Profile of the 2013 Wisconsin Legislature

The Legislative Reference Bureau has prepared and interesting summary of the characteristics of the Wisconsin Legislature. It includes information about party affiliation, marital status, legislative experience, occupation, gender, age, educational background, and military service for this and the past 6 legislatures.

The Senate Profile

The senate has 33 members, including 18 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Of the total, nine senators are women and two are African-American (both women). Twenty-four senators are married.

Legislative Experience. Of the 16 seats up for election in 2012, 13 members from the 2011 Senate were reelected, one incumbent was defeated in the general election, and two new members were elected from open seats. Seventeen members are holdover senators in the middle of their terms.

A total of 26 senators have previous service in the assembly. In terms of combined prior service in both the senate and the assembly, 11 senators have served in 10 or more biennial sessions; 15 served in 5-9 sessions; and the remaining 7 have served in fewer than 5 sessions. Most notable is Senator Fred Risser (D-26th District), currently the longest-serving legislator in the United States. Risser also has the distinction of the longest legislative tenure in Wisconsin state history, with 25 prior sessions in the senate and three in the assembly for a total of 56 years of service.

Three senators had previous experience in a legislative staff position. Three served on the staff of a member of Congress and two worked for either a state senator or representative. One worked as staff for a congressman and state legislator.

Local Government Experience. Seventeen senators have had experience in local government as elected public officials. Seven served as county board supervisors and, of these, one was also an alderman. Five additional senators served on city councils, two were on school boards, and four were on a town board. One senator served on a school board and city council.

Age. As of January 7, 2013, the average age of a senator was 57, making this the oldest senate since at least 1943. The 2013 Senate has an age range from 32 to 85 years. The age ranges for the senators were: two senators under 40, seven in the 40-49 range, 10 in the 50-59 range, and 14 senators 60 years of age or older.

Occupation. Twelve senators list themselves as full-time legislators. Three senators are currently practicing attorneys. Other current occupations include farm management, small business owner, and nursing.

Education. Thirty-two senators continued their formal education beyond high school. Twenty-eight have academic degrees and four attended either a technical school or a college or university. Four senators hold law degrees, six have master’s degrees (one senator has both). One has a Ph.D; and 18 others hold bachelor’s degrees.

Military Service. Seven senators have served in the nation’s armed forces: one in the Army, one in the Navy, four in the U.S. Army Reserve, and one in the Wisconsin Air National Guard. One senator is a veteran of World War II and one is a Vietnam veteran.

The Assembly Profile

There are 99 representatives to the assembly, including 60 Republicans and 39 Democrats. Twenty-four members are women, one more than in the 2011 session. Three representatives are African-American (including one woman), and one is Hispanic. Seventy-six representatives are married.

Legislative Experience. Seventy-four representatives were reelected in 2012, while 25 are serving their first term in the assembly. Four of the 2012 incumbents were defeated in the general election, two of whom were paired against other members by redistricting. Two others were defeated in the primary. The longest serving representative is Representative Al Ott (R-3rd District), who has served in the assembly since 1987. Other representatives with 10 or more prior sessions include two with 11, and one with 10. Other returning representatives include 16 with 5-9 sessions, 8 with 4 sessions, 9 with 3 sessions, 8 with 2 sessions, and 29 with one session. It is the first Assembly since 1985 in which a majority of members are in their first or second terms. It is only the second time this has occurred since 1973.

Twelve representatives have had previous experience in a legislative staff position. Four worked for a member of the U.S. Congress, seven worked in the state legislature, and one worked for a member of Congress and a legislator.

Local Government Experience. Of the 48 representatives who have had experience in local elected office, four held office at both the county and municipal level, 16 others held county office, and an additional 28 had municipal service.

Eighteen representatives have served as county board supervisors, 16 as city council members, six as town board members, and three others were village trustees. Five have served as school board members. Four have served as city mayors and one as a village president. One is a former city clerk and one is a former county clerk. One is a former circuit court judge.

Age. As of January 7, 2013, the average age of a representative was 49, with an age range from 25 to 72 years. The age ranges for the representatives were: five in the 20-29 range, 15 in the 30-39 range, 27 in the 40-49 range, 31 in the 50-59 range, 19 in the 60-69 range, and two 70 or older.

Occupation. Thirty-five representatives list themselves as full-time legislators. Four representatives are currently farmers, and seven are currently practicing attorneys. Among the other representatives, 29 list themselves as business owners or self-employed. Other current occupations include physician, labor arbitrator, forester, veterinarian, accountant, and librarian. Former occupations listed include six teachers and four law enforcement or corrections officers.

Education. Of the 94 representatives who have continued their formal education beyond high school, 73 hold academic degrees and 22 attended a college, university, or agricultural, business, technical, or trade school after high school graduation. Listed by their highest degree, one has an M.D., one has a D.V.M., and 11 hold law degrees. Fifteen hold master’s degrees, 42 have bachelor’s degrees, and two hold an associate degree.

Military Service. Twelve representatives have served in the armed forces. Two served in the Army, three in the Air Force, and three in the Navy. Four were members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard or the U.S. Army Reserve. Two of the Navy veterans later served in the U.S. Naval Reserve. Five representatives are Vietnam veterans. Three representatives served in the Persian Gulf War, and two have served in the Iraq War.

Data on the past 6 legislatures from the LRB.