Barish, Lawrence S.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / State of Wisconsin 1991-1992 Blue Book
The legislative branch, pp. -296 PDF (25.4 MB)
229 LEGISLATIVE BRANCH A PROFILE OF THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH The legislative branch of the Wisconsin state government consists of the bicameral Wisconsin Legislature, comprised of the senate with 33 members and the assembly with 99 members, to- gether with the staff employed by each house and the legislative committees and service agencies created by the legislature. The legislature's main responsibility is to make policy by enacting state laws. Its service agencies assist it by performing research, bill drafting, auditing, statute editing, and housekeeping functions. A new legislature is sworn into office in January of each odd-numbered year, and it meets in continuous biennial session until its successor is sworn in. The 1991 Legislature is the 90th Wis- consin Legislature. It was convened on January 7, 1991 and will continue until January 4, 1993, when the 91st Legislature will be seated. U.S. Constitution Both Restricts and Grants Legislative Powers. The United States Constitu- tion guarantees each state a republican form of government. It is assumed the Constitution's framers intended that the voters of each state would have the right to govern their affairs through elected representatives. The Constitution delegates to the U.S. Congress certain exclusive pow- ers, such as the regulation of foreign affairs and interstate commerce, the coining of money, and the granting of patents and copyrights. Conversely, some powers, such as making treaties, are specifically prohibited to the states. The federal constitution reserves to the people or the states all other powers. Wisconsin Constitution Grants Legislature Broad Powers. The power to determine the state's policies and programs lies primarily in the legislative branch of state government. According to the Wisconsin Constitution: "The legislative power shall be vested in a senate and assembly." This power is quite extensive, except for a few limitations imposed by the constitution. For example, the Wisconsin Constitution requires the legislature to establish as uniform a system of town government as practicable and prevents it from granting divorces or enacting private or special laws on certain subjects. In addition, no legislation may be enacted that would infringe on the rights of Wisconsin citizens as provided by the Declaration of Rights of the Wisconsin Constitution. The constitution also restricts the legislature's powers by granting the governor power to veto legislation, although the executive veto may be overridden by a vote of two-thirds in both houses. Biennial Sessions: 4-Year Terms in Senate; 2-Year Terms in Assembly. Originally, members of the assembly served for one year, while senators served for 2 years. An 1881 constitutional amendment doubled the respective terms to the current 2 and 4 years and converted the legisla- ture from annual to biennial sessions. The legislature was authorized by a 1968 constitutional amendment to set its schedule by law, and it may meet more than once in a biennium. Since its adoption on March 13, 1848, the Wisconsin Constitution has provided that the mem- bership of the assembly shall be not less than 54 nor more than 100, and the membership of the senate shall consist of not more than one-third nor less than one-fourth of the number of assem- bly members. The first legislature totaled 85 members, 19 senators and 66 assembly members. In the 1853 session, membership was increased to 107, with 25 senators and 82 assembly members. With the 1857 Legislature, the numbers were increased to 30 in the senate and 97 in the assembly for a total of 127. This lasted until the legislature became a 133-member body in 1862, with the constitutionally permitted maximums of 33 in the senate and 100 in the assembly. Membership dropped to 132 in the 1973 Legislature, when the number of "representatives to the assembly" (as they were renamed in 1969) was reduced to 99, so that each of the 33 senate districts would encompass 3 assembly districts. This is the current number and structure.
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