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Sen. Fred Risser will return to Wisconsin Building Commission

Sen. Fred Risser

State Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, the longest-serving state legislator in the United States, is returning to the Wisconsin Building Commission.

The Building Commission is a state panel that includes three members from both the state Assembly and Senate, as well as the governor and a citizen member. It controls billions of dollars spent on construction work for state agencies.

Risser, 83, a member of the Legislature since 1956, has been off and on the Building Commission for 40 years. He last served on the panel two years ago, when Risser says he was “involuntarily replaced” by then-Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker.

“I was quite upset,” Risser said Thursday.

But with Decker out of office, Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, D-Monona, plans to reappoint Risser back to the Building Commission, said Mike Browne, a spokesperson for Sen. Miller.

“I enjoy the Building Commission,” Risser said. “The buildings are university-oriented buildings, and a good share of them are in the Madison community. It’s a committee which does affect my constituents quite a bit.”

Risser’s appointment is not official yet. Only two members – Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, and Rep. Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan – have received their appointments, calling into question whether the Building Commission will be prepared to convene for its first scheduled meeting Jan. 19.

Risser, and other state officials, said it’s likely the Building Commission’s first meeting will be postponed until February, but Division of State Facilities Deputy Administrator Peter Maternowski said Thursday “we have not received any requests from state agencies that are time critical.”

In addition to making final decisions on state construction and maintenance projects, the Building Commission will play a major role this year in making suggestions for the state’s biennial budget.

“The (University of Wisconsin System) regents and various departments will come up with their desires, and we will have to determine how to set it up,” Risser said.

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