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5 things to know about Wis. session
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MADISON (AP) - The Wisconsin Legislature begins its 2014 session Tuesday. Republicans who control both the Senate and Assembly are promising to be in session fewer than 10 days and to wrap up all business by the end of March, so there isn't time to get much done before attention turns to the fall elections.

Here are five things to know about the session:


The biggest unknown heading into 2014 is what revised state tax collection figures will look like. New estimates showing progress for the current fiscal year and projecting growth next year are due out any day from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Gov. Scott Walker hasn't said specifically what he would do if there is a surplus, other than to reiterate his goal of cutting taxes every year he's in office. He also hasn't weighed in on any of the tax cut proposals that have already been floated in the Legislature, including one in the Assembly to waive sales taxes for targeted back-to-school purchases during the first weekend in August and on certain energy efficient products the first weekend in November.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said that if there is a surplus, the sales tax holiday idea should be considered. But Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has been more circumspect, saying Republicans in his chamber might want to save the money or devote it toward one-time infrastructure projects.

But if Walker takes the lead and proposes his own tax cut, it will be difficult for Republican lawmakers to resist.


Walker and legislative Republicans have largely stuck together the first three years of the governor's term, passing a series of significant legal changes. They have effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers, legalized the carrying of concealed weapons, eased environmental laws so a mine can open in northern Wisconsin, expanded private school vouchers statewide, and required photo identification at the polls.

However, unlike the first two years of Walker's term, when brothers Scott and Jeff Fitzgerald controlled the Senate and Assembly, the relationship between current legislative leaders has not been as close.

Numerous proposals passed by the Assembly remain hung up in the Senate and it's unclear if they will be voted on before the session ends. That includes raising the highway speed limit to 70 mph, toughening drunken driving laws, passing a new photo identification requirement for voting and doubling campaign donation limits.

The Assembly and Senate do appear to be in agreement on a variety of measures designed to crack down on heroin use and improve the state's mental health services. Those are all expected to pass in January.



Walker and legislative leaders have all said they expect to pass a school accountability bill this year. The version as introduced would require more reporting of test results and other performance information from schools that accept taxpayer subsidies, along with consequences for low performers. But work continues behind the scenes and lawmakers have not coalesced around a final version yet.


Walker faces re-election in the fall, but he's far from alone. All 99 Assembly seats, and 17 of 33 in the Senate, are also on the ballot. Part of the reason the session is expected to be brief is that candidates can start circulating nominating papers to get on the ballot starting on April 15, so the pressure to leave Madison and get back to their respective districts will be strong.

Republicans control the Senate 18-15 and have an even stronger 60-39 majority in the Assembly. Walker is being challenged by Democrat Mary Burke, although Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, is also considering running.


Two familiar faces in the state Senate are retiring at the end of the year.

Sen. Bob Jauch, who's been in the Legislature since 1983, and Sen. Tim Cullen, who served between 1975 and 1986 before being re-elected in 2010, are both hanging it up this year.

Both Democrats, Jauch and Cullen have had long and storied careers in the Senate. Jauch, of Poplar, is a loquacious debater who most recently led the charge against the iron mine bill. Cullen, of Janesville, is known as a moderate who sometimes drew criticism from his Democratic colleagues for trying to work across the aisle.

Two other Republican mainstays may not be returning.

Senate President Mike Ellis, the second longest-serving state senator, faces his first Democratic challenge since 1998. And Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate Republican who worked closely with Cullen on several issues, has not yet said whether he will seek re-election.