Sen. Tim Cullen will chair two new Senate committees under an agreement announced today to keep the Janesville lawmaker in the Democratic caucus.
Cullen had announced earlier this week he would leave the caucus -- and was considering becoming an independent -- following a disagreement with Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller over committee assignments.
But Miller, D-Monona, announced at a press conference this afternoon that Cullen will remain in the new majority caucus, serving as chairman of a Special Committee on Mining and a Committee on Small Business and Venture Capital.
"This is another example of Democrats finding solutions by working together," Miller said. "Senator Cullen is a valued and respected member of our caucus by virtue of his experience both inside and outside the Capitol."
In addition, Cullen will replace Sen. Tim Carpenter as vice-chair of the Health committee and retiring Sen. Jim Holperin on the Transportation Projects Commission.
Cullen said his only regret about the spat with Miller "was that it dragged out a little bit," saying he now feels wanted in the caucus.
"We Democrats, we legislate in public, we develop legislation in public, and occasionally sometimes we disagree in public," Cullen said. "But I think that's a better way to be; it's a better party to be a part of."
Miller said he took some responsibility for the spat.
"I'm new at this job, and I maybe could have dealt with this better," Miller said. "But the plain fact is Senator Cullen is a valued member of our caucus."
Sen. Tim Cullen sent an email to his Dem colleagues this afternoon announcing he is leaving he caucus, calling the committee assignments doled out by new Majority Leader Mark Miller "an insult to me and the people of the 15th Senate District."
Cullen wrote he will take the new few days to decide whether he will become an independent, but he will not join the GOP.
Cullen is the only one of the 17-member Dem caucus who was not appointed to chair a committee after Dems took back the majority 17-16 following this summer's recall elections.
"This entire episode makes clear to me that Sen. Miller has no time for my independent ideas and my support of bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems," Cullen wrote.
Gov. Scott Walker met with legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle and both houses today in what a spokesman says is an ongoing effort to meet with all lawmakers who are not retiring after this session.
Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the guv has a string of meetings planned over the next several weeks with lawmakers.
Today's breakfast included Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona; Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau; JFC Co-chair Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee; Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford; JFC Co-chair Robin Vos, R-Rochester; and Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
Werwie said the meetings were planned as a follow to the beer and brat summit the guv had with lawmakers at the executive residence earlier this summer.
The Committee on Senate Organization has approved a series of room moves to reflect the new Democratic control of that house, though GOP leadership opposed the measure.
Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a statement that while he supported the moves into new Senate President and Senate Majority Leader offices, that he voted to oppose the rest of the moves because those only usually take place after November elections and usually stay in place for two years.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, also opposed the moves, saying they were a waste of taxpayer money and there would still be moves after November, regardless of who controls the chamber.
" I will point out there will be another round of moves in November no matter the results of the election because Senators Coggs, Holperin and Zipperer are leaving the Senate," Grothman said in a statement. "Everyone anticipated a change in the Majority Leader and President’s offices, but for Senator Hansen et al to ask for changes puts the Sergeant’s staff, as well as the legislators’ own staff, through two moves in four months. This is discourteous at best and therefore I oppose the motion.”
Other than the aforementioned swaps by leadership, some of the changes are as follows:
Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, the new co-chair of Joint Finance Committee, will swap with Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, will take former Sen. Pam Galloway's office. Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, will take Hansen's office.
Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, will take Lazich's old office. Sen. Frank Lasee, R-De Pere, will take Larson's old office.
Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, will take Lasee's office. Sen. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, will take Vinehout's office, though he will eventually resign his office on Aug. 5.
Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, will take Zipperer's old office. Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, will take Cowles office. Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, will take Lassa's old office.
Gov. Scott Walker announced today GOP state Sen. Rich Zipperer is resigning his seat in the Legislature to become his deputy chief of staff and senior legal counsel.
Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, represents a solidly Republican district that he won in 2010 after serving two terms in the Assembly. He said in a statement he will resign his seat Aug. 5.
His seat will be filled in a special election.
Zipperer said he has been proud to advance reforms balancing the budget, eliminating wasteful spending and bringing jobs back to Wisconsin.
“Even with these victories, much more remains to be done, and I am honored that Governor Walker has asked me to help him lead those efforts," Zipperer said. "Though I will be doing it from a new position, I intend to continue to work every day to help point our state toward an even brighter future.”
Zipperer, who has a law degree from Georgetown University, served as chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner prior to his election to the state Assembly in 2006.
The announcement is one of several changes in Walker's staff announced today. Previous deputy chief of staff Ryan Murray is leaving to become the chief operating officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., while DOA spokeswoman Jocelyn Webster is leaving that post to become the guv's communications director.
New Majority Leader Mark Miller today called on Republicans to join Senate Dems in passing bills to put people back to work, complaining the guv's priorities have put Wisconsin at the back of the pack for job creation.
Miller, D-Monona, laid out four proposals: transferring $10 million to a program to train workers for jobs that employers currently can't fill, directing WHEDA to dedicate its efforts to communities with the highest unemployment, accelerating public works projects such as water and sewage upgrades and expand grants to encourage the creation of small business.
"These are the kinds of job creation policies that are noncontroversial and will work," Miller said.
Miller also invited members to join him for dinner tonight as a way to reacquaint themselves and move forward.
Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also addressed the chamber in his new role, ticking off a list of GOP accomplishments while in the majority and predicting Republicans will again have the majority in the Senate after the fall elections.
Occasionally interrupted by objections from the gallery, Fitzgerald said Republicans fixed a $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes or massive layoffs of public workers, property taxes went down for the first time in 12 years and the state's business ranking is improving.
"I am confident that the voters will recognize this in November," Fitzgerald said, adding he looks forward to working with the minority but also to "capturing the majority again in November."
The Senate has elected Fred Risser of Madison and Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee as president and president pro tempore, respectively.
Bradley administered the oath of office to both as they assumed the offices and signed the Senate book.
Risser thanked Bradley for administering the oath and Ellis for his 17 months as president in one of "most interesting times" in Senate history. He also thanked the now minority party for the smooth transition of power.
Sen. Mike Ellis, R-Neenah, will soon be replaced as Senate president with Dems now in control. But he's still cracking wise from the president's chair on his way out.
Ellis is still running the show until there is a vote to pick a new president, expected to be Fred Risser of Madison.
New Majority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, asked Ellis is he could use the new senators' names in his remarks to introduce them.
"You’re the majority leader. You can do whatever you want," Ellis cracked, drawing a round of applause from Dems.
Miller introduced new Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine, while Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, introduced new Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon. Both got standing ovations from members on both sides of the aisle.
Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley then administered the oath of office to both men, who have already been sworn in during ceremonies in their home districts. Lehman and Petrowski then signed the Senate book listing all of its members. It's the second time for Lehman to sign it. He won the 21st SD in 2006 before losing it in the 2010 elections.
New Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller announced today that Milwaukee Dem Lena Taylor will serve as the Senate co-chair of the Joint Finance Committee and unveiled new chairs with Dems now in control of the chamber.
Joining Taylor on JFC will be Vice Chair Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Bob Jauch of Poplar, John Lehman of Racine, Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse and Chris Larson of Milwaukee.
Miller also announced Larson will co-chair the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, Fred Risser of Madison will co-chair the Joint Legislative Council, Kathleen Vinehout of Alma will co-chair the Joint Committee on Audit, Jon Erpenbach of Middleton will co-chair the Joint Survey on Tax Exemptions, Hansen will co-chair the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems, Spencer Coggs of Milwaukee will co-chair the Joint Committee on Criminal Penalties and Tim Carpenter will co-chair the Joint Committee on Information Technology.
The Senate will meet for the first time in the 2011-12 session with Democrats in control after a slew of recall elections over the past year.
The chamber is due to convene at 11 a.m. to elect a new president, expected to be Sen. Fred Risser of Madison, and president pro tempore, expected to be Sen. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee.
A new seating chart will already be in place after Sen. John Lehman took the oath of office in Racine Monday, giving Dems a 17-16 edge.
Democrats have called for bipartisan action on jobs and health care exchanges as they assume control of the Senate. But it appears unlikely that Gov. Scott Walker would call a special session or Assembly Republicans would agree to an extraordinary session ahead of the November elections.
GOP Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced today he is asking his colleagues to come to the floor next week to ensure a smooth transition of power to Dems by electing a new president and president pro tempore.
Dems have been calling on Senate President Mike Ellis to relinquish his post after John Lehman defeated GOP Sen. Van Wanggaard in the 21st SD to give Dems a 17-16 majority for the remainder of the session. But electing a new president requires a floor vote, and Republicans could still block such a move so long as Ellis held the office.
While calling for a vote today, Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, touted GOP accomplishments from the session and predicted Republicans would take back the body following this fall’s elections.
“However, with all that Senate Republicans have done this past session to put Wisconsin on the right path, I am confident that we will regain the majority this fall so we can keep moving Wisconsin forward,” he said.