What to Watch in 2019: A Divided State Government

After the sour taste left by the lame duck session that the Republican majority characterized as a balancing of power and the Democratic minority called a bald-faced power grab, will state government be able to conduct the important business before them?

With a Democratic administration and a Republican majority in both the Senate (18-15) and Assembly (63-35, with one seat vacant), will work be done or will we be watching endless head-butting between the two sides in Madison?

According to one news report last week, Gov.-elect Tony Evers met with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald in what the Republican senator said was a conciliatory meeting to focus on moving forward.

However, in that same news report, Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said many are still smarting from the sting of the lame duck session.

“I don’t think anyone has recovered,” he said. “I don’t think the public is forgetting what took place.”

Evers has vowed to expand Medicaid, a move rejected by outgoing Gov. Scott Walker. He has also promised to move forward on the transportation funding that stalled in Walker’s no-new-tax mode, with the possibility of an increase in the at-pump gas tax. However, a number of Republican legislators have already said they would oppose a raise in taxes to pay for infrastructure.

Education funding is another major area that we can expect to hear much about in the next session, and not just because Evers has served as state superintendent of schools since 2009. The findings of the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, co-chaired by Rep. Joel Kitchens, will also carry some weight in going forward.

Evers has also given full support to joining the 33 other states that have approved medical marijuana, and supports holding a statewide referendum on decriminalizing marijuana.

Economic development, renewable energy, nonpartisan redistricting reform, campaign finance reform and criminal justice reform are all issues Evers has said he plans to tackle while in office.

If nothing else, it should be interesting to see where we go from here in such a divided situation. Stay tuned!