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Monday is first day of new session for Wisconsin’s Legislature

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MADISON -- Monday, January 7th was the first day of a new session for Wisconsin's Legislature. Republicans now control the Assembly, the Senate and the Governor's office, but top state Democrats say they don't have the support of the voters.

The November elections have come and gone, and Monday was the first day of the new Legislature in Madison. As a result of the fall elections, Democrats got more votes statewide, but Republicans have control of the Assembly and the Senate. Some say that's because of redistricting.  Now the question is, does the GOP have a mandate?

"I do believe that Republicans have a mandate.  We have had more elections over the course of two years than any state in the country.  Every citizen has had an opportunity to accept or reject what Republicans have done over the past two years," Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R - Burlington) said.

Vos says the Republican agenda has been ratified time and again in a series of elections from Gov. Scott Walker's recall to the most recent November votes. 

"Was it somehow not legitimate because the voters got to speak in November and they did not choose liberal Democrats? No," Vos said.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson (D - Milwaukee) says the Republicans only retained control because the GOP redrew the electoral maps in their favor after winning the 2010 elections.

"They feel like they have that mandate, but it's a gerrymandered mandate.  It doesn't have the total support of the people of Wisconsin behind it," Larson said.

On Monday, new state Senators were sworn in, and new members of the Assembly took the oath of office.

Looking down on the Assembly proceedings was former Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, who stepped aside in a failed bid for U.S. Senate.

Even as the protests of last session lingered, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D - Kenosha) says a new speaker is an opportunity to turn the page on the rancor and division of last session. 

"It'll have a significant impact, no question about it when you have two brothers grow up together you've got a different relationship entirely so I think it'll change the dynamics considerably," Barca said.

"It's going to be interesting to try to work with Speaker Vos. I think it'll be fine," Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R - Juneau) said.

The new speaker says he wants to put an end to all-night debates and focus on fixing the economy with bipartisan ideas.

"Between now and the end of the session, we are hopefully going to have one of the most productive sessions in our state's history. We have a lot of issues to deal with. Hopefully we can leave the contentious issues of the past behind us," Vos said.

Republican leaders in both the Assembly and the Senate say their top priority is passing a mining bill.  

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