MADISON, Wis. (SPECTRUM NEWS) – 2019 proved to be a tough year in the state legislature.
With a Democratic governor and Republicans controlling both the Senate and Assembly, few bills were passed aside from the state budget.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says he's frustrated and hoped for a better rapport with the Evers administration.
“I think the governor, not on purpose, made a couple of judgment calls that maybe didn't work his way,” Sen. Fitzgerald told reporters during an end of the year press conference. “Like having a cabinet that only includes one legislator.”
Senate Minority Leader Janet Bewley (D-Mason) seems more optimistic.
Sen. Bewley doesn't want to focus on political fights where one party wins and the other loses.
“Even on both sides of the aisle, people are trying to learn how to work with a new governor,” Sen. Bewley said. “I think the Democrats should feel very proud, and I do feel proud. Number one: that we do have Gov. Evers and a great administration.”
Gov. Evers and Republicans were at odds this month when the governor called the legislature's budget committee to approve funding to combat homelessness.
Gov. Evers wanted $3.7 million released to help people facing homelessness find more stable housing during the winter season.
Republicans called the meeting illegal and didn't show up.
So far, the legislation stalled in the senate.
“The price tag came up,” Sen. Fitzgerald said. “There was some discussion about whether or not some of the homeless programs that are currently operating in the state would qualify for some of [the] dollars associated with some of these initiatives, so it's like a real public policy discussion that's going on.”
Democrats say they don't understand why those vulnerable to snow and cold aren't being helped.
“We have homelessness and not, literally, not enough places,” Sen. Bewley said. “If you are in Ashland, Wisconsin or Mellen, Wisconsin, and you're homeless, where are you going to go? You don't have transportation. There's no help around.”
Both parties could find a compromise in 2020 on issues like increasing access to adoption, addressing water quality, and dealing with the high costs of prescription drugs, but legalizing medical marijuana will be tough.
Earlier this year, a Marquette University Law School poll found more than 80 percent of Wisconsinites support legalizing medical marijuana, but Sen. Fitzgerald thinks that's a bad idea right now.
“We've got all these issues,” Sen. Fitzgerald said. “We're spending all of this, not only revenue, but energy trying to get a control on these substances that are just wreaking havoc across the state. I don't know why this is a good time to introduce legal marijuana in Wisconsin.”
“I am not advocating for legalizing marijuana,” Sen. Bewley said. “I would be willing to have a conversation about medical marijuana, and we know that there is bipartisan support for that, but to reduce the penalties for small amounts of marijuana; we need to do that.”
Both parties also seem divided on the big issues they want to tackle in 2020.
Democrats say our state is behind the times when it comes to minimum wage.
“You can't live on Wisconsin's minimum wage and it is arrogant and unrealistic to assume that you can go out and get a higher paying job or that you can survive by getting more jobs,” Sen. Bewley said.
Republicans want to work on a property tax cut proposal.
“I'm hearing it already in the district,” Sen. Fitzgerald said. “People are a little surprised. I know it's still anecdotal, but people are concerned about a bump in their property tax bill. Most of that has been generated by decisions made at the local level.”
The legislative session is scheduled to pick back up the second full week of January.
Sen. Fitzgerald says it might take until March for the legislature to pass all the bills Republicans have on their agenda, but Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) says lawmakers could adjourn as early as February.