LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


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April 4, 2013

     

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

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COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

Supporting our 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. 

 

 

Storytime Smiles at the St. Francis Library
Date: Now through Wed., May 1

Location: St. Francis

Description: Start your child on the road to reading. The St. Francis Library is offering free storytimes for children this spring. Families can register now, in the Children's Room or over the phone by calling (414) 481-7323. Your child will enjoy a combination of stories, fingerplays, flannel board stories, puppets, art projects, and more. Each storytime matches your child's developmental level, attention span, and interests, to promote a love of literature. They are also a great time to meet new and old friends, and a special time for all who join in. Pajamarama (for ages 2-6) is scheduled for Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Or join Preschool Storytime (for ages 3-6) on Tuesdays at 10:15 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Two year-olds are invited to Toddler Time on Wednesdays from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., with an optional playtime afterward. All young children can play with their friends at Tot Time, which is held on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with a brief storytime and playtime. CLICK HERE for more information, including a complete schedule of storytime events.

 

 

A Veterans Print Project
Date: Now through Fri., May 31

Location: Milwaukee

Description: A new exhibit is coming to the Milwaukee County Historical Society. Featuring the stories of Milwaukee County Latino veterans and the artwork of local printmakers, the Veterans Print Project sets itself apart by bringing veterans and artists together, with artists creating original works based on the veteran's individual story. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-8288.

Milwaukee County Historical Society (MAP)
910 N. Old World Third Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203

 

 

Baseball--Innovations That Changed the Game
Date:
Mon., April 1 through Fri., May 19
Location:
Milwaukee
Description:
From the fingerless gloves of the 19th century to today's modern equipment, the game of baseball has continued to change. It is all here at this fabulous exhibit shown for a limited time at Discovery World. The exhibit runs from April 1 through May 19 and is included with general admission to Discovery World. CLICK HERE or call (414) 765-9966 for more information.

Discovery World (MAP)
500 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 


Indoor Spring Market
Date:
Sat., April 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location:
South Milwaukee
Description:
Coming off the successful Christmas Market, the South Milwaukee Downtown Market is bringing a second indoor market to our community. This event will be held at South Milwaukee High School on Saturday, April 6 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will feature a variety of local vendors. CLICK HERE for more information.

South Milwaukee High School (MAP)
1001 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

 

Penokee: Explore the Iron Hills Art Exhibit
Date: Mon., April 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: A recent proposal to mine iron in the Penokee Range of Northern Wisconsin has stimulated discussion and brought attention to this beautiful area. This exhibit is a collaboration of 20 artists from the region who explore the past, present, and possible futures for the Penokee Hills. Their goal is to encourage citizens to learn more about this area and to envision a sustainable future for it. See the art, meet some of the artists, and learn more about the future of the Penokee Hills. There will be an opening program for the exhibit on Monday, April 8 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., which will include a short program and refreshments. The exhibit will be open to the public until Saturday, June 29. CLICK HERE or call (414) 964-8505 for more information about this event.

 

Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park (MAP)

1500 East Park Place Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Annual Spring Hearings

Date: Mon., April 8 at 7 p.m.

Location: Wisconsin Counties Statewide

Description: Every spring, each person in Wisconsin has the opportunity to help direct how the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages our natural resources. The DNR holds a hearing with survey questions and resolutions that are voted on by all who attend. The hearing happens at the same time in each county across our state and is scheduled to convene on April 8, 2013, at 7 p.m. Meeting results, along with written comments on the evening's questions and recommendations by the DNR, are used to advise the state Natural Resources Board. Votes are non-binding and are presented to the Natural Resources Board as advisories. If you are interested in outdoor recreation, conservation, or our heritage of being citizen stewards of our natural resources, I encourage you to attend and provide your input to this important process. CLICK HERE to view the agenda and questions for the upcoming 2013 spring conservation hearing.

 

 

Art in Bloom: A Tribute to Art and Flowers

Date: Thurs., April 11 through Sun., April 14

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Immerse yourself in fragrant beauty, with numerous opportunities to enhance your floral and gardening know-how. Attend lectures and master classes with renowned floral designers Ron Morgan and Neil Whittaker. Join Jill Bedford, Melinda Myers, and Jim Walczak in presentations designed to provide you with a variety of ideas for use at home this season. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)

700 N. Art Museum Drive Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

35th Latin American Film Series
Date: Fri., April 12 through Fri., April 19
Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, UWM Union Programming, Union Theatre, and the Department of Film present the 35th annual Latin American Film Series. Thirteen movies will be screened for free over the course of this event. CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-4070 for more information, including a list of participating films.

UW-Milwaukee Union Cinema (MAP)
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211


Free Fishing Clinics for Kids

Date: Sat., April 13 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Multiple Locations
Description: Learn about techniques, equipment, knots, safety, and fish identification at this event for youth 15 and younger. An adult must accompany children 6 years of age or less. Classes will be offered hourly from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with last clinic starting at 2 p.m. Equipment will be available, but participants should bring their own rod and reel, if possible. Groups of 20 or more must pre-register with the Department of Natural Resources at (414) 263-8614. This clinic will be offered at Oak Creek Parkway, Sheridan Park, and Humboldt Park, among others. CLICK HERE for more information and a list of additional locations.
 

 

Used Book Sale
Date: Sat., April 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Do you have books you want to get rid of but do not know what to do with them? Consider donating them to the Friends of South Milwaukee Public Library for their used book sale. Proceeds will benefit the library by providing funding for special equipment, programs, publicity, and more. The Saturday book sale will be held at the South Milwaukee Public Library on April 13 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

South Milwaukee Public Library (MAP)
1907 10th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53712
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

This week we examine a number of pressing community issues, including the proposed lay-offs at Caterpillar, decreasing accountability and transparency measures for contracts via the budget, the South Milwaukee School Board opposing voucher expansion, and much more. Continue reading for updates on this and other important local issues.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

 

Caterpillar Announces Lay-Off Plans

This past Thursday, Caterpillar Inc. announced it plans to lay-off up to 300 employees at its factories in South Milwaukee and Milwaukee. As those of us in the Milwaukee area know, Caterpillar, formerly Bucyrus, is one of the largest employers in our community.

This recent development is devastating for Wisconsin's middle-class families. My heart goes out to the families, small businesses, and neighborhoods affected and I pledge my unwavering support for all those touched by this announcement.

While we work to retain these and other Wisconsin jobs, I am ready to be a resource to make sure we get all hard-working Wisconsinites back to work should these lay-offs occur. I will be sure to keep you apprised as more information becomes available.

 

 

 

Budget Decreases Accountability, Transparency in Contracts

Many of us are aware of the troubling budget provisions related to expanding vouchers, exempting rent-to-own companies from our consumer protection laws, and rejecting federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Wisconsinites. However, there are also a number of provisions placed in the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget that quietly decrease accountability and transparency in our state and have received little to no attention despite their substantive and far-reaching impacts. Continue reading for more information about these concerning provisions.

 

Decreasing Contracting Safeguards That Protect Taxpayer Dollars

An area that will see decreased oversight is state procurement of goods and services. Under the changes proposed in the budget, the partisan Department of Administration (DOA) will have the ability to waive safeguards and protections previously covering contracting for goods and services. In fact, DOA will not only be allowed to contract with a company or organization that was previously disbarred from bidding on contracts for failing to fulfill past contract obligations with the state, but it will also be able to reject the lowest bid in favor of another one arbitrarily.

 

Adopting such a policy can have several negative consequences for our state. First, it leaves our tax dollars vulnerable to previously-identified bad actors. Additionally, it could result in Wisconsin accepting a higher cost contract to the detriment of our wallet, in-turn diverting funds from other things, such as our neighborhood schools, to cover the costs. Finally, it could lead to the appearance of political payback as DOA could opt to reject the lowest bid in favor of a political supporter of the governor. Clearly, this policy of secrecy should not be selected over our current policies that promote openness by shinning the light of accountability and transparency on Wisconsin's contracts.

 

Limit the Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis

Under current good government laws, a cost-benefit analysis must be performed on sealed bids that exceed $25,000. Cost-benefit analyses are crucial for our government to determine that they are getting the best value when making an investment. If the language in the budget remains as it currently stands, such safeguards would only be applied on sealed bids that exceed $50,000. Additionally, the following services would now be exempt from cost-benefit analyses as stated in the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget:

  • Services that federal or state law requires to be performed by contract

  • Services that are incidental to the purchase of a commodity

  • Services that must be provided under a contract, license, or warranty by the original equipment manufacturer or publisher

  • Services that cannot be performed by state employees because the state lacks the required infrastructure

  • Services that are expected to be completed within 12 months

  • Web-based software application services that are delivered and managed remotely.

These lengthy exemptions and the higher cost-benefit threshold will have a substantial cost to Wisconsin's taxpayers at it will make it easier for state funds to be given out with decreased accountability and transparency measures.
 

No-Bid Sale of State Owned Properties

Once again, we see a return of failed provisions from the last budget that seek to allow the back room sale of our state's properties. According to the proposed budget, DOA would be allowed to sell state property without a competitive bid. Vague language and ambiguity of this budget provision leave our state open to allowing the sale or lease of public, taxpayer supported buildings through a no-bid process by DOA.

 

Moving forward with such a process could mean that state taxpayers see their investments devalued and money wasted. Instead, we should keep the current checks and balances in place to ensure that we are getting the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to the sale and lease of state-owned buildings.



 

Opposition to Voucher Expansion Continues to Grow

Just last week, I attended a South Milwaukee School Board meeting to discuss the governor's proposed budget and the impact it would have on the students in the community. While many cost-savings plans had been crafted and implemented by the schools, the Board was devastated to learn that the continued defunding of public education cannot be absorbed resulting in their worst-case scenario and significant decreases in educational opportunities.

 

According to the budget, Wisconsin's voucher program will receive an additional $94 million increase to their budget, which equals up to $1,400 more for each participating student. On the other hand, K-12 students attending a local public school will see a $0 spending increase per pupil. As a result, the South Milwaukee School District is anticipating a $430,000 budget shortfall. This is in addition to the $10 million that has been cut from their budget over the past 10 years.

 

Unfortunately, most schools in this position, including those in South Milwaukee, have already made deep cuts and are left with very few options. In fact, the only things left to cut are vital programs, such as art and music which may be eliminated, and valued staff. This means fewer Wisconsin jobs, larger class sizes, and limited educational opportunities all of which are a loss to Wisconsin's families.

 

This terrible news also comes at a time when teachers already have taken on more responsibilities and hours in an effort to compensate for record education cuts in the last budget that totaled roughly $1.6 billion. Teachers attending this meeting shared how they have given up their prep period, taken on more students, and are often coming in earlier, staying later, and sacrificing weekends to try to protect the educational opportunities of our children when our budget priorities fail to do so.

 

South Milwaukee teachers, administrators, school board members, and parents are asking when the state is going to meet their district halfway. To show their displeasure with the governor's proposed cuts and shifting of funds from public schools to unaccountable voucher schools, the School Board of South Milwaukee adopted the following resolution:

 

Whereas, the school board, administrators, teachers, staff, parents and community members of the School District of South Milwaukee are united in our effort to provide all children with the highest quality educational opportunities possible; and

 

Whereas, private school voucher advocates have consistently pushed for expanding the use of taxpayer-funded vouchers to pay tuition for students in private schools in Wisconsin, targeting students with specific needs and those in particular communities; and

 

Whereas, the governor has proposed expanding voucher programs into many more communities and has proposed increasing state payments to voucher schools, in his proposed 2013-2015 state budget, while freezing public school spending;

 

Therefore, South Milwaukee School Board resolves to express its dissatisfaction with the governor's proposal and to inform parents and taxpayers of our district and the legislators who represent our district of the following facts about voucher programs:

 

Fact #1--Vouchers do not improve student achievement

 

Fact #2--Vouchers avoid or eliminate public accountability

 

Fact #3--Vouchers both drain resources away from public schools and increase local property taxes in any community where they are established

 

Therefore, be it further resolved, that the South Milwaukee Board of Education calls on Gov. Walker, Joint Finance, Sen. Chris Larson and Rep. Mark Honadel to remove all voucher expansion proposals from the state budget bill.

 

Click here to view the copy of the full resolution drafted by the South Milwaukee School Board.

 

I remain committed to assisting our local school districts in the education of our children and fully support the resolution signed by the South Milwaukee School Board. I will continue doing what I can to share this perspective, voiced not just by this community, but many others across the state, with the governor and fellow legislators to ensure these harmful voucher expansion provisions are removed from the budget.

 

 

Equal Pay Day on April 9

In 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity created Equal Pay Day in order to bring more awareness to the disparity in wages between men and women. With more women entering the workforce now than ever to help support their families, it is becoming increasingly important for the overall economic health of our communities that women receive equal pay for equal work to their male counterparts. This year, Equal Pay Day will be celebrated on April 9. Placing the holiday on a Tuesday was chosen intentionally to represent the fact that women must work one week and into Tuesday of the next week to make the equivalent of what men made in just one week of work.
 

According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make nationally. In Wisconsin, however, women earn even less as they take home only 75 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive. This means that families across the state are losing out on more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that for the final quarter of 2012, nationally, women made on average 79.1 percent of what their male counterparts made.

 


 

Shocking the state, legislative Republicans rejected Wisconsin's tradition of fairness and rolled back equal protection laws for Wisconsin's working women by passing 2011 Wisconsin Act 219 last session. The adoption of this proposal eliminates equal protection laws for Wisconsin's women and limits their ability to seek justice for discrimination. This bill not only halted much needed steps towards equal pay for women, but also erased prior advances that have been made.
 

My Democratic colleagues, Senator Hansen and Representative Sinicki, circulated legislation earlier this session to correct the mistake Republicans made last session and re-adopt the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. I have signed on as a co-sponsor of this legislation and look forward to supporting this fairness bill should it reach the Senate floor for a vote this session.
 

 

 

Ask Chris

I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.

 

Q: Will you and Rep. Honadel be introducing any bipartisan legislation for our community this session?

 

A: Earlier this week, Representative Mark Honadel and I introduced Senate Bill 121, bipartisan legislation we authored that updates Wisconsin law regarding battery deposits. This legislation, that helps local small businesses and the environment, was also introduced in the previous legislative session, but did not pass before session ended in March 2012.

Current law requires anyone selling a lead acid battery to a consumer to accept the consumer's used battery and cannot charge the consumer a deposit that is more than $5. However, the mandated cap no longer reflects the prevailing market value of used lead acid batteries. For this reason, large corporations have been ignoring the $5 limit for years opting to instead follow the market rate. In addition to losing out compared to bigger businesses, our small businesses have also been losing money when depositing old lead acid batteries to the nearby recycling center as most of these facilities charge the market rate, which is usually greater than $5.

Senate Bill 121 would update this outdated law by requiring a deposit no less than $5 for all businesses, allowing the market to set the core charge amount. This legislative change will help ensure that our small businesses are no longer at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to the cost of recycling lead acid based batteries.

This legislative idea was brought to my attention by a small business owner in Oak Creek at my very first "Coffee with Chris." Since that time, I have received support from other local businesses in our community. Rep. Honadel and I jumped at the opportunity to work with our local companies to draft a bill that would solve a problem plaguing our small, neighborhood businesses.

 

Through shared innovation amongst the two parties, we can further Wisconsin's long tradition of supporting our small, local businesses, while also protecting our natural resources through responsible recycling and waste management. We look forward to continuing to work together in a bipartisan way to move this bill forward through the legislative process to bring about a positive change in our community.

 

Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 121.

 


 

Did You Know...?

You may have noticed that much of the ice and snow is beginning to melt with the late arrival of spring. But did you know that over 12,000 years ago, glaciers covered much of the state?

 

We even created the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to commemorate Wisconsin's ice-covered past. This trail is a footpath over 1,000 miles long and highlights the vast impact glaciers have had on our great state's natural features. These glaciers even helped form Glacial Lake Wisconsin, which is over 150 feet deep.
 

 

 

Public Participation Encouraged in Budget Public Hearings

With agency briefings concluded, the next step in the budget process involves Joint Finance Committee members traveling across the state to conduct public hearings. Information on where these hearings will be held can be found below.

Greendale Public Hearing
Thursday April 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Greendale High School Auditorium
6801 Southway
Greendale, WI 53129

Green Bay Public Hearing
Monday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lambeau Field
Legends Club Room -- 4th Level
Lambeau Field Atrium
1265 Lombardi Avenue
Green Bay, WI 54304

Wisconsin Dells Public Hearing
Wednesday, April 10 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kalahari Resort
Suites 2 and 7 (Main Level)
1305 Kalahari Drive
Wisconsin Dells, WI 54304

Baldwin Public Hearing
Thursday, April 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Baldwin-Woodville High School Auditorium
1000 13th Avenue
Baldwin, WI 54002

The budget is a document that sets our priorities and defines our state. I encourage all of our Wisconsin neighbors to make your voice heard on important budgetary issues, such as the expansion of unaccountable voucher schools, rejection of federal funds to expand health care access, doing away with the popular Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program, and much more.

This hearings held this session and last session mark the lowest number of hearings held by the Joint Finance Committee in 25 years. Senate and Assembly Democrats understand that it will be impossible for many to get off work and participate in these limited events. Therefore, we are committed to holding additional budget hearings across the state to make sure that our neighbors have an opportunity to voice their priorities and values to members of the Joint Finance Committee, as well as legislative leaders. Watch for announcements about these opportunities in next week's newsletter.

 

 

Take My Survey Online

I recently mailed out a newsletter district wide. This newsletter not only provided an update on a variety of important legislative issues, but it also featured a survey. The short survey provides me with a way to learn more about you and gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts on how to move Wisconsin forward together.

This survey was distributed by mail in my district wide newsletter titled Neighborhood News and has also been made available online.

Click here to save a stamp and take the Neighborhood News Survey online.

I look forward to tackling difficult but important issues with the governor and Republican legislators. However, such efforts will only succeed if as fellow badgers we dig deep and work together to create a brighter future for our family, friends, and neighbors. I look forward to hearing your feedback so I can represent you and our community as we endeavor to renew the Wisconsin spirit.

 

 

 

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