Incoming Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, appointed two Democrats to co-chair committees with Republicans, a move the body has not seen since the 1995 legislative session.
Vos said Wednesday Rep. Leon Young, D-Milwaukee, will be co-chairing the State and Federal Relations Committee, and Rep. Jill Billings, D-La Crosse, will co-chair the Constitution and Ethics Committee, according to the Associated Press.
The Assembly will once again see a large Republican majority, after the party took 60 of the 99 seats in the November elections. Because of this, the committees will likely still see a larger Republican majority, Jay Heck, executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin, said.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, called the news a positive gesture, but noted Republicans may still continue to oppose bipartisanship in the Legislature.
“If they’re going to shove school vouchers down our throat, if they’re going to cut funding from the [University of Wisconsin], if they’re going to attack women, that’s not a bipartisan agenda,” Taylor said. “Let’s see what kind of policies the representatives push.”
She added she hopes Vos and other Republicans are “truly amenable” to the Democrats’ ideas.
Heck agreed Vos made a good move, but said the real test would be whether the next legislative session is bipartisan.
“What happens is going to be much more important than these sort of symbolic moves, but he’s off to a good start,” Heck said. “It shows promise.”
Heck said Wisconsinites are “sick and tired” of partisanship, especially after the divisiveness of the past two years, which saw two rounds of recall elections, including one of Gov. Scott Walker.
Democrats were also divisive when they were in control of the Legislature, he said, adding that people want to see parties set aside their political interests and work together to solve the problems Wisconsin faces.
Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, said Vos’s move was positive and that he hopes to see more bipartisanship in the Capitol as well.
“I come from the world of business and industry, and we always know how to work with everybody,” Honadel said. “I think we have to do our part to be bipartisan here at the Capitol. You don’t have to sacrifice your principles just to work together with somebody, that’s for sure.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report