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VIDEO REPORT: Out For 3 Days, Cullen Rejoins Democratic Caucus

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

UPDATED Friday, July 27, 2012--6p.m.
MADISON--The big news at the state Capitol today is that Sen. Tim Cullen is rejoining the democratic caucus--and he'll be chairing two new committees.

Earlier this week, Senator Cullen said he was leaving the Democratic Caucus--and was weighing whether to become an independent. Cullen said he was insulted by Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller's offer to chair a committee.

Today, Cullen and Miller held a joint press conference to announce Senator Cullen's return to the caucus--and new committee assignments: He'll be chairing the Special Committee on Mining and the Committee on Small Business and Venture Capital.
"I'm very, very pleased with my committee assignments," said Sen. Cullen, D-Janesville. "Added together they offer me a chance to work on all the things that I've come to Madison to work on."

Senator Cullen will also be the vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Revenue, Tax Fairness and Insurance--and will also serve on the Transportation Projects Commission.

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UPDATED Friday, July 27, 2012 --- 3:00 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State Sen. Tim Cullen is back in the state Senate Democratic caucus three days after leaving it in what he now calls a "little squabble."

Cullen and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller announced his return to the caucus Friday.

Cullen announced on Tuesday that he would no longer meet with Democrats, and was contemplating becoming an independent, after he felt snubbed because he didn't get the committee chairmanship he wanted.

Miller created two new special committees on mining and venture capital for Cullen to chair.

Democrats took majority control 17-16 following last month's recall elections in which one Republican incumbent lost. However, November elections will determine which party holds the Senate starting in 2013.

The Senate is not scheduled to be in session the rest of this year.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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UPDATED Tuesday, July 24, 2012 -- 9:15 p.m.

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) tells NBC 15 he thinks he was not offered a major leadership role because Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona) thinks he did not do enough to help the party in recent recalls, and that others would benefit more from leadership roles at the polls.

"I'm no longer a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus, I will not attend the caucus, and I will not be bound by any decisions, procedural or substantive, that the caucus may make," said Cullen. "It's so blatantly aimed at me, intended to send me a message that I am not welcome and that he can treat me however he wants to and that somehow I am supposed to take it."

Miller declined our invitation to answer questions. In a statement he said he offered Cullen chairmanship of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism, which Cullen declined.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) says he understands Cullen won't become a Republican, but he already called him today hoping to communicate more.

"I'd love to sit down with him about what those priorities are and if there's a place for him to be more effective," said Fitzgerald, "Either as an independent legislator, or by working with the Republicans."

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UPDATED Tuesday, July 24, 2012 --- 4:08 p.m.

Statement by Senate Majority Leader Miller

Madison – “I am disappointed in Senator Cullen and the decision he made today. Senator Cullen turned down the chairmanship of the Committee on Small Business Development and Tourism. He told me that if that was the committee offered to him, he would rather chair no committee at all. It was an important committee as small business is the economic engine for Wisconsin.”

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Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2012 --- 3:12 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A Democratic state senator says he has quit his party's caucus after Majority Leader Mark Miller offered him a weak committee chairmanship post.

Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville says Miller insulted him by offering him the chairmanship of the Small Business and Tourism Committee. Cullen turned the position down, saying the panel doesn't matter, and Miller responded by making him the only Senate Democrat without any committee chairmanship.

Cullen says he will no longer join Senate Democrats' meetings and is considering whether to become an independent.

Miller's spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Democrats currently hold a 17-16 edge in the Senate. That will jump to 17-15 next month after Sen. Rich Zipperer, a Pewaukee Republican, leaves to join Gov. Scott Walker's staff.

Copyright 2012. The Associated Press.

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Letter sent by Senator Tim Cullen in Response to Committee Assignments:

Senate Democratic Colleagues,

I thought many of you would want to see the attached document, which lists Sen. Miller’s committee chairmanship assignments and other key appointments by senator. (Attached above)

Sen. Miller’s decisions are an insult to me and the people of the 15th Senate District. I came back to Madison to do what I could to help the Rock County area recover and make a difference on issues where I have some knowledge based on my background, which includes 20 years in the private health care industry, experience on the Janesville School Board, and service as the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services.

Sen. Miller has made clear that he does not value or need my presence in Senate Committee leadership and, quite obviously, in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

He has made his decision, and now I will make mine. As of the sending of this email, I am no longer a member of the Senate Democratic Caucus. I will decide over the next few days or weeks whether to become an Independent. I will not become a Republican.

This entire episode makes clear to me that Sen. Miller has no time for my independent ideas and my support of bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems.

Sen. Miller made me a minimal, unacceptable offer on the phone. We then agreed, at his suggestion, to meet in person to try to resolve this matter. However, he then went ahead and announced his committee assignments before we met.

During a phone conversation following Sen. Miller’s announcement of committee appointments, I offered several alternative ideas that differed from my original committee requests, but he made it clear that he would not entertain any appointments on my behalf.

I look forward to working with each member of the state senate to address the issues facing Wisconsin.

It did not have to come to this, and for that I am sorry.

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