Wisconsin Republican Senate Elects Leadership for 2021-22
As Senator Scott Fitzgerald now a congressman-elect he will be leaving his seat as Senate Majority Leader,. Wisconsin Senate Republicans voted early in Novemeber 2020 to name Senator Devin LeMahieu as new Majority Leader. LeMahieu will be the new head of their caucus following an election that increased their hold on the Senate chamber by two seats.
LeMahieu was one of the 17 Senators not up for election in 2020. Of those 17 seats, 11 are held by Republicans. Senator LeMahieu was in the majority for sure, as he joined almost all seated Senators that received a failing grade during the 2019-20 session.
Northern Wisconsin NORML has had field activists and constituents attend many of Senator LeMahieu listening sessions and the best the news could get from him about the issue of marijuana reform in the past was “There is a lot of interest on both sides of the issue,” LeMahieu said. “… It is great to have these listening sessions and hear people’s opinions.”
I personally expected that Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton) would have not only taken over the Majority Leader role, but also the role of “just say no / head in the sand” approach to marijuana reform” that Fitzgerald held tight for all these years. Only elected in 2014, LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), succeeded Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) for this prestigious position, after Fitzgerald won election to the Milwaukee-area 5th Congressional District.
Side note: Special Election coming in the Senate District 13 also as Senator Fitzgerald moves onto US Congress – can you say start educating him about the federal marijuana reform (MORE Act) now.
LeMahieu, who beat former Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, for the role in a closed-caucus vote Thursday afternoon, said in a statement the Senate needs “a strong and unified team in order to accomplish what is best for Wisconsin.”
Senator Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) who was not up for election in 2020, held the Vice-Chair position on the Senate Committee that is blocking even the Republican version of a medical marijuana bill (SB 750) from a public hearing. Senator Kapenga has continuously failed his constituency on cannabis reform and earns him another session with a F rating from NORML.
Republicans elected Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield), Senate President replacing Senator Roth as President. The Delafield lawmaker was unopposed, after Sen. Alberta Darling withdrew her name from consideration following the majority leader vote, according to her office.
The Senate Republicans went two for four on the last two caucus positions. Testin and Bernier have both showed interest in marijuana reform, while Feyen still wants to hear from law enforcement and doctors and Van Waggaard has the power to pull in medcial marijuana like he did with CBD with a simple letting down of his prohibitionist guard.
Sen. Pat Testin, R-Stevens Point, was elected president pro tempore. Senator Testin was the only Republican Senator to author a medical marijuana bill allowing smoking products and home/caregiver grows.
Sen. Dan Feyen, R-Fond du Lac, and Sen. Van Waggaard, R-Racine, won their re-elections for assistant majority leader and caucus chair, respectively;
and Sen. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie, became caucus vice-chair, Bernier authored a decrimianalization bill in 2017 as an Assembly Representative and was the lead author in the Senate and only Republican Senator besides Testin to support medical marijuana as an author or co-sponsor in 2019-20.
- Majority Leader – Sen. Devin LeMahieu
- President – Sen. Chris Kapenga
- Assistant Majority Leader – Sen. Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac)
- President Pro Tempore – Sen. Pat Testin (R-Stevens Point)
- Caucus Chair – Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)
- Caucus Vice-Chair – Sen. Kathy Bernier (R-Lake Hallie)
- Speaker – Rep. Robin Vos
- Speaker Pro Tempore – Rep. Tyler August (R-Lake Geneva)
- Majority Leader – Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna)
- Assistant Majority Leader – Rep. Kevin Petersen (R-Waupaca)
- Caucus Chair – Rep. Tyler Vorpagel (R-Plymouth)
- Caucus Vice-Chair – Rep. Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield)
- Caucus Secretary – Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek)
- Caucus Sergeant at Arms – Rep. Sam Kerkman (R-Salem)
We all know by now that Rep. Vos controlled the show and although out of one side of his mouth said he “supports medical marijuana” the other side of his mouth calls a public hearing on the issue a “circus”. It seems like his loyal followers Rep. August and Steineke are playing the same tune as Vos and blowing smoke somewhere…… and we all know it is not cannabis smoke.
On the Assembly Leadership Team, we can only really single out Rep. Samantha Kerkman and Rep. Cindy Duchow as the most supportive, if that.
With 74% supporting medical marijuana on Rep. Kerkman 2019 Spring Survey we highly expected her to sponsor medical cannabis legislation. She has not and during the budgt process had a chance to make more positive statements than she did about cannabis. She almost failed, but at least is willing to speak about medical marijuana reform in a public hearing setting.
A new name to marijuana reform is Rep. Cindi Duchow from the Town of Delafield. This Republican legislator looked like she was going to sign onto medical marijuana reform this session. She came out of the gates early and helped author a bill to protect firearms owners who are also medical marijuana patients . Rep. Duchow has not co-sponsored any additional legislation at this point and although labeled potential
As our newly elected Wisconsin State Senators and Assembly Representatives take their oath of office and begin their legislative cycle we need to keep marijuana reform on the agenda throughout the process. The first step of a new legislative cycle is communication from you, the constituent.
LeMahieu said he was considering whether to convene a lame-duck session in November or December to take up legislation that the Assembly has passed but that the Senate didn’t get to before the coronavirus pandemic emerged this spring.
LeMahieu said he liked some of those bills but wanted to talk to his colleagues before deciding what to do.
When the senators meet — whether it’s this year or in January — they could consider lots of things, but not highly likely it will be marijuana reform.