Looking at lawmakers ‘by the numbers’
There is no “average” Wisconsin legislator. Every one of them has a different personal narrative that led to the Capitol. But, every two years, the Legislative Reference Bureau asks for information on those elected to run the state for the next two years.
Meet your 2013-14 lawmakers.
Salaries: Legislators are paid $49,943 per year, which has not been changed for four years. Lawmakers also claim $88 per day for food and lodging expenses when on official business; Dane County-area legislators can claim $44 per day. Expense stipends are tax-exempt, and the amounts have not changed since 2001.
Number of first-term legislators: 25 of the 98 Assembly members (one seat is vacant) are serving their first term. Republican Sen. Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac is new to the Legislature. Two other senators—Republican Sens. Paul Farrow and Tom Tiffany—served in the Assembly and were elected senators last year.
“It is the first Assembly since 1985 in which a majority of members are in their first or second terms,” the Legislative Reference Bureau noted. “It is only the second time this has occurred since 1973.”
The longest-serving Assembly member is Republican Rep. Al Ott of Forest Junction, elected in 1987. The most veteran senator is Democratic Sen. Fred Risser of Madison. Risser’s 56 years in the Legislature make him the longest-serving state legislator in the nation.
Gender: 33 of the 131 legislators —or one in four—are women. That includes nine of the 33 senators and 24 of the 98 Assembly members. The 33-women total is two more than at the start of the 2011-12 session.
Gender breakdown by party: Of the 18 Republican senators, four are women; five of the 15 Democratic senators are women. Of the 68 Assembly Republicans, seven are women; 17 of the 39 Assembly Democrats are women.
Historical gender totals: At the start of the 2003-04 session, there were 35 women legislators; in 1993, there were 36; and in 1983, there were 25.
Minority representation: The 98-member Assembly has three African-American members and one Hispanic—down from seven in 2011. The 33-member Senate has two African-American women.
Marital status: 76 of the 98 Assembly members and 24 of the 33 senators were married as of Jan. 1.
Average Senate age: 57, “making this the oldest Senate since at least 1943,” according to the reference bureau. Senators range in age from 32 (Democratic Senate Leader Chris Larson) to 85 (Risser). Fourteen senators are 60 or older.
Average Assembly age: 49, with an age range of 25 to 72. Five Assembly members are in their 20s, 42 are in their 30s or 40s, and 50 are in their 50s or 60s.
Senate occupations: 12 senators listed themselves as full-time legislators. There are three attorneys and a farm manager, small-business owner and nurse.
Assembly occupations: 35 Assembly members listed themselves as full-time legislators, and 29 others said they are self-employed or own businesses, including a handful of accountants. There is also a physician, labor arbitrator, forester, veterinarian and librarian. Six said they formerly were teachers, and four others said they had worked as law enforcement or corrections officers.
Senators’ education: 28 senators have academic degrees, and four attended technical colleges or universities. Four senators have law degrees, six have master’s degrees; one senator has both and another has a doctorate in health care administration.
Representatives’ education: 73 Assembly members have academic degrees, and another 22 attended colleges, universities or vocational or trade schools after graduating from high school. Eleven of them hold law degrees, 15 have master’s degrees, and 42 have bachelor’s degrees.
Military service: Seven senators served in the military, including one in World War II and another in Vietnam. Twelve members of the Assembly have served in the armed forces, including five who are Vietnam veterans. Three served in the Persian Gulf War and two in the Iraq War.
It wasn’t part of the reference bureau summary, but several legislators first came to the Capitol as aides, learned about the Capitol and politics, and then ran for office when their bosses retired or were defeated. Others first tasted politics as aides and interns for members of Congress.
Former Capitol aides include Democratic Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Julie Lassa.
Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. This column reflects his personal perspective. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.