Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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 A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and a New Year’s filled with family, friends, and relaxation. With the inauguration of Governor Evers and state lawmakers this week, the 2019-2020 legislative session is officially underway. I am excited to work with our state's new leaders to address the pressing issues facing Wisconsin.

In the next four years, I believe that we can finally see movement on issues that were long stalled during Wisconsin’s time of one-party rule. We must again prioritize the teaching of our children in Wisconsin and re-balance the education funding formula so that we are not picking winners and losers based on where children happen to live. Every child deserves early access to education. We need to commit ourselves to full-day 4K so our Wisconsin kids have the educational opportunities that bring a lifetime of success.  

I am looking forward to addressing the troubling issue of drunk driving in Wisconsin. This issue has gone unaddressed for too long and too many of our neighbors, friends, and family members have been killed or injured by drunk drivers. I will be re-introducing legislation this session that will require everyone convicted of a DUI (including first offenses) to use an ignition interlock device (IID) before getting behind the wheel. It is time to address this dangerous problem to prevent injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers.

In case you missed it, I recently gave The Democratic Weekly Radio Address about the importance of changing Wisconsin's culture of drinking and driving. It is unacceptable that nearly 26% of Wisconsin adults admit to driving while intoxicated which ranks our state as worst in the nation. In fact, just over the recent New Year's holiday, there were 24 arrests for impaired driving in Milwaukee County alone, 14 of which were first-time offenses. The time for change is now.

We will renew Wisconsin’s commitment to good-government that has been greatly diminished in recent years. In order for our democracy to function properly, it must do so in an open and honest fashion. Our constituents have a right to know who is influencing their elected officials. That is why we must prioritize laws that make it easier to hold elected officials accountable and make it harder for special interests to buy and bully politicians. Members of the legislature should no longer be able to simply delete any public record they want at any time they want. Additionally, we must limit the amount of money political action committees and individuals can give to candidates for office. About four dozen special interest groups reported a record $36.5 million in independent expenditures in Wisconsin’s statewide and legislative fall elections, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. I know, that if we work together, we can limit the corrupting influence money has on our democracy and make our government more accessible to those who have been shut out of the process.

I heard from many of our neighbors about the issue areas that they care most about and I will be sure to keep all of their perspectives in mind as this session continues. Please continue to reach out to me about the issues that are important to you.   

In Service, 

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Inauguration in the Senate!
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It was an absolute honor to once again take the oath of office in the Senate Chambers in the State Capitol. Serving my friends and neighbors in the 7th Senate District is both a pleasure and a great responsibility - a responsibility that I take very seriously. 

Over the next four years, I look forward to hearing the many concerns, priorities, and issues of those who have entrusted me to be the voice of their values in Madison.

We are hitting the ground running and are already introducing legislation to protect our public safety and ensure your government is open and honest. However, those aren't the only issues that Wisconsin faces this legislative session and I encourage you to reach out to me directly with any issues that you may be facing. I know that we can all work together to move Wisconsin forward in these next four year.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you in the State Senate.   

Inauguration of Governor Evers!
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If you are like me, you are excited about Wisconsin's new Governor! No matter what happens in the coming legislative session, it is very heartening to know that Governor Evers and, by extension, Wisconsin families will again have a say in our state government. 

The era of one-party rule in Wisconsin is now over. I know that there will still be contention and disagreement in Madison and that Wisconsin progressives will still face an uphill battle to win substantive policy changes. However, for the first time in nearly a decade, there will be checks and balances again in state government. For too long there have been no incentives for regressive politicians in Wisconsin to moderate. The benefits of having a backstop cannot be overstated. 

Wisconsin voters turned out in record numbers to send the clear message that they wanted a more balanced and accountable government. A government not driven by ideological rigidity but rather by what works best for the people of our state. It is my hope that legislative Republicans heed the voices of our friends and neighbors and come to the table to work together with Democrats in this next legislative session.     

Committees for the Upcoming Legislative Session

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This session I'll be serving on the following committees:

  • Committee on Education: I look forward to once again working as the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Committee on Education. Over the last eight years, Wisconsin saw the largest cut to education in the history of our state. Of the over $1 billion cut by Governor Walker, $183 million still needs to be restored before funding levels are what they were when Walker started. Then, the state must invest to catch up to where students would have otherwise been. I will fight for fair and equitable funding children, regardless of their school district and zip code. Another big priority for this session is investing in universal 4K.  A National Center for Early Development and Learning study has concluded that 4K students have significantly improved proficiency in language and literacy. In a competitive global economy, our Wisconsin children deserve every opportunity that early education provides. Universal 4K will put our children on a path of lifetime learning and opportunity.
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  • Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families: With new state leadership it is key that the legislature no longer treats the UW system as an adversarial institution. While our flagship campuses in Madison and Milwaukee have been able to continue to provide the same level of excellent service to students, other campuses around the state have not been so lucky. For example, grappling with budget constraints UW Stevens Point has had to make the hard decision to cut French, German, History, Geology, Geography, and two art programs. This past eight years of hostility towards the UW system means fewer options for our next generation of workers and entrepreneurs. Our state universities and technical colleges are some of the best in the nation and they need our continued support to thrive. Our universities & tech schools are critically important economic and social engines. As a graduate of our public university system, I know how important educational opportunities are. 
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  • Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions: Serving on this committee will allow me to keep a close eye on legislation that affects Wisconsin’s tax code and to ensure that we are not creating more loopholes for corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. 
  • Joint Committee on Review of Administrative Rules: Last month, Republicans took the unprecedented step of using a lame duck session to curtail some of the powers of Governor Tony Evers. Part of the power-grab was taking away some of the rule-making authority from the executive office and its state agencies. These state agencies are on the front lines of providing our friends and neighbors with the assistance that they need. I will make it my goal to make sure the legislature is not quietly using technical gimmicks via this committee to further erode the power of our new Governor.  
  • Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions: Wisconsin should be looking at any tax exemption with a skeptical eye, especially any tax exemptions targeted at corporations. I look forward to working on this committee and making sure that the average taxpayer is protected.

Committee work is a vitally important part of a legislators job. Legislative committees are where the rubber meets the road in the State Legislature and it's where the first debate happens on any bill. I look forward to digging in and working hard on all my committee assignments.



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Governor Evers Held a Budget Town Hall in Milwaukee

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In a welcome change of pace from the previous administration, then Governor-elect Evers held budget listening sessions that were open to the public. It is refreshing to have a Governor that will listen to the voice of all people and not just a select, moneyed few.  Of the many issues that were brought up, expanding healthcare coverage was among the most popular. Our state would get back the tax dollars we send to Washington and provide lifesaving healthcare to 80,000 of our neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet. Just that change would yield net savings for state taxpayers of about $190 million per year. With a new administration, now is the time to finally expand Medicaid in Wisconsin and turn the page on our regressive past.  

 Government Shutdown

Because of President Trump's irrational demand That American Taxpayers (not Mexico as he originally promised) fund an ineffective border wall, the federal government has been in partial shutdown since December 21st. Trump's shutdown has resulted in roughly 800,000 federal employees being furloughed including those responsible for issuing tax refundsThis would affect millions of Wisconsin taxpayers who count on those returns to make ends meet. While the focus and attention of this shut down on is on the national level, it is important to note that Wisconsin is home to nearly 30,000 federal employees. Many of these public servants are facing real-life impacts due to Trump's shutdown.  

The federal government should not be shut down because of Donald Trump's obsession with building a costly, ineffective, and unnecessary wall on the southern border. The President and Republicans in the U.S. Senate should re-pass the bill that previously passed 100-0 to reopen our country's government. 

Check Out My Latest Op-ed 

In it, I discuss the importance of open and honest government. Currently, Wisconsin lawmakers in the legislature are exempted from the state's record retention laws. This means that each lawmaker decides for themselves what records to keep and what to delete. For example, during the time leading up to the lame duck session my office received over 400 contacts against the package of bills and 1 in support of them. The public knows this because my office received an open records request for those documents and I was able to provide that information. However, during this same period other legislative offices (responding to the same open records request) reported having no record of contacts whatsoever. That seems highly unlikely given the public outcry around the state. The public has a right to know who is exerting influence over their representatives and I am introducing a bill this session that deletes this exemption.            

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With the Trump appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, many fear that women's reproductive rights may be overturned if Roe v. Wade is repealed. 

January 22nd is the 46th anniversary of this landmark Supreme Court case and I urge you to contact your federal and state legislators to tell them to support a woman's right to choose, in order to ensure that all women have access to this potentially lifesaving medical procedure. Statewide protections of abortion as health care will be critical to ensuring women can make their own medical decisions about their body even if Roe v. Wade is overturned by a politicized Supreme Court. 

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