MADISON — As the state starts its 101st legislative session, Republicans are in charge across the board.
In the Assembly, the GOP has a 59 to 39 seat advantage. In the Senate, a three seat advantage.
That's after several Republicans faced recall elections, including Governor Scott Walker.
The previous session was a contentious one. A major point being the controversial Act 10 legislation, stripping most collective bargaining rights from public employee unions.
Bipartisanship is a resounding theme as leaders from both houses say the important tasks this coming session are job creation and passing a balanced budget that both sides can agree on.
As protesters songs calling for reform echoed through the Capitol rotunda, Senate and Assembly leaders are calling for members of both houses to work together.
"Hopefully, we can move forward in a bipartisan manner as was discussed in every district across Wisconsin during the last election," said Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
"Between now and the end of the session, we are going to hopefully have one of the most productive in our state's history,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester.
Vos says Republicans and Democrats agree that job creation is a priority and no stone should be left unturned.
"This is the time for all of us to put out our ideas and to begin the discussion," said Vos.
One piece of legislation Republicans hope to pass is the much debated mining bill.
The legislation was narrowly rejected by the Senate last March.
Vos says a bill could come as early as next week.
Barca says he's optimistic of a bipartisan mining bill deal, but cautions a hasty passage.
"I think we need to take a broad look at this and find out a way that you can get Democrats and Republicans in a broad manner, to support this," said Barca.
Senator Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, says passing a balanced budget will be essential for this session.
Health care and education will be key issues for him.
“Health care's important, we have to be concerned about cutting public education any more. I mean, Pre-K to 12 was cut by large numbers. We've got to be careful with that. Public education is still key to our future,” said Hansen.
State Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, agrees the budget is the number one priority for Northeast Wisconsinites. And he wants to reassure voters that reaching across the aisle is what will be done.
"One thing that people miss is they get this sense that the two parties and the people down here can't get along at all, which is really far from the truth,” said Steineke.
A concern of Democrats is that Republicans might try to pass legislation that would prohibit unions from forcing members to pay dues.
But, Republic Vos says right to work style legislation is not something that will come up this session. He says Wisconsin has moved in the right direction with the Act 10 reforms and right to work legislation would not get to the floor.
Legislators didn’t start the lawmaking process Monday. It was more pomp and circumstance, spending time with other legislators, friends and family. The real work will start Thursday.
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