About the Joint Legislative Council

Joint Legislative Council

The Council's primary responsibility is to establish study committees to study major issues and problems identified by the Legislature. The study committees appointed by the Council are made up of Legislators and citizens who are interested in or knowledgeable about the study topic.  By using citizens on these committees, the Legislature benefits from the knowledge and expertise of Wisconsin's citizens.  Citizens serving on Council study committees not only help in developing public policy, but also learn more about how their state government works.  Study committees do most of their work during the interim.  The Council reviews the legislation recommended by the study committees and, if a majority of Council members (12) vote for introduction, the legislation is sponsored by the Joint Legislative Council.

The Joint Legislative Council’s History

The Legislative Council was created in 1947. Initially, the Council consisted of five senators and seven representatives. The staff consisted of an Executive Secretary and two assistants. The Council was charged to conduct studies of matters of concern to the Legislature, either during or between sessions of the Legislature, and to report its recommendations to the next general or special session.

To conduct these studies, the Council was authorized to appoint subcommittees "consisting of members of the legislature and such citizens having special knowledge on a particular subject as the council may determine...". Members of the Council and its subcommittees were not compensated for their service beyond reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses.

Creation of the Council launched two important experiments in legislative governance: it provided a mechanism for the open and deliberative study of complex problems and the development of legislative solutions to those problems; and it involved private citizens in the legislative process.

In the 60-plus years since its creation, the Council has been renamed the Joint Legislative Council and expanded to 22 members, including the entire leadership of the Legislature. The Council’s charge is essentially unchanged and its role in the legislative process continues today as it originally did. The experiments in legislative study and citizen involvement have been great successes and are now institutions in Wisconsin government.