Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Democrats take back the Senate, prevent GOP radicalism (at least, for a limited time)

Shift in power a change that must be defended between now and November

State Democrats officially took control of the Wisconsin Senate today, selecting Fred Risser as the Senate President and making various other committee appointments for the remainder of the term.

Democrats took control of the Senate after the latest round of recall elections. Though they failed to remove Gov. Scott Walker from office, they were successful in removing three Republican senators (two in 2011, and one last month) to gain a 17-16 majority. Additionally, one of the Republican sixteen is Sen. Dale Schultz, a moderate who has been known to vote with Democrats on certain issues as well, such as the collective bargaining bill and the proposed mining bill compromise.

The gains in the Senate may be short-lived, however -- in November, half of the "upper house" will be up for grabs once again, meaning that either Democrats or Republicans could hold the chamber by the time it meets again for its next session in 2013.

Still, the takeover is both symbolic AND practical. For starters, it shows that the people of Wisconsin aren't 100 percent behind Walker's plans for the state, that they want a split government that isn't focused on destroying Wisconsin values.

Beyond that, however, the change in leadership prevents Walker from calling a special session between now and January to pass even more extreme changes to our state. Had Democrats failed to win the Senate, there would have been nothing to stop Walker and his Republican allies from passing bills that espoused a radically conservative agenda. With Democrats in charge, such extremist bills can't pass without their consent.

The change from Republican-to-Democratic control is a welcomed one. Between now and November, however, the shift must be defended. We can't afford to give such control back to the GOP -- not while Scott Walker's running the show.

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