Dems officially take control of Wisconsin State Senate


Democrats officially took control of the state Senate Tuesday, returning Wisconsin to divided government after a year-and-a-half of Republican control.

Senators returned to Madison to swear in Democrat John Lehman of Racine and Republican Jerry Petrowski of Marathon. Both won their summer recall elections, with Lehman defeating Republican incumbent Van Waangaard to give Democrats a 17-16 majority.

New Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller used his speech on the Senate floor to call for new jobs bills. Among them, a grant program for worker training and a new focus on accelerating public works projects like road and bridge repair. Miller said the full legislature should come back now and not wait until January, “We are the eighth worst in the country in terms of job creation. People who are out of work can’t wait another six months for us to do our jobs. So I really hope that both the governor and Assembly Republicans will recognize that there’s an opportunity for us to move forward on an agenda that can actually have some benefit.”

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

But Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald called the push for a special or extraordinary session disingenuous. He said Republicans would come back if Democrats would pass the mining deregulation bill the Assembly passed earlier this year, “If they were serious about job creation in this state, that’s something I would put forward: the bill we passed in the Assembly that got killed in the Senate here that every Democrat voted against—yeah, that’s something we’d look at.”

Along with making Sen. Miller the new Majority Leader, the Senate elected Madison Democrat Fred Risser as the body’s president. Also, Miller named Sen. Lena Taylor of Milwaukee the new co-chair of the legislature’s powerful Joint Finance Committee.