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Barish, Lawrence S.; Theobald, H. Rupert (ed.) / State of Wisconsin 1991-1992 Blue Book
(1991-1992)

The legislative branch,   pp. [227]-296 PDF (25.4 MB)


Page 229


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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