Gov. Tony Evers Sworn into Office as Wisconsin’s 46th Governor

Wisconsin witnessed a major shift in the state’s political landscape yesterday when Tony Evers took the inaugural oath to become Wisconsin’s 46th governor. Evers, a Democrat and former state superintendent of schools, defeated Scott Walker in a close election race last November.

The new governor enters office in a highly-charged political climate, one in which he will need to work with a Republican-controlled Legislature to advance his agenda. While political gridlock is always a possibility when the opposing party of the sitting governor controls the legislature, the relationship between Evers and GOP lawmakers got off to an especially rocky start when Republicans passed legislation in a lame-duck session last December that many perceived as curtailing Evers’ gubernatorial authority. 

Despite the recent political drama, Evers has been preparing to govern and has started to lay out his priorities for the new legislative session. His priorities include increased funding for public schools, boosting transportation funding and scaling back the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit to pay for a middle-class tax cut. The WEDA government affairs team will continue to work with the Evers Administration – and the Legislature – on many of those issues and others to help advance WEDA’s Legislative Agenda

Evers has also appointed his new cabinet. The cabinet secretaries, who will lead a myriad of state agencies that administer programs and policies across state government, must be confirmed by the Senate. Although some appointees could face a difficult path to confirmation, most political observers believe the majority of Evers’ appointees will have the ability to work with both sides of the political aisle and should be confirmed.

Gov. Evers cabinet picks include:

  • Department of Administration
    • Joel Brennan –  CEO of Milwaukee’s Discovery World and former campaign manager for Mayor Tom Barrett
  • Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
    • Brad Pfaff – A former U.S. Department of Agriculture official in the Obama Administration
  • Department of Children and Families
    • Emilie Amundson –  Department of Public Instruction official 
  • Department of Corrections
    • Kevin Carr – A U.S. marshal and former employee of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s office
  • Department of Financial Institutions
    • Kathy Koltin Blumenfeld – Vice President at Total Administrative Services Corp.
  • Department of Health Services
    • Andrea Palm – Former health policy advisor in the Obama Administration and for former U.S. Senator Hilary Clinton
  • Insurance Commissioner
    • Mark Afable – Chief Legal Officer at American Family Insurance
  • Department of Natural Resources
    • Preston Cole – A City of Milwaukee official and a member of the state’s Natural Resources Board
  • Public Service Commission Chairwoman
    • Rebecca Cameron Valcq – Law firm partner at Quarles & Brady. She previously spent 14 years as an attorney at We Energies 
  • Department of Revenue
    • Peter Barca – Former state representative and congressman
  • Safety and Professional Services
    • Dawn Crim   Department of Public Instruction official 
  • Department of Tourism
    • Sara Meaney – Chief marketing officer of Milwaukee Film
  • Department of Transportation
    • Craig Thompson –  Wisconsin Transportation Development Association Executive Director
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
    • Mary Kolar – Retired naval officer and current Dane County Supervisor
  • Department of Workforce Development
    • Caleb Frostman – Former state senator and Door County Economic Development Executive Director

SNAPSHOT: Republican-Controlled Legislature Prepares for New Session

Although there has been considerable change in the governor’s office – with the transition from Scott Walker to Gov. Tony Evers – the make-up and power structure in the Legislature remains essentially the same for the 2019-20 session. 

Republicans will continue to enjoy large majorities in both houses of the Legislature, which has been the case for most of the last eight years. Republicans currently control the Assembly with a 63-36 seat majority and oversee the Senate with a 19-14 majority.

The Assembly will continue to be lead by Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester), who enters his fourth term as Assembly Speaker. Leadership in the Senate also remains constant, with Senator Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) returning as Senate Majority Leader. Please find below a snapshot of the Legislature as lawmakers begin the new legislative session:

  • Assembly:
    • Majority Party:  Republican (63-36 seat majority) Assembly:
    • Leadership Structure:
      • Speaker: Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester)
      • Majority Leader: Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)
      • Assistant Majority Leader: Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma)
      • Minority Leader: Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh)
    • Key Committee Chairs:
      • Community Development: Rep. Scott Allen (R-Waukesha)
      • Energy and Utilities:  Rep. Mike Kuglitsch (R-New Berlin)
      • Housing and Real Estate: Rep. John Jagler (R-Watertown)
      • Jobs and the Economy: Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee)
      • Local Government: Rep. Todd Novak (R-Dodgeville)
      • Rural Development: Rep. Nancy VanderMeer (R-Tomah)
      • Transportation: Rep. Bob Kulp (R-Stratford)
      • Workforce Development: Rep. Warren Petryk (R-Eleva)
  • Senate:
    • Majority Party: Republican (19-14 seat majority)
    • Leadership Structure:
      • Majority Leader: Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau)
      • Senate President: Sen. Roger Roth (R-Appleton)
      • Minority Leader: Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse)
    • Key Committee Chairs:
      • Economic Development: Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac)
      • Government Operations: Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville)
      • Workforce Development: Sen. Andre Jacque (R-DePere)
      • Transportation: Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon)
      • Utilities and Housing: Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg)
  • Joint Finance Committee:
    • The powerful 16-member Joint Finance Committee, comprised of legislators from both the Assembly and Senate, is responsible for reviewing all state appropriations and revenues and approving the governor’s two-year state budget bill. The Committee has 12 Republican members, as they hold the majority in both houses, and 4 Democrats. Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) will continue to serve as co-chairs of the committee this session, leading the GOP’s effort to reshape Evers’ budget. The following new members will serve on the Joint Finance Committee over the next two years:
      • Rep. Terry Katsma (R-Oostburg)
      • Rep. Shannon Zinmmerman (R-River Falls)
      • Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee)
      • Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg)