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Wisconsin’s state Legislature hasn’t met since mid-March and Billings predicts “a couple of weeks” before it meets again



FILE - Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers addresses a joint session of the Legislature in the Assembly chambers during the governor's State of the State speech at the state Capitol Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022, in Madison, Wis. Behind Evers is Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, left, R-Rochester, and Senate President Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

While it’s not officially a session for legislation, the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate are back together in Madison again for the first time since mid-March.

Gov. Tony Evers and the Legislature get sworn in Tuesday and will vote on the two-year calendar that’s been a point of contention to some in the public.

Wisconsin has a full-time state Legislature but it’s 2022 calendar ended nine and a half months ago, presumably so state reps could go campaign.

Assembly Rep. Jill Billings was asked Monday on La Crosse Talk PM if they’d leave another 10-month hole in the 2024 calendar where lawmakers wouldn’t meet in session.

“Who knows?” Billings said. “Things could always change but the positive thing about that is, really when we’re in campaign season, we’re in silly season. I don’t think it’s a smart thing for us to be trying to pass legislation. I understand that feeling that it’s not good to be campaigning and also voting on important legislation. That could lead to problems.”

La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.

Wisconsin has been sitting on billions in budget surplus that lawmakers have known about for all of 2022. The Republican-led state Legislature ignored Gov. Tony Evers’ calls to do something with the surplus, gaveling in and out of a special session in seconds — one of 11 Evers’ special sessions it ignored.

Four years ago, with a Republican governor, the GOP-led state Legislature passed legislation during that “campaign time,” or “silly season” as Billings called it, to send $100 checks to families with children. Those $100 checks came from budget surplus money and went out right before Evers and Scott Walker battled for the governorship.

Despite sitting on the issue for 12 months, it appears now the budget surplus, that’s presumed to balloon to $6.6 billion by July, will be one of the top priorities for lawmakers.

Ending the months-long hiatus of meeting in session, however, won’t be for awhile, yet, according to Billings.

“Before we meet and deliberate legislation, the committees will have to meet,” Billings said. “So there will be legislation introduced right away and the committee structure will start meeting. And, probably it’s going to take a couple weeks for us to actually meet on the floor and vote on legislation.”

Minnesota’s part-time state Legislature is a day ahead of Wisconsin, doing the swearing in process on Monday. The state is dealing with three times as large a budget surplus, but did work in session longer than Wisconsin in 2022, and agreed to send checks out to frontline workers using some of its surplus money.

Along with the swearing in and voting on the legislative calendar, lawmakers will also elect party leaders. Robin Vos has been Wisconsin’s longest-tenured Assembly Speaker.

Billings hinted Vos may get a challenger.

“There could be a breakoff group on the Republicans side that decides to nominate somebody else,” Billings said. “But I’m quite sure that they will not have the votes to get someone else in. It will likely be Robin Vos again.”

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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