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Wisconsin Capitol (copy)

State lawmakers have hired a new director for the agency that gives them legal advice, while a future merger of agencies that serve lawmakers remains possible, GOP legislative leaders said Monday.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Organization cast a unanimous bipartisan vote Monday to hire Anne Sappenfield as Legislative Council director. The council, one of five nonpartisan agencies that serve lawmakers, gives legal advice to lawmakers and staffs legislative committees.

The committee also unanimously voted Monday to authorize an outside study of how to improve services provided by, and the organization of, the legislative agencies.

Lawmakers and legislative staffers recently have had a behind-the-scenes exchange about merging the Legislative Council and Legislative Reference Bureau, the bill-drafting agency for lawmakers, public records show.

Kit Beyer, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said in a Monday statement that “the merger is still being considered but it’s not imminent.”

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Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said in a statement that last year’s retirement of the previous Legislative Council director, Terry Anderson, created a natural opportunity to assess the service agencies.

“I’ve heard feedback from members of the Senate Republican caucus that we want more efficiency and more coordination among the agencies,” Fitzgerald said.

He said the outside study approved Monday will seek measures the service agencies could take “that would allow them to better serve the Legislature in their nonpartisan capacity.”

Sappenfield has 25 years experience in nonpartisan legislative agencies, including the Legislative Audit Bureau and Legislative Council, according to a statement from legislative leaders announcing her hiring. She will begin as director on April 15.

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