Back in Action: Wisconsin lawmakers to watch
Written by Jessie Opoien, The Capital Times
Assembly Assistant Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point: Shankland, 27, was elected assistant minority leader in the Assembly after winning re-election to her second term representing the 71st Assembly District. She sees the growing presence of younger and less experienced legislators as a positive asset for Wisconsin, noting that more than half of lawmakers currently serving in the Assembly weren’t in office four years ago during the passage of Act 10 and the protests that ensued. Her goals for the session include tackling income inequality and forging coalitions wherever possible with lawmakers across the aisle.
Shankland will serve as ranking Democrat on the Assembly Committee on Workforce Development and as a member of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage. She will also be a member of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules, the Joint Legislative Council and the Assembly Rules Committee.
“I think young people really want to get past that partisan brinksmanship that we’ve seen both in Madison and in the nation’s capital, and I think we have a story to tell,” Shankland told the Cap Times in November. “The number one issue for us is jobs and the economy — and most voters would say the same — but for us it’s a very different issue.”
Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake: Quinn, 24, will be the youngest legislator in a very "green" Assembly. Quinn ousted incumbent Stephen Smith, D-Shell Lake, with a sizable margin in November to represent the 75th Assembly District. Despite his age, Quinn is no newcomer to politics, having served on the Rice Lake City Council in high school and as mayor of Rice Lake from 2010 to 2012. The incoming legislator pointed out to the Associated Press that his age puts him closer to experiences like attending school, buying a home and starting a family. Quinn will serve as vice-chairman of the Assembly Committee on Aging and Long Term Care and Committee of Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage.
Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg: LeMahieu, 42, was elected in November to fill the 9th Senate District seat vacated by Joe Leibham, who lost the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District. LeMahieu owns and publishes the Lakeshore Weekly and has served on the Sheboygan County Board since 2006.
“As Chairman of the Elections and Local Government Committee, I am looking forward to working on reforming the GAB, Campaign Finance and John Doe Laws in light of the recent GAB audit and previous court rulings regarding campaign finance,” LeMahieu said. “We have many challenges facing us as we head into the new session, such as the transportation budget and general budget deficits. We need to prioritize the state's needs while continuing to reduce the tax burden on Wisconsinites.”
Rep. Mandela Barnes, D-Milwaukee: Barnes, 28, will enter his second year representing the 11th Assembly District. The community activist made news in 2012 by ousting Democratic then-Rep. Jason Fields in what he called a “progressive sweep” in the Milwaukee area. Barnes was previously an executive director for MICAH, part of a statewide coalition of faith-based groups calling for prison reforms in Wisconsin, and has been vocal in urging the state to enact policies to address racial disparities. Watch for more work on those issues from Barnes as he serves as ranking Democrat on the Assembly Corrections Committee and as a member of the Committees on Education, Jobs and the Economy and Small Business Development.