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Batt, James R. (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 20, Number 2 [3] (Summer 1974)

Hall, Kristin
Making the grade: the CCSL evaluates the Wisconsin legislature,   pp. 13-15


Page 14


tors can be held much more ac-
countable for the quality of work
done during the session than can,
for example, Alabama legislators
who are constitutionally restricted
to meeting only thirty-six working
days in each odd year.
        USE OF TIME
  While an adequate amount of
time to perform business is impor-
tant, equally important is how that
time is used. When the CCSL con-
ducted a survey of the fifty states
in December, 1971, in preparation
for a publication on legislative
changes since the LES, Senate
President Pro Tem    Robert P.
Knowles commented that the ma-
jor problem in Wisconsin was
management of session time.
  Wisconsin has been experiment-
ing with regulating the flow of
work in an attempt to resolve this
problem. In 1971, the Legislature
passed a joint resolution estab-
lishing four successive floor ses-
sions, three in 1971 and one in
1972, interspersed with standing
committee work. The resolution
set starting and ending dates for
the sessions, established deadlines
for budget consideration, provided
for bill carryover from one year
of the biennium to the next and
established a veto session.
  A similar pattern was continued
in the 1973-74 biennium. A joint
resolution again established four
floor sessions, three in 1973 and
one which convened January 29,
1974 and adjourned March 29,
1974. A veto session will be held
this summer, if necessary.
dures. Although there is presently
some uniformity in committee cler-
ical procedures, no published rules
of committee procedure exist.
  In The Sometime Governments
it was recommended that minority
party members in the Assembly
be assigned to committee by the
Minority Leader in consultation
with the Minority Caucus, as is
the procedure in the Senate. Dur-
ing the 1973 session, the Assembly
Speaker requested by letter that
the Minority Leader suggest mi-
nority member committee assign-
ments. He did so and his recom-
mendations were honored. The
CCSL would strongly encourage
Wisconsin to take the next step
and incorporate this system of
minority party committee assign-
ments into the formal rules of
each house. Intern al accounta-
bility, as well as the capacity of
all legislators to represent their
constituents effectively, d ep e n ds
upon the opportunity of minority
party members to have an effec-
tive part in internal legislative
affairs.
    BILL PROCEDURE
  Two important elements of
sound bill procedure have been
provided for in Wisconsin's at-
tempt to manage its flow of work
with successive floor sessions: bill
carryover and the establishment
of certain bill deadlines. In addi-
tion, Wisconsin has for many
years (in 1970 it was one of only
sixteen states) barred the introduc-
tion of "skeleton" bills, or bills
other strong points in Wisconsin's
bill procedure.
   There are a few improvements
which the CCSL believes should
be effected. Although the Wiscon-
sin Constitution specifies that all
fiscal bills require a roll call vote
for final passage, the CCSL would
encourage that a roll call vote be
required on final passage of any
legislative measure.
  Currently, when a bill is re-
ported out of committee, the com-
mittee is required to give only its
recommendation, "pass" or "do
not pass," and the final vote. The
CCSL believes that committees
should be required, as they are in
Hawaii, to issue reports describing
and explaining their action on
bills recommended for passage.
      COMPENSATION
  As of January 1, 1975, Wis-
consin legislators will receive an
annual salary of $15,681, up
from $9,900. The Citizens Con-
ference b eli e v e s that legislators
should be paid salaries that re-
flect the heavy demands and the
high importance of their job. Also,
compensation should be high
enough that the financial and oc-
cupational risks of elective office
are minimized. Elected officials
give up the opportunity to develop
a career and build for retirement
during the time they are in office.
They should not suffer financially
as a result. In 1971, the CCSL
recommended that Wisconsin leg-
islators receive between $15,000
and $20,000 per year.
COMMITTEE STRUCTURE
     AND PROCEDURE
  The Wisconsin Assembly has
twenty-seven standing committees
and the Senate has thirteen. The
Citizens Conference believes that
considerable improvement would
be effected by reducing the number
of Assembly committees and
making them parallel in jurisdic-
tion to those of the Senate. This
would decrease the complexity of
the Legislature and permit reduc-
tion in the number of committee
assignments per representative.
  In addition, each house should
adopt uniform committee proce-
     Internal accountability and effective
   representation depend upon minority
party members having an effective role
                in internal legislative affairs.
which contain no specific provi-
sions but state only their purpose
in exceedingly general terms. Fis-
cal notes on bills having a fiscal
impact on state or local govern-
ment, quick reprinting of bills
which have undergone substantial
amendment, and bill summaries
and analyses prepared by the
Legislative Reference Bureau are
  Along with Wisconsin's pay in-
crease, which included executive
branch officials, came a strict con-
flict of interest/financial disclosure
bill. While Wisconsin legislators
had been considering enactment
of an ethics bill for some time,
public distrust of elected officials
played a large role in persuading
legislators to pass the ethics bills
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