LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


 

 

June 20, 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

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 
 

 

MIAD 2013 Juried Senior Exhibition

Date: Now through Sat., July 27

Location: Milwaukee

Description: If you missed the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design's renowned annual senior exhibition, stop by to see faculty-juried works from all majors in the 2013 Juried Senior Exhibition. This event is being held in MIAD's Frederick Layton Gallery. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-8070 for more information.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MAP)
273 E. Erie Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

The Milwaukee Art Museum Presents: 30 Americans

Date: Now through Sun., September 8

Location: Milwaukee

Description: 30 Americans is a dynamic exploration of contemporary American art. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, video, and more made by African American artists since 1970 raise questions of what it means to be a contemporary artist and an African American today. Whether addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or history--or seemingly remaining silent about them--these works offer powerful interpretations of cultural identity and artistic legacy. CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

Lakefront Festival of Arts

Date: Fri., June 21 through Sun., June 23

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Lakefront Festival of Arts is celebrating the 51st event featuring over 170 artists around the world. Painters, potters, sculptors, glassblowers, photographers, and more are all selling art for purchase. This festival has a wine and beer garden, as well as Lakeside dining options. Admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum and festival grounds is $15 and $8 for Milwaukee Art Museum members who provide a valid membership card. Children 16 and under are free with a paid adult. Art enthusiasts can also purchase a $20 three-day pass. CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

Greek Fest
Date: Fri., June 21 through Sun., June 23

Location: West Allis

Description: Attend the annual Greek Fest event at the State Fairgrounds. This festival will feature a variety of entertainment, including live Greek music, games, authentic dance performances, and rides for the kids throughout the weekend.
The traditional performances are popular, but the biggest draw at this festival is the food. The authentic Greek chicken is a staple, as is the souvlaki, gyros, saganaki, lamb dinners, and loukoumathes (deep fried dough balls drizzled in honey). Admission is free. Parking for cars is $5, but free for motorcycles. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

State Fair Park (MAP)

North Parking Lot

640 S. 84th Street
West Allis, WI 53214

 

 

Lunar Light
Date: Fri., June 21 through Fri., July 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Lunar Light focuses on our Moon, which has captivated our imagination enough to explore it with humans and machines. The live presentation will highlight Earth-Moon-Sun interactions that result in dramatic events such as lunar and solar eclipses, ocean tides, and different phases of the Moon. The presentation will include Greek myths associated with the Moon. As always, there is a portion of the program that focuses on stars and constellations projected on the dome to simulate both a city and country sky. Please note there is no show on July 5. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

UW-Milwaukee (MAP)

Manfred Olson Planetarium

1900 East Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI
 

 

Say Farewell to East Library

Date: Sat., June 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: East Library is closing its current location. Join in celebrating the library's positive impact on our community by stopping by this event. Neighbors can share a memory in the scrapbook, greet Browser the Library Lion, and pick up an "I Closed East Library" magnet. East Library is moving temporarily to 2430 N. Murray Avenue beginning July 1, 2013 before returning to a brand new library facility in 2014. The temporary site will have: hold pick-ups, a collection of popular materials, a book drop, laptop computers, and parking. Library hours for that location will be the following: Monday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and  Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

East Library (MAP)

1910 E. North Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Summer Soulstice
Date: Sat., June 22 from Noon to Midnight

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Enjoy great music, entertainment, food, and family fun at the 12th annual Summer Soulstice festival. Family fun entertainment includes Bernie Brewer and the Racing Sausages, creating pottery to take home, musicians, jugglers, balloon artists, and much more. Local restaurants and vendors will have food available for purchase and area bands will be performing throughout the day. This event will take place on E. North Avenue between N. Oakland and N. Prospect. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

 

Dear Friend,

 

Ignoring bipartisan objections, the Assembly passed the extreme Tea Party-sponsored budget this week that flies in the face of our shared Wisconsin values. The Senate is also poised to adopt this unbalanced, unpopular budget. Continue reading for more information about this and other important issues including Wisconsin's worsening water quality and the arrival of Summerfest and National Dairy Month.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Assembly Passes Extreme, Unbalanced Budget, Senate Next

The Legislature took up the controversial Republican budget this week. The Assembly met on Tuesday and again on Wednesday when they passed an amended version of the bill before handing it off to the Senate for passage today. Continue reading for more information about what occurred in each house during their debate of the budget.

 

Assembly Budget Debate

Republicans in the Assembly proved they are interested in a more politically divisive budget by introducing an 11th-hour amendment devised through backroom deals. In fact, this amendment, which contains 28 provisions only one of which is technical, is so extreme, that it can only be referred to as a Tea Party ransom note. Below is more information on just a couple of these alarming provisions.

  • Exempting Republicans from Balancing the Budget--Wisconsin state statutes currently require the Legislature to balance each biennial budget. That means, spending cannot exceed projected revenue. This law was implemented in 2001 to protect the taxpayers of Wisconsin and has been followed up until now. With their budget amendment, Republicans again told Wisconsinites that they are above the law by including a provision exempting them from this commonsense statute. As a result, Republicans will be able to spend, spend, spend at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers.

  • Further Expansion of Statewide Vouchers Attempted--While we are all aware that Republicans in JFC have already expanded vouchers statewide, Assembly Republicans tried to take this costly proposal one step further by increasing the size of the program in Racine by 750 students. As those of us in Milwaukee and Racine already know, this would mean less support for our public school students and higher property taxes. This increase would have been in addition to the nearly $30 increase the average property tax owner is already expected to see each year under the Republican budget. Further, this provision also highlights what Democrats have been saying all along--that any cap put in place is arbitrary and subject to change when Republicans are pressured by powerful voucher school lobbyists.

After a heated statement by Assembly Democratic leadership against both the Tea Party ransom note amendment and the budget itself, the budget passed in the Assembly with a vote of 55-42, despite receiving bipartisan opposition.

 

 

Click here or on the video above to watch the Assembly budget debate on WisconsinEye.

 

Senate Budget Debate

Due to the fact that the Senate was still debating the budget at the time this report was sent out, a more detailed update on what occurred will be provided next week. However, Senate Democrats will be introducing a number of amendments to try and fix this extreme budget, which currently does not reflect Wisconsin's shared values. Instead, a true middle-class budget would:

  • Take a balanced approach to rebuilding a stronger economy, creating jobs, and providing security for Wisconsin's working families.

  • Reinvest in our neighborhood schools to make up for the $1.6 billion cut in the last budget, not throw millions of dollars at an unaccountable, unproven voucher experiment on our children.

  • Provide 175,000 more working Wisconsinites with quality health care, save taxpayers $495 million, and create 10,500 family-supporting jobs over the next 10 years by accepting federal health care funding.

The priorities in this budget are not the Wisconsin Way. We needed Legislative Republicans to help the middle class, rather than simply touting empty rhetoric. Republicans cannot claim they are for the middle class while budgeting against the middle class. Below is a list of the top 10 worst attacks on the middle class in the Republican budget.

  1. Public Dollars for Private Schools. Expand the unaccountable private voucher program statewide, which DPI estimates could eventually cost taxpayers over $1.9 billion a year. The budget would also force taxpayers to spend an additional $30 million to subsidize tax breaks for parents sending their children to private schools.

  2. Public Education Deficit. Increase public school funding by just $100 per pupil in the next school year despite making record cuts of $550 per public school student in the last budget and providing an increase of up to $1,414 for each voucher student.

  3. Spending More for Less Health Care. Reject federal funds available under the Affordable Care Act making state taxpayers spend $120 million more to insure 85,000 fewer people on BadgerCare. Republicans are also giving hospitals an additional $73.5 million to cover the cost of treating uninsured, low-income patients--a tacit admission that their plan will make people lose their insurance.

  4. Tax Break for the Wealthy. Use a surplus created by historic education cuts in the last Republican budget, to provide households earning more than $300,000 per year with $1,518, more than 10 times the income tax break that the median household would get with barely $2 per week. This income tax break is also a shiny distraction to prevent Wisconsinites from seeing that their property taxes will be increasing at the same time.

  5. The Walker Deficit. After dividing our state and claiming they had to do it to balance the budget, Walker and the Republicans would turn a $700 million surplus into a $505 million deficit in one budget by wasting money on tax breaks for the wealthy. The budget also exempts Republicans from state laws requiring them to balance the state budget this time around so that they can now spend, spend, spend on the taxpayer's dime.

  6. No Bid Fire Sale. Allow DOA to sell state-owned property--such as power plants, highways or University of Wisconsin buildings--without requiring bids or consent from the University.

  7. Kicking Unemployed Workers. Make dramatic changes to the Unemployment Insurance program including making it easier to fire workers without providing unemployment, raising taxes on the construction and manufacturing industries, and reducing benefit funds circulating in the state economy by an estimated $37.2 million. These changes were all made in direct conflict with decades of tradition honoring the recommendations of the UI Council.

  8. Financial Aid Failure. Fail to invest any new funding in student financial aid for higher education, even though tens of thousands of Wisconsin students eligible for higher education grants did not receive this aid because of insufficiently funded programs. The budget also eliminates the link between funding for WHEG-UW financial aid and increases in UW tuition.

  9. Policy Pork/Preying on Consumers. In the last hours of Joint Finance Committee, Republicans inserted provisions that retroactively toss out lawsuits from Wisconsinites poisoned by lead paint, legalize bail bounty hunters in Wisconsin, ease rules on predatory payday lending operations, punish the Center for Investigative Journalism by ejecting it from the UW campus, and allow cable companies to cut off service immediately after a missed payment to later charge a ridiculous reconnection fee.

  10. Environmental Hazards. Slash bonding authority for the Stewardship Fund, sell 250 acres of stewardship land per year, and eliminate the ability of Wisconsinites to challenge a high capacity well permit on the basis that it will affect surrounding wells.

As you can see, the Republican budget attacks many of the programs Wisconsinites hold most dear. It is time for real change and a real middle-class budget so that we can create real jobs. Stay tuned for an in-depth budget update next week.

 

Click here to watch the Senate budget debate courtesy of WisconsinEye.
 

 

Wisconsin Water Quality at Risk...Again

Despite Democratic objections, Republicans chose to repeal some of Wisconsin's water quality protection standards during last session. This included the removal of standards that required communities to reduce the total amount of suspended solids in local water supplies that had protected our water quality from sewerage waste, toxic chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides. Unfortunately, we are now seeing the effects of such policies first-hand.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), nearly 150 new bodies of water will be added to a list of lakes, rivers, and streams that do not meet state water quality standards. This drastic reclassification is due to excessive amounts of phosphorus, fertilizer, and waste from animals and humans. This is especially devastating for the Milwaukee area given that many of the bodies of water considered to be "impaired" by the DNR are in our Milwaukee community or other urban areas.

 

This is not the only hit our water ways have taken recently. Earlier this month, the Great Lakes Caucus met and overwhelmingly discussed the concerning water levels in our Great Lakes. Water levels usually cycle through periods of increased and decreased water supply. However, in recent years, the Great Lakes have seen a disturbing drop in water levels. In fact, the current water levels are at record lows for the 160 years that such measurements have been taken. Lake Michigan, for example, had its lowest recorded water supply in January 2013. While it has since risen about six inches due to spring rainfall, it is still well below average.

 

Low water levels are not only an indication of our environment in crisis, but it can also have a negative impact on our economy. In the commercial shipping industry, low water levels can result in losing about 15% of their cargo carrying capacity. Low water levels can also prevent people from accessing launching points for their boats. In our community, recreational boating creates an economic impact of about $1.1 billion and supports 8,500 jobs. Low water levels are a problem our family, friends, and neighbors cannot afford to have.

 

While I hoped Republicans would have learned from their mistakes in sacrificing the health of our treasured bodies of water, it appears they are continuing down the same road that led us here. The 2013-2015 Biennial Budget includes a provision that would be detrimental to our neighbors and businesses. The proposed Republican budget prevents citizens from challenging the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' approval of high-capacity wells based on the cumulative negative environmental impact the high volume water withdrawal would have on neighboring drinking water wells and area lakes and streams.

 

This move shows a complete disregard for the well-being of our highly valued ground and surface waters. First, implementation could result in environmental issues, such as wells running dry due to over pumping of aquifers. Further, it could also have a negative impact on the health of Wisconsinites as water for consumption could be increasingly contaminated. Finally, this proposal removes current accountability and transparency measures that are in place allowing citizens to hold their government in check. Anglers, farmers, families, and those living in our rural areas should be deeply concerned with the negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of this proposal.

 

It is not always possible to turn back the clock after we damage the quality and levels of our water supplies. Therefore, I will be fighting to remove this provision from the budget to ensure that Wisconsin adequately protects the economic health of our businesses, physical health of our families, and environmental health of our state.

 

 

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: I see the Senate was on the floor this Tuesday. What did they take up? Was it controversial?

A: After last week's highly divisive session day that failed to address job creation while hurting Wisconsin women, the majority party came back to their senses.

They took up two bipartisan bills on Tuesday, one related to supporting venture capital endeavors and the other related to implementing some reforms in the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Both bills were a small step forward in our fight to turn Wisconsin's economy around from 44th in the nation in job growth. These bills are detailed below.
 

Investing in Start-ups (Assembly Bill 181)

This bill passed with a vote of 29-3 in the Senate. I joined my colleagues in supporting AB 181, which would put $25 million in venture capital funds towards five industries--agriculture, information technology, engineering, advanced manufacturing, and medical devices. I was disappointed that this bill excludes certain money making industries--such as stem cell research--and does not invest nearly enough in this economic development endeavor overall. However, it is a positive step in the right direction towards creating jobs.

 

Slight Improvements to WEDC

This public-private agency has had persistent problems since its inception in 2011. These include circumventing Wisconsin's fair and competitive bidding process, ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants, and losing track of over $50 million in loans. Unfortunately for taxpayers, it appears WEDC's problems have not been relegated to the past. In fact, the revelations in a recent audit are nothing short of shocking showing that awards were handed out to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and for ineligible amounts. Further, WEDC staff seemingly wildly disregarded their responsibility to taxpayers by spending tax dollars on controversial purchases including iTunes gift cards, Badger football tickets, alcohol, and items for family members.

 

Clearly a great deal of reform is need in this agency. While Senate Bill 205 make a couple of improvements in WEDC, such as subjecting WEDC to annual audits, establishing procurement policies for gifts, and requiring WEDC employees follow state ethics laws, Wisconsinites demand more. Therefore, this must be the first of many improvements we require of this floundering agency so that we can get them back on track to creating jobs.

 

Moving Forward...Slowly but Surely
These pieces of legislation were nowhere near perfect, as more transparency and accountability should be mandated to provide Wisconsin taxpayers with the assurance that their money is not being wasted. Further, although amendments ensuring additional accountability and transparency were rejected, Senate Democrats will continue to be tax dollar watchdogs of WEDC and the venture capital fund. Our priority is the creation of family-sustaining jobs, not rewarding political allies. Therefore, we were happy to support these job creation measures, but will continue to urge our colleagues across the aisle to do better on behalf of Wisconsin.

It is the hope of Senate Democrats and people across Wisconsin that Senate Republicans remember the needs of middle-class families later this week by keeping job creation front and center as we take up the state budget.

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may be aware that Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State. But did you know that much of the success in the dairy industry can be attributed to the invention of the silo?

 

Franklin King, a professor of agricultural physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, developed and published a design for the first round silo in 1891. The silo's round construction became popular with farmers because it reduced mold, which was common in silos that had corners. Solving this winter food storage problem helped the dairy industry become a major agricultural operation across Wisconsin.

 

It also helped our state create some of the most treasured dairy products, including cheese and ice cream. Each year, Wisconsin produces more than 2.5 billion pounds of cheese. Additionally, nearly 21 million gallons of ice cream are consumed by Wisconsinites each year. Top that, California!


 

June is Dairy Month

Our community is in the middle of National Dairy Month, which continues until the end of June. This national month of recognition is designed to celebrate farmers' commitment to producing nutritious, fresh, and natural dairy foods to feed not only Wisconsin, but our nation.

The dairy industry is fundamentally important to the economy in our state. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, dairy production is Wisconsin's top agricultural industry and generates $26.5 billion in economic activity every year. In addition to dollar value, the dairy industry provides almost 40% of the 420,000 agricultural jobs in our state.

Dairy products have a presence not only in our economy, but also in our Wisconsin identity. The nickname for Wisconsinites is "Cheeseheads" in honor of the tradition we have of wearing fake cheese on our heads, especially for Packer game days. Further, cheese curds and other dairy products are present in every state fair and at farmer's markets across the state. Additionally, the importance of the dairy industry is represented in our state symbols with milk being named our state beverage, the dairy cow receiving the title of state domestic animal, and the cream puff is labeled our state dessert. The work of dairy farmers and their contribution to our state's traditions should be celebrated.

To support Wisconsin dairy farms, I encourage you to stop by the farmer's market in your community or purchase local produce this month. Additionally, several farms and restaurants around Wisconsin are hosting events centered on celebrating local produce and dairy products. Feel free to stop by and join the fun.

 

Click here for more information on Dairy Month specific events.
 

 

Summerfest is Almost Here!

Starting next week, our community will host the celebrated Summerfest Music Festival from Noon to Midnight beginning Wednesday, June 26 through Sunday, June 30 and Tuesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 7. 


During those days, the famous Marcus Amphitheater, along with 11 other stages, will present live music day and night to music lovers of all genres with over 700 bands performing. This annual event is being held at Henry Maier Festival Park, a location boasting 75 acres along Lake Michigan in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. Along with over a week of music, festival-goers can enjoy a diverse selection of food and beverages, marketplaces, interactive exhibits, family-focused entertainment and activities, and fireworks on opening day.
 

Summerfest attracts 800,000 to 1 million festival-goers each year, rightfully earning the title of the "World's Largest Music Festival." It gives people in our community an opportunity to partake in a unique music and entertainment experience by enjoying popular performers such as Luke Bryan, the Eagles, John Mayer, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and also provides emerging artists a venue for displaying their talents.
 

Summerfest has proven to be an extremely beneficial way to support our local economy, as well as providing us with entertainment from both local and nationally-known talent. Ticket sales, food and beverage commissions, and total revenue all increased between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to continue to increase this year. This exciting event helps to boost sales for neighborhood restaurants and businesses while simultaneously supporting local musicians and artists. It has been estimated that Summerfest has generated between $150 to $200 million in direct and indirect economic impact for our community each year.
 

Click here for more information on the activities and the line-up for this year's Summerfest.

 

 

Summer Activities in Our Community

Our community offers a wide variety of summer activities for families, children, and adults alike. Below are just a few activities that you can take part in this summer.

 

Become a Super Reader
Get involved in the Super Reader program at your local public library. If you read your way through the summer months at Milwaukee Public Libraries, you can even earn prizes, from a 5" mini sub from Cousins Subs to a free book for your home library. This summer long event is free and a great opportunity for the entire family to enjoy. Many programs have already begun and will continue through August.

 

Click here for more information about the program offered through Milwaukee Public Libraries.

Outdoor Summer Movies

These family-friendly events allows neighbors to watch movies outdoors in the community for free. Neighbors may bring blankets, lawn chairs, and refreshments. Food and beverages are also available for purchase at certain locations. Movies begin at dusk.

 

Click here for more information about this summer event being offered in Veterans Park, Cudahy Park, and Humboldt Park.

 

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