S. Senate in 2019. Interestingly, there were no party changes to the Wisconsin congressional line-up. Even though the U.S. House of Representatives switched to Democratic control, Wisconsin’s congressional delegation remains unchanged in terms of party affiliation with five congressional districts represented by Republicans and three represented by Democrats.
Wisconsin State Legislature. Despite the “blue” at the top of the ticket, both houses of the Wisconsin legislature will remain in Republican majorities for the 2019 session. The Assembly Republicans will hold a 63-36 majority. The Senate Republicans gained one seat, further solidifying their majority for the 2019 session at 19-14.
Senators Scott Fitzgerald (R) and Jen Shilling (D) will lead their respective parties in the State Senate for the next two years. Senator Fitzgerald has been majority leader since 2011 and Senator Shilling has been minority leader since 2015.
In the Assembly, Representative Robin Vos (R) will once again be Speaker and Representative Gordon Hintz (D) will serve as minority leader. Representative Vos has been the Speaker since 2013 and Representative Hintz has been minority leader since October of 2017.
Joint Committee on Finance. Senator Alberta Darling (R) and Representative John Nygren (R) will return once again as the co-chairs of the very powerful Joint Committee on Finance. This committee will get the first crack at Governor Evers’ proposed biennial budget bill when it is introduced in February. This 14-member joint Senate/Assembly committee will reflect the majorities in both houses and will consist of 12 Republicans (6 from each house) and 4 Democrats (2 from each house).
Governor Evers’ Transition. Governor-elect Tony Evers spent time between the election and inauguration assembling a transition team to assist him with staffing his office, writing a budget bill and filling all of the appointed agency positions that will be left vacant when Governor Walker’s term ends. Governor-Elect Evers will have to appoint a Secretary, Deputy Secretary, Assistant Deputy Secretary, Communications Director, Legislative Liaison, Chief Legal Counsel and numerous Division Administrator Positions, among others, in each administrative agency. As such, he assembled a panel of advisors to both assist with the transition and the recruitment and selection of individuals to fill these positions. At the time of this writing, no agency appointments had yet been made.
New Legislature Arrives in January 2019. The new Wisconsin state legislature and newly elected Governor will be sworn in in early January. It is expected that the 2019-21 Biennial Budget Bill will dominate the first six months of the session with funding for schools and roads to be hotly debated budget topics. WVMA’s advocacy team will be closely monitoring and participating in the development of this budget with regard to any potential changes that could affect our membership.