Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope you are having a great week and are looking forward to
I wanted to make sure you saw an
important package of legislation that I have recently circulated for
co-sponsorship with some of my colleagues.
Many of our neighbors are concerned with the influence that shadowy,
big-money groups have on our local elections. In this edition of the
Larson Report, we will discuss the views of our neighbors and what we
can do to stop the avalanche of money flowing into campaigns.
Don't forget to take a look at the 'In
Case You Missed It' section for a recap of other major happenings from
the last couple of weeks.
As always, please let me know if there
are issues important to you that you'd like to see discussed in the
State Senator, District 7
Wisconsin was once a state admired
for tough campaign finance laws that protected both our public voice and
the integrity of our political process. Those laws have since been
eroded by the Wisconsin GOP and are no longer effective. This can
clearly be seen by the Wisconsin campaign spending increase from
$16,930,606 in 2014 to $28,086,673 in 2016.
It is our right as citizens to have a strong voice in a healthy
democracy. We should not be buried by the bags of corporate cash that
are now free to be dumped into Wisconsin campaigns. For this reason, I
have introduced a Campaign Integrity package that would rectify some of
the betrayals on our democracy enacted by Walker and legislative
Republicans in 2015.
Before we discuss the details of the package, here's a brief history
of campaign finance and its critical importance to our democracy:
Many people today feel that "big money" has too much influence in
politics, and that our system of democratic equality is being jeopardized. This
perspective was cemented in the minds of people across the United States
after our nation began to see the effects of the controversial
Citizens United court decision. This ruling stated that
government cannot limit independent political spending by corporations
or other organizations because they have the same rights as people. This
court decision has impacted the United States' political landscape in
significant ways. In general, it has made it possible for politics to be
a pay-to-play game, as outside spending can, unfortunately,
local elections and lawmaking. In his dissenting opinion in the Citizens
United case, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote, "A democracy
cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws
are being bought and sold."
Additionally, as shown by referendums that have passed overwhelmingly across
Wisconsin in recent years, Wisconsinites agree that individual the
current system is not respecting citizens' rights and votes. Changes
need to be made to reduce the influence of millionaires and big,
corporate spenders on our politicians and political system as a whole.
In fact, as of November 2016, 96 communities across the state voted in
favor of referendums pertaining to this issue.
Despite broad public concern regarding this issue, Walker and
legislative Republicans responded by doing the opposite and passed
legislation that weakened campaign disclosure laws, increased campaign
contributions limits, and allowed candidates to coordinate with special
interest groups that keep their donors secret. This defies the concerns
and opinions of our neighbors. As stated by Ken from Milwaukee,
"Wisconsin's historic commitment to honest state government should not
be destroyed by those who have been bought by moneyed special
Campaign Integrity Package Unveiled
Given the attacks on our democracy and the rapid moves to legalize
corruption by Walker and legislative Republicans, my colleagues and I
held a press conference to unveil a 'Campaign Integrity' package that
promotes open and transparent government. The Campaign Integrity package
is a series of eight clean campaign bills that would put Wisconsin back
on the right side of history.
See a video of the press conference, here.
These bills are backed by advocates
for clean and transparent government, including the Wisconsin Democracy
Campaign and Common Cause in Wisconsin. These nonpartisan watchdog
groups were among the first to sound the alarm over the danger of the
Republican gutting of our Chapter 11 campaign finance laws. In fact, the
Campaign Integrity package reflects some of the most egregious problems
with our campaign finance laws that these groups have identified.
Continuing to let powerful special interest groups and wealthy
corporations have a financial stranglehold on Wisconsin
elections is a betrayal of our shared values, and jeopardizes our
democracy. The Campaign Integrity
package will restore our neighbors' faith in our democracy and promote
fairness in our campaign finance rules.
Here's a summary of the
proposals included in the Campaign Integrity package:
LRB-1290 -- "The Sensible Limits Act"
This proposal limits contributions to PACs, legislative campaign
committees, and political parties to no more than $10,000, with the
exception of a candidate contributing his or her personal funds to
his or her own candidate committee. The proposal also prohibits
political parties and legislative campaign committees from
establishing a segregated fund to use for general purposes, which
eliminates the segregated fund shell game that has allowed these
groups to avoid donation limits.
LRB-1291 -- "10K Limit Act"
This proposal will decrease the individual and candidate committee
contribution limit from $20,000 to $10,000 for statewide candidates.
LRB-1292 -- "Limiting Special Interest Influence Act"
This proposal reduces the donation limits on political action
committee contributions to candidates by half. The limits under the
proposal are generally the same as those that applied to political
action committee contributions before the 2015 legislation that
radically increased the financial influence of special interest
groups and their political action committees.
LRB-1293 -- "Closing the PAC Loophole Act"
This proposal closes a loophole in the legal definition of a PAC
that groups use to bypass donation limits. Currently, a political
action committee is defined a person (other than an individual)
whose major purpose is express advocacy or who spends more than 50%
of their total spending in a 12-month period on supporting or
defeating a referendum or contributing to a candidate committee,
legislative campaign committee, or political party. This proposal
defines a political action committee, for campaign finance purposes,
as a committee that includes a person (other than an individual) who
spends more than $1,000 in a 12-month period on expenditures for
express advocacy or any other aforementioned purposes.
LRB-1294 -- "Issue Ad Reporting Act"
Senator Erpenbach has been a campaign finance reform champion and no
reform package would be complete without his proposal to require
transparency in political communications. Last session this bill was
Senate Bill 201 and Senator Erpenbach has successfully passed this
measure once through the Senate already.
LRB-1295 -- "Coordination Control Act"
This proposal places the same financial limits on coordinated
expenditures between candidates and groups as are currently in place
for direct contributions. Allowing unchecked coordinated campaign
expenditures circumvents campaign donation limits, inviting
corruption and immense special interest influence.
LRB-1296 -- "No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act"
This proposal amends Wisconsin State Statutes to prohibit a
corporation, cooperative association, labor organization, or
federally recognized American Indian Tribe from making contributions
to segregated funds established and administered by a political
party or legislative campaign committee. This closes the segregated
fund shell game loophole used to funnel additional money to
LRB-1297 -- "Transparency for Campaign Contributions Act"
This proposal requires any committee that receives campaign finance
contributions of more than $100 cumulatively from an individual to
report that individualís place of employment and occupation, if any.
Current Wisconsin law does not require the disclosure of any donor's
place of employment, and only requires the reporting of the donor's
occupation at the '$200 and up' level.
Strong Campaign Finance Laws
History of Bipartisan Support in Wisconsin
For years, legislators from both sides of the aisle have publicly stated
their profound support for open and transparent spending in our local
In fact, in 1997, then-State
Representative Scott Walker
released a statement detailing his intentions to introduce
legislation to require out-of-state political action committees to file
reports with the state in order to show the source of funds in Wisconsin
Here's a telling section of the
statement, "In 1996, we saw one of the most elaborate money
laundering schemes in history," said Walker, "Wisconsin voters have a
right to know the source of all the money being poured into the state
from Washington, D.C.. and beyond."
Fast-forward to 2013, and you'll
find another bipartisan push for increased campaign finance disclosure.
Former Republican Senator Mike Ellis and Democratic campaign finance
champion Jon Erpenbach introduced a bill to require disclosure of any
communication within 60 days of an election that mentions a candidate
(Issue Ad Reporting Act).
As noted by a
Cap Times news article, several Republicans lawmakers,
including Sheila Harsdorf, former Senator Dale Schultz, Luther Olsen,
Rob Cowles, and Alberta Darling have supported similar bills in the
With neighbors in communities
around the state voicing their concern that big money is influencing our
local elections, it is clear that individuals across the political
spectrum want their elected officials to act on this issue. Given the
bipartisan support it has garnered, ranging from the governor to senior
Republican senators to freshmen Democratic legislators, this package of
common sense reforms should find its way through the legislative
week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth
information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison
and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most
pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are
some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
- Senate GOP Okays Putting
Health and Safety of Public at Risk
On Wednesday, the State Senate passed legislation that undermines
important consumer health and safety standards and jeopardizes
business and economic development. Senate Bills
109 put our neighbors at risk of exposure to contagious
diseases, parasites, and blood-borne pathogens.
Further, these bills eliminate the basic requirement of continuing
education for these professionals and remove the requirement that
instructors of cosmetology are even licensed to teach in their
field. By passing these irresponsible bills, we are putting our
family, friends, and neighbors in harmís way due to the potential
spread of bad practices and the health risks that this brings.
As elected officials, we have an obligation to ensure the health and
safety of those we represent. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans
betrayed this sacred trust by passing Senate Bill 108 and Senate
- Rushed Voucher Bill Passes
Last week, the Senate Committee on Education rushed through a bill
regarding unaccountable voucher schools (Senate Bill 293). Even
though the hearing on the bill was scheduled with barely 24 hours'
notice, the committee also scheduled a vote on the bill the same
day. Less than a week later, this bill was rapidly jammed through
the full Senate.
It's like we are arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as we
continue to vote on minor technical changes to a program that, for
over 25 years, has failed to achieve what it initially promised. At
the end of the day, Senate Bill 293 is about making life easier for
for-profit voucher schools, rather than ensuring that all of our
children receive a quality education.
As the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Education Committee,
I appreciate that those in control of the State Legislature have
finally listened to Democrats and concerned community members by
implementing background checks. However, this legislation still does
not go far enough to protect the over $500 million in tax money that
is being poured into these businesses that continue to skirt
In an effort to increase transparency within the voucher program, I
offered an amendment that would have ensured our neighbors know
exactly how much of their hard-earned tax dollars are going to the
unaccountable voucher program, as well as an amendment to stop the
irresponsible, rapid expansion of this failed program.
I am disappointed that the GOP-controlled Senate rejected common
sense and rushed through another bill that
fails to do enough to ensure true accountability within a growing,
See a video with more information on this topic, here.
- Democrats Call on Walker to
Join Bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance
Trump was Wisconsin this week. With his visit, our neighbors are
reminded of the president's recent, irresponsible decision to reject
facts, science, and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Climate change is real, it is happening, and we must participate in,
if not lead the worldwide efforts to combat it.
That's why 35 State Representatives and 11 State Senators sent a
letter yesterday calling on Governor Walker to have Wisconsin to
join the bipartisan United States Climate Alliance and recommit our
state to our tradition of conservation by developing and
implementing a state-based plan to fight climate change.
Understanding that the U.S. must continue to play a significant role
in addressing climate change; state and local governments across our
nation are pledging to honor the Paris accord and promising to
continue taking the lead in mitigating climate change.
Wisconsin should not fall behind the rest of the world due to an
erratic and shortsighted decision by a president desperate to
distract from the growing cloud of illegitimacy surrounding him.
Further, given the recent reports on Wisconsin's dismal slump in job
creation, we cannot afford to reject both the economic opportunity
that green jobs would bring to Wisconsin and the moral obligation of
taking a stand to address climate change.
Read the letter sent to Governor Walker, here.
Orange Day June 2
On June 2, I wore orange for Gun Violence Awareness Day, and also
spoke with other elected officials and neighbors at a local
legislative update meeting. One of our neighbors brought up the
importance of common sense gun legislation.
One topic that came up was the epidemic of gun violence in
Wisconsin. Across our state, Republican legislators continue to face
public anger and outrage as they make excuses for pushing the
dangerous Permitless Concealed Carry bill that recently had a public
hearing in a Senate Committee.
Some Republican legislators are finding themselves on the wrong side
of public opinion. In fact, in a poll conducted by Everytown and
Moms Demand Action -- Wisconsin found that 91% of our neighbors
favor current, minimal training requirements for those wishing to
carry a concealed gun. How can they be so against public safety?
Sadly, it's not hard to connect the dots. Gun manufacturers and gun
advocacy groups like the NRA have a death grip on Republican
politics in our state. Their puppeteer influence is troubling. Take
a look at
this article by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
titled, "NRA Behind GOP Bill on Guns with No Permits"
The article states, "In Wisconsin, the NRA has spent about $3.6
million since January 2008 on outside electioneering activities to
support GOP and conservative legislative and statewide candidates,
including about $23,400 on the legislative elections last fall.
Nearly all of the NRA's electioneering spending, about $3.5 million,
was to support Walker's 2010 general, 2012 recall and 2014 general
elections for governor."
Sadly this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.
It's past time state leaders take a stand against the bully tactics
of the gun manufacturers
and their lobby groups. At the very foundation of the Constitution,
we are all guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness. Each of our neighbors deserves to live in safe,
prosperous communities free of the fear of gun violence.
Instead of diminishing public safety, we must enact common-sense
proposals like universal background checks and gun locks sold with
handguns to prevent accidental child deaths.
- Assembly GOP Anti-Education
Republican representatives recently released final details of an
education budget scheme that continues a dangerous pattern of
shortchanging our kids.
After historic cuts and years of intentional underfunding, the GOP
is again pushing a K-12 budget that dismally fails to address the
crippling lack of resources for our neighborhood schools. In fact,
this latest proposal cuts $70 million from Walker's already watered
down funding plan. It even infringes on the right of our local
communities to make up for the lack of state investments by forcing
more regulations on how school districts can raise local funds
through referendums. Our kids deserve better than this.
Don't be fooled by the false claims and slick advertising of the
anti-education GOP. We can invest more in education, keep a low
revenue limit, and keep taxes down for our neighbors. The governor
and GOP lawmakers are so busy believing their false narrative that
they are completely ineffective. Their failure to govern is a clear
indication that they should step aside and let others lead.
There are solid alternatives to the GOP's faulty policy like
Superintendent Evers' budget request, which fairly invests in our
children's future while holding the line on taxes. There are better
options for our kids to ensure fair opportunities and strong
See the plan in more detail, here.
neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost
importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and
your family are listed below.
Summer Soulstice Festival and 1st
Saturday, June 17, 2017, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Project 313 will be onstage at 3 p.m. and Rhythm Method will play from
7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Help Oak Creek kick off summer on Saturday, June
17, at Drexel Town Square because great music, friends, and food
are good for the soul!
CLICK HERE for more
Wednesday, June 21, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Kids of all ages are welcome to come to the South Milwaukee Public
Library to play with LEGOs as part of their summer reading program.
Visit the South Milwaukee Public Library website for more activities
throughout the summer.
9th Annual Garden Tour
Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Come to the South Milwaukee Historical Society Museum to tour
seven gardens and purchase hand-crafted garden items made by local
artisans. The tour will be held rain or shine. Advance tickets are $8 or
$10 the day of. For more information or to
purchase tickets contact Patti Bergeson at 414-768-9549 or
or Vicki Maloney at 414-530-6020 or
Art in the Park
Every 2nd Saturday through September, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Every second Saturday from May through September come enjoy over 50
rotating artists, live music, and art workshops for children. Food and
refreshments for visitors will be available as they enjoy the spring
weather and fine art. This year BVAP will be held in Humboldt Park
and will offer free admission, making it a wonderful local event for
the whole family!
CLICK HERE for more information.
Jazz in the Park
Thursdays June 1 through August 31, 2017
Jazz in the Park is a weekly event featuring a wide array of musicians
that takes place in Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park. Concerts
will start at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, but people are encouraged to come
socialize and enjoy happy hour beginning at 5 p.m.
CLICK HERE for more
Cathedral Square Market
Saturdays June 3 through October 7, 2017, 9 a.m. to 1p.m.
The Cathedral Square Market exhibits local vendors of items ranging from
baked goods to clothing. Held every Saturday morning, the market is
opportune to learn about and soak up the local culture.
CLICK HERE for more
Chill on the Hill
Tuesdays, June through August from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Bay View is home to Humboldt Park, which features a beautiful band shell
specially designed for acoustic excellence. Bay View neighbors gather
on the vast hillside above the band shell to enjoy music performed by
local musicians. Bay View Neighborhood Association puts on Chill on the
Hill in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks. Bring your own food
and drink or patronize one of the many excellent food vendors that set
up at Chill each week.
For more information, including parking info, CLICK HERE.
Hot Summer Milwaukee -- Find fun
summer learning for your kids!
Looking for some fun and educational programs for your child this
summer? Hot Summer Milwaukee is a collaborative, communitywide effort
to expand and promote fun summer learning opportunities for kids in the
Milwaukee area. Through
HotSummerMKE.com, families can be connected with summer schools,
community programs, and fun events in their neighborhood that will keep
your child engaged throughout the summer months. Sign up for classes or
enroll your child in campÖ all in one place!
CLICK HERE for more information.