In Wisconsin, as the state's assembly speaker seeks higher office and several recall elections ramp up, the governor's mansion and control of the state Senate are up for grabs, political procedure threatens to make it difficult for lawmakers to address other issues facing the state next year.
"I think it's going to be very difficult," Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Dane County) told HuffPost, considering the 2012 legislative session.
Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R) are each the subject of recall petitions circulating around the state. Petitions are circulating against four Republican senators, and Democrats need to pick up only one Senate seat to grab control of the chamber. Further, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald is trying to leave state government in favor of national office, facing off against former Gov. Tommy Thompson and former Rep. Mark Neumann in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.
Miller placed blame for the gridlock in state government squarely at Walker's feet, saying the first-term governor and other Republicans have focused on eliminating collective bargaining for public employees, legislative redistricting and voter identification instead of local economic issues. "Our state has been bitterly divided by the governor's agenda," he said.
Miller said Senate Democrats plan to push "fair redistricting," restoration of state aid to local school districts and job creation during the legislative session after Walker and Republicans pushed through a redistricting plan that favors the GOP. Miller also said Democrats are on the lookout for conservative legislation Fitzgerald may push through the Assembly in order to help his Senate bid.
Miller said he believes that the state's current political climate has had an effect nationally. Following Walker's introduction of the collective bargaining ban, union-organized protests surrounded the state capital, with a group of demonstrators even occupying parts of the building for a period. Legislative Democrats fled to Illinois in order to delay a vote on the legislation. The initial recall elections targeting Republican and Democratic senators led to the ouster of two GOP senators and placed Senate Democrats a vote away from the majority.
This climate is one that Miller thinks helped lead to the creation of the Occupy movement, along with influencing other states to battle collective bargaining reform bills.
"It was an impetus for the Occupy Wall Street movement," he said.
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