2015 | Week of January 5 – #1079
Inaugural events are historic, and I’m glad I was able to make the very cold trek up to the state capitol earlier this week to be there in person for the inauguration of Governor Scott Walker. Later in the day, I monitored online the swearing-in ceremonies of both the state senate and the state assembly. I heard the optimistic and even idealistic speeches by the governor and by newly elected majority and minority leaders in the Assembly and the Senate.
On one level, I wish the optimism and the idealism would continue unabated throughout this new two-year session. However, firsthand experience over many years tells me today will quickly become tomorrow. And with tomorrow, the sniping, stonewalling and smack talk will begin. Much of this is because the ideological divide between the Republicans and the Democrats is in many ways getting wider every day. Some of it can also be attributed to the reality that we live in an angry world, and people, yes, even elected representatives, too often bring their anger and bitterness into public hearings and floor periods of our state legislature.
With that as a background, here’s some information to help you understand the dynamics of this new legislative session. Republicans have a 63-36 majority in the state Assembly. Robin Vos, a Republican from Rochester, is again the Assembly Speaker. Joining him is Rep. Tyler August, a Republican from Lake Geneva, as Speaker Pro Tempore, and Rep. Jim Steineke, a Republican from Kaukauna, as Majority Leader. The Democrats, as the minority party, are once again led by Minority Leader Rep. Peter Barca from Kenosha.
In the Senate, the Republicans currently have a 19-14 majority. The Majority Leader is again Senator Scott Fitzgerald from Juneau and the senate president is Senator Mary Lazich, a Republican from New Berlin. The minority leader in the State Senate is Senator Jennifer Shilling from LaCrosse.
This information is important because leadership runs both houses. The majority party has a great deal of say about what happens when in the senate and the assembly. Leadership makes committee assignments and chairmanships of the various committees. Leadership determines which bills get to the respective floor and which ones will never see the light of day. Leadership sets the tone for the session.
One would think that with Republicans having strong majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate and with a Republican governor that a great deal will get done on many issues during this session. We’d like to think that too. However, after the idealism and optimism of today fade, not only will the ideological divide between conservatives and liberals be very obvious; but politics will again surface.
Although we’re only a couple of months past the last election, many of those in office are already viewing nearly everything through the lens of the next election in 2016. Instead of truly doing the work of the people who elected them, they’ll be more concerned about not doing anything that from their perspective might hinder their chances of being re-elected to the same office or even a higher office.
I share these perspectives with you for two reasons, neither of which is to discourage you. The first reason is to enlist your prayer support for your state senator, assembly representative and the governor. These folks desperately need your prayers. Pray for those who are in leadership positions in our state Senate and State Assembly.
The second reason is to implore you to connect directly, early on in this session, with your elected officials. They should recognize your name when you call or email. Make a point of letting them know you are following their work, are interested in them and their family and what they are doing, and that you are praying for them.
The bands and orchestras have left the building. The youth choirs that beautifully sang during the governor’s inauguration have long since returned home. The handshakes and kind and gracious words have all been spoken and duly recorded. Now it’s time to govern. Those elected to govern will govern best when “we the people” are fully engaged. I believe “we the people” can make the difference between a session where little is done that truly helps Wisconsin’s families or one where a great deal is done to not only strengthen Wisconsin’s economic position but at least as importantly strengthens, preserves and promotes marriage, family, life and liberty. You and I can be the difference makers. Are you up to the challenge?
This is Julaine Appling with Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”