Will senate recalls distract in new legislative session?

MADISON -- Tuesday is a big day when it comes to politics in the state of Wisconsin, as Democrats plan to turn in signatures that would put four state senators back on the ballot in recall races across the state, from Racine to Chippewa Falls. Tuesday is also the start of the next session for the Wisconsin legislature, and with the recall effort ramping up, many are wondering whether any work will get done.

Lawmakers say it will be difficult to accomplish much of anything in the hyper-partisan campaign environment, but after the last legislative session, during which Republicans passed several major items, like the Voter ID Law, the Open Carry Law, and redistricting, legislators are headed into this session with a short list of goals.

Fresh off nine contentious recall elections last summer, the Wisconsin State Senate is bracing for another round. "They only have a one-vote majority, and I think what's happening now is, these four senators are going to have to be in their districts, explaining why they passed the things that they did," Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said.

When signatures are turned in on Tuesday, observers expect four more Republican senators under recall: Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau, Van Wanggaard of Racine, Pam Galloway of Wausau and Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls. The GOP holds a one-vote majority, so each seat is critical to the Republican agenda, meaning the campaigns could become the total focus of this legislative session.

Governor Scott Walker is warning that the Wisconsin State Senate may be paralyzed by the process. "It's more of an issue for lawmakers. You saw that during the summer, it was a huge distraction for those lawmakers," Walker said.

As it is, Republican leaders are going into the session with just three priorities: allowing for an iron ore mine in the northern part of the state, easing environmental regulations for development on wetlands, and creating a venture capital fund to help new businesses get started.

Larson says the recalls are the result of votes taken last session. "If they're going to say they can't move on their agenda anymore, I don't think that's an argument that people are going to be upset with. The problem is, the recall is happening because of the agenda they have," Larson said.

Walker says it's important that voters are aware of, and understand, the facts. "Senator Fitzgerald and others, as long as they're able to get the facts out, the facts will allow them, as they'll allow me, to earn the trust of the majority of people in their districts," Walker said. Walker says even if he has to run a recall campaign, he'll stay focused on his job as Governor, and fulfilling his original promise to help create 250,000 jobs in the state in four years.