By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — It was a tough year in the Wisconsin Legislature. And 2020 doesn’t promise to be much rosier.
Dealing with a Democratic governor, the Republicans who control the Legislatures passed few bills of consequence in 2019 outside the state budget.
Their adamant stance against most bills advanced by Gov. Tony Evers so angered the Democratic governor that he spewed four-letter words in the halls of the Capitol minutes after the Senate fired one of his Cabinet secretaries — an unprecedented step.
To end the year, Evers irritated many Republicans by trying to force a meeting of the Legislature’s budget committee to approve money to combat homelessness. Republicans claimed the meeting was illegal and didn’t show up.
So maybe it’s no surprise that the Legislature plans to be in session only for a handful of days in 2020. With no budget to pass, and disagreement on big issues such as providing better access to health care, legalizing marijuana and gun control, Republicans plan to tackle less contentious issues such as suicide prevention and bolstering adoption. Bills resulting from a clean-water task force are also coming in January. And Republicans are working on a proposal to lower property taxes.
Republican Speaker Robin Vos said he was intentionally working on issues that he hopes will have bipartisan support.
“I hope these are topics where we could show common ground that we can get things done,” Vos said. “We’re not Washington.”
Still, a lame-duck session to weaken Evers before he took office set the tone for 2019, with little trust between the two parties.
“We find ourselves in this prearranged marriage, which the voters have put us in with the Democratic governor and Republican Legislature,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. “And there certainly is room for improvement when it comes to being effective.”
The Legislature met for just 14 days in 2019, far below the yearly average of 34 since 2003. Evers has signed 69 bills into law. Scott Walker enacted 370 during his last two years as governor. When Democrat Jim Doyle was governor and the Legislature was controlled by Republicans, he signed an average of 409 bills into law each two-year session.
The goal of Republicans, said Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, is to hold to a minimum the amount of time that Democrats can use to point out issues they’re not tackling such as health care, Wisconsin’s farm troubles and gun control.