MADISON, Wis. (AP) — While winners and losers clearly emerged during the legislative session that began in January 2011 and ended last week, the fate of others remains unknown.
Ongoing court battles might derail some of the Republicans' biggest accomplishments. Recall elections could hand Democrats majority control of the state Senate after a previous round last summer saw them gain two seats, one fewer than what they need to take over. And, largest of all, Gov. Scott Walker will likely face a recall vote in May or June that in many ways will be a referendum on the past year-plus that saw him and Republicans exert their power and pass a wave of historic changes that unleashed a political tumult never-before-seen in Wisconsin.
With so much unknown ahead, here is a look back at the winners and losers as it stands at the end of the session.
- Gov. Scott Walker: Walker used the GOP legislative majority to push through priorities in the opening weeks of his term, many with bipartisan support, that extended tax cuts to businesses as an attempt to improve Wisconsin's economy, eliminated income taxes and Health Savings Accounts, and reorganized the state's economic development arm. But it was Walker's plan for fixing the state's budget shortfall, which included ending all collective bargaining rights except over minimal salary increases for most public employees, that set off a firestorm. Walker never blinked or compromised with Democrats in getting his plan passed. Along the way, Walker became a national conservative hero able to pull in staggering donations from out-of-state donors more than happy to write him big checks to stave off the recall effort. With so much of his legislative agenda already passed - including requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls and legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons - Walker was free to spend more time courting those donors as the drive to recall him from office heated up.
- Republicans: Republicans won control of both the Senate and Assembly from Democrats in the 2010 election, marking the first time since 1938 that both houses of the Legislature as well as the governor's office flipped from one party's control to the other. Senate Republicans lost two seats in recall elections last summer, but still held the majority.They yielded their power to pass a host of priorities, including redrawing political boundaries, with Democrats powerless to stop them. They even found a way around Democratic senators fleeing to Illinois during debate of the collective bargaining bill, passing the bill with them absent.
- Recall organizers: The citizen-led effort to recall Walker from office faced a formidable hurdle. Starting in mid-November, they needed to collect 540,208 valid signatures in just 60 days. What transpired was a well-organized, massive recall drive never-before-seen in Wisconsin. They handed in about 930,000 signatures against Walker and the governor chose not to challenge any. The Walker recall drive was the largest of a raft of recalls targeting 10 Republican state senators, three Democrats and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
- Voter ID supporters: Republicans for years tried to pass a requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, only to be thwarted three times by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's veto. So it was no surprise that one of the first bills they pursued when in the majority in 2011 was the photo ID requirement. Democrats opposed it as unconstitutional and as the legislative session ended in March, two judges agreed and blocked it from being in effect for the April 3 presidential primary.
- Wind developers: Republicans on the Legislature's rules committee suspended new uniform construction standards for wind turbines the day they were set to take effect last March, saying the rules allowed turbines too close to neighbors' property. At least three wind developers either suspended or canceled plans for farms citing the regulatory uncertainty. The committee developed a bill ordering state regulators to come up with new standards, but the measure failed in the Senate after the swing senator, Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, broke ranks with his party and opposed the bill. The old rules favored by wind developers will now go into effect.
- Senior citizens: While the Walker administration initially placed a cap on enrollment in the popular Family Care program designed to keep the elderly in their homes and out of expensive assisted living centers, it then agreed to lift it after the federal government ordered it to do so.
- Developers: The Legislature made it easier to obtain permits to build on wetlands and construct piers and docks, despite concerns about potential harm to the environment.
- Aaron Rodgers: The Senate and Assembly adopted a resolution declaring Dec. 12, 2012, the popular Green Bay Packers quarterback's day. Rodgers wears number 12. It was one of the few issues debated this session that didn't devolve into a rancorous partisan fight.
- Young athletes: Concerned about the threat concussions pose to young people, a new law requires schools to remove any athlete under age 19 from practice and games if they show any signs they're suffering from a head injury.
- Gun lovers: After years of being thwarted by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's veto, gun lovers finally got the right to carry their weapons concealed. The new law proved hugely popular, as the Department of Justice was flooded with tens of thousands of applications forcing them to bulk up staffing just to process all the requests in time.
- Hunters: Not only was the hated earn-a-buck program - a herd-control strategy that required hunters to shoot an anterless deer before taking a buck - eliminated, a new wolf hunt won approval.
- School vouchers: Supporters of vouchers, which provide taxpayer money to public school students who want to transfer to private schools, won expansion of the program to the city of Racine and Milwaukee County.
- Gov. Scott Walker: While Walker saw nearly all of his legislative agenda passed, the political chaos that ensued divided the state, made Wisconsin the center of the national fight over union rights, and triggered even greater partisanship in the Capitol than is usual. His policies, chiefly his attack on collective bargaining, motivated the drive to make Walker just the third governor in the nation's history to face a recall election. To his opponents, Walker became the face of all that was wrong with Wisconsin and Republican policies. Walker was also dogged with the ongoing criminal investigation into former close aides of his while he served as Milwaukee County executive. Walker established a legal defense fund, a move only those under criminal investigation are allowed to make, and said he would talk with prosecutors. And his campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs over four years seemed like an insurmountable goal as the state lost jobs in 2011.
- Gogebic Taconite: The Florida-based mining company gave up on its plans to dig a huge iron mine south of Lake Superior after Senate Republicans failed to muster enough support for a bill that would relax the state's mining permit regulations for the company. Gogebic promised the mine would create hundreds of jobs and Republicans touted the bill as their signature job creation legislation of the session. Assembly Republicans passed the bill, but the GOP held only a 17-16 majority in the Senate and Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said he couldn't support the measure because it eliminated public challenges to permitting decisions and jeopardized the environment.
- Venture capital: Unable to strike a deal, or find the money, the Legislature adjourned without reaching a deal to bolster venture capital funding that is seen as vital to helping start businesses, which in turn leads to job creation and economic development.
- Democrats: Not only did they lose their majorities in the Senate and Assembly in the 2010 elections, paving the way for Republican to push through their agenda under Walker, they failed to win back control of the Senate through six recall elections last year. Democrats did pick up two seats, to leave the GOP with just a one-vote majority, which increased the power of moderate Republicans like Schultz and led to the demise of several proposals, including the mining bill.
- Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper: The two Republicans lost in recall elections, victims of the anger Democrats felt over passage of Walker's collective bargaining changes. Seven other incumbents, including three Democrats, survived recalls.
- Public schools: Wisconsin's public schools saw about a $1.6 billion cut in funding, at the same time the voucher school program was expanded.
- Medicaid recipients: An estimated 22,800 people, including nearly 3,000 children, would either leave or no longer be eligible for state programs that serve the poor under cost-savings put forward by the Walker administration.
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