LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


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March 28, 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
 


Target Free First Thursday
Date: Thurs., April 4 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum is free for individuals and families (excluding groups) on the first Thursday of each month, thanks to Target. CLICK HERE or call (414)224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum 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

 

 

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,

 

The Joint Finance Committee has concluded its agency briefings on the budget and will soon be hosting public hearings around the state. Continue reading for more details on this and other important issues, such as decreasing consumer protections, devaluing technical schools in the budget, the upcoming DNR Spring Hearing and Conservation Congress, and more.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

 

Joint Finance to Begin Public Hearings

This past Tuesday signaled the conclusion of the agency briefings on the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget.

 

 

Click here or on the video above to watch the Joint Finance Committee agency briefings on WisconsinEye.

 

The next step in the budget process involves Joint Finance Committee members traveling across the state to conduct public hearings. Unfortunately, the co-chairs of this session's Joint Finance Committee have opted to hold fewer public hearings than in the past. Both this session and last session, Republican co-chairs opted to only hold four public hearings on the budget across the state. This is the lowest number of hearings held by the Joint Finance Committee in 25 years.

 

Click here to view a letter written by Democratic Joint Finance Committee members requesting additional hearings.

 

Information on where these hearings will be held are now available and details 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 Shool 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.

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.

 

 

Remember to Vote on April 2

Wisconsin's spring elections are fast-approaching. Remember the polls are open on Tuesday, April 2 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. If you cannot vote on Election Day, you can also vote absentee by mail or in-person at your clerk's office. Completed ballots delivered by the U.S. Postal Service must be postmarked no later than Election Day and be received by the municipal clerk no later than 4 p.m. the Friday after the election. If using FedEx, hand-delivery, or another method, the completed ballot must be delivered to the municipal clerk no later than 8 p.m. on Election Day. In-person absentee voting, on the other hand, takes place in your clerk's office and has already commenced and will continue through Friday, March 29, 2013.

 

You will NOT need to present a valid photo ID since that requirement has been ruled unconstitutional by the Courts. This ruling is subject to appeal, but is not expected to change before the upcoming election, if at all. If you are first-time voter or have never voted at your current residence, please remember to bring proof of residence. You will also be asked to provide your driver's license or Wisconsin ID number, if you have such an ID.

 

Click here to visit the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board's Web site for more information about what you need to vote in Wisconsin.

 

Voters in the city of Milwaukee should also be aware that there is an advisory referendum on their ballot seeking their input on Wisconsin's same-day registration provision. The ballot question, which was approved by the Milwaukee Common Council in January, states: "Should the state of Wisconsin continue to permit citizens to register to vote at the polls on Election Day?"

 

Same-day registration has proven popular among Wisconsin voters, and is also widely supported by the nonpartisan officials that administer our elections. According to the Government Accountability Board, during major statewide elections, 10-15% of Wisconsin voters opt to register to vote or update their registration information on Election Day. This rate is even higher in our area. The Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht reported that in the most recent general election 19% of those who voted in Milwaukee registered that day.

 

Eliminating same-day registration would also prove costly to taxpayers. The Government Accountability Board, which would be tasked with implementing any changes to our registration and voting laws, has estimated that this change will initially cost approximately $5.2 million during the first two years of the switch. Continuing not to offer same day registration and having to instead comply with federal laws will then cost the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board at least $2 million every two years from here on out. No word yet on what the costs would be for other agencies, such as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
 

A study done by George Mason University examining voter turnout for the 2010 general elections ranked Wisconsin among the top five states with the highest voter turnout. This trend continued in the general election in 2012, as well. According to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin saw a turnout rate of 70.1% in the most recent elections. Additionally, 3,071,434 votes were cast for president in the November 2012 elections. This was the highest number of votes cast for a single office in a statewide election in Wisconsin history. It is important that we continue our proud tradition of high voter turnout in elections by participating in the electoral process on Tuesday, April 2.

 

 

 

Efforts to Weaken Consumer Protections

Both the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget and recently introduced legislative proposals aim to weaken Wisconsin's consumer protections laws making Wisconsinites more susceptible to "bad actors" in various industries. Continue reading for more information about just a couple of these concerning provisions to be introduced.

 

Exempting Rent-to-Own from Consumer Protection Laws

While the budget is meant to be a purely fiscal document, a provision was slipped in to the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget that removes "rent-to-own" companies from consumer protection laws, meaning they would not need to disclose their interest rates.  Many legislators were surprised to see this provision sneak its way into the budget as there was bipartisan opposition to the stand alone rent-to-own bill last session.

 

Under rent-to-own programs, consumers who may not otherwise qualify for a credit purchase can rent a desired item with the potential to eventually own it. However, unlike with a credit transaction, the lender does not consider the borrower's ability to pay, charges three- to four-times the value of the item in rental fees, and does not disclose the true cost of the rental or eventually purchased item. For example, a consumer, after realizing they do not qualify for a credit card, could decide to rent a TV instead of buying it right away. They may sign a contract to rent the TV at a rate of $10 per week for 78 weeks prior to paying off the item in order to own it. As a result, they will end up paying a total of $780, even though the actual retail price of that TV is approximately $220. That rent-to-own company would be requiring this Wisconsinite to pay $560 above the retail price, which equals a 228% annual interest rate.

Some rent-to-own companies follow a business model that profits by praying on those in poverty. Predatory lenders often seek out young and inexperienced customers who have jobs, but also have little in savings and damaged credit. Included in this population are some members of our armed forces.

Clearly, preventing passage of this provision is something on which we all can agree. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me in opposing this measure that preys those seeking to join the middle class at the expense of undeserved profits.

 

Penalizing Responsible Victims (Senate Bill 22)
Under current law, an individual injured in a serious automobile accident has the right to recover the full cost of medical care associated with the injuries they suffer from the wrongdoer. Senate Bill 22 will change current statutes by altering how juries in Wisconsin determine the reasonable value of medical care in such cases. Rather than bill the individual responsible for the accident the true cost of the injury, this bill will ultimately penalize accident victims who have worked hard to pay their health insurance premiums by factoring in their health insurance coverage before billing the insurance company of the wrongdoer.

 

For example, drunk drivers would not be held fully responsible for the damages caused to an injured victim of the drunk driver if the driver has worked hard, planned ahead, and made sacrifices to obtain health insurance coverage, disability coverage, or other benefits. This injured person would receive less for the same injury than someone who has never paid premiums and obtained health insurance.

 

The bill will also change a century-old law, called the collateral source rule, which was upheld just last summer by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Senate Bill 22 is simply not fair to our hard-working, responsible Wisconsinites. This legislation has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee, but has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing.

 

Strong Consumer Protections: A Shared Wisconsin Value

Wisconsin has typically prided itself on providing adequate protections to our family, friends, and neighbors should they be harmed by the actions of a negligent individual or dishonest corporation. We have even crafted well-regarded consumer protection laws and have an agency--the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection--dedicated to upholding this proud tradition and these fine laws. We should not be sacrificing our commitment to ensuring honest business practices and consumer safety by moving such careless policies forward.

 

If you or someone you know has been a victim of fraud or illegal business practices, please feel free to contact the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection to file a complaint. In 2009, the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Department received nearly 14,000 written consumer complaints and mediated more than 15,000 cases. Approximately $9.5 million was returned to Wisconsin, primarily being returned to consumers in the form of court ordered restitution, mediated refunds, or product recall refunds. Complaints can be filed online. You can also call to speak to agency staff by dialing 800-422-7128.


Click here to file a complaint online with DATCP.

 

 

 

Wisconsin Natural Resources, Your Way

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.

In conjunction with the hearing, Wisconsin's Conservation Congress holds a brief meeting to elect officers who help carry the voice of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts to the Natural Resources Board through out the year. The Conservation Congress is unique to Wisconsin and reflects both our rich tradition of conservation and our commitment to grassroots democracy.

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this annual event last year along with 4,611 other Wisconsinites where topics, including Wisconsin's recycling program, were discussed. Some of the issues being addressed this year include: managing the fish population in our waters, examining deer and other hunting seasons, changing license fees, and altering existing youth hunts.

Click here to view the agenda and questions for the upcoming 2013 conservation hearing.

 

Meeting results, along with written comments on the evening's questions and DNR recommendations, 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.


 

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: What does the budget do to support our local technical colleges with worker training?

 

A: Despite the undying work ethic of Wisconsin's middle-class families, our state is ranked 44th in the nation in terms of job growth. We are also ranked last in the Midwest in virtually every economic indicator while neighboring states are enjoying a robust economic recovery. Common sense would lead us to believe that economic development and worker training through our technical schools would be prioritized in the budget to help give Wisconsin a much needed boost to catch up to our neighbors. Unfortunately, the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget fails to introduce any substantive economic development programs and throws chump change at worker training after such programs received a $72 million cut in the last budget.

In the face of a crucial skills gap, acknowledged by businesses across Wisconsin, Governor Walker chose to cut back Wisconsin's vocational technical funding to 1989 levels. His current budget does not fix the damage already done. Clearly, the newly introduced budget takes an unbalanced approach by failing to utilize last budget's surplus to provide incentives for companies to create jobs or increase workforce training.

Because the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget fails to address the current skills gaps preventing us from increasing job prospects for Wisconsin workers, my colleagues and I proposed legislation to correct this problem. In the previous session, Democratic Senator Julie Lassa introduced the Workforce Growth Skill Training Program, legislation that creates a competitive grant training program based on the needs of Wisconsin businesses in order to close the skills gap. This legislation was reintroduced this session as part of the Jobs Now package my Democratic colleagues and I put forward in January 2013. It has since passed the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor earlier this month.

Under the program, a business, consortium of multiple businesses, workforce development board, or an economic development organization partners with the local technical college to apply for a competitive grant that supplies workforce growth funding to meet the needs of the company regarding local skilled worker training. Funding given through this program can be used for purchasing needed equipment, hiring specialized faculty, job placement, businesses recruitment, and much more. Participating technical schools will center on partnering with projects that focus on sectors with high employment demand such as manufacturing, energy, and health care; eliminating wait-lists in high demand sectors; and are more likely to result in jobs quickly.

While the adoption of the Workforce Growth Skills Training Program is a great start, it is not enough to get all Wisconsinites back to work. Therefore, I hope that my colleagues across the aisle will override the governor's devaluation of technical schools and instead opt to provide additional funding to these institutions that play a key role in workforce training and job creation.

 

 

U.S. Supreme Court Debates Marriage Equality

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court took up two cases related to marriage equality in our country. A lot is weighing on the outcome of these cases. If successful, they could effectively legalize gay marriage nationwide negating bans against it in various states. Should these laws be upheld, same-sex couples will continue to see discrimination in marriage, access to federal benefits, or both.

The first to be taken up, titled California Ballot Measure: Hollingsworth v. Perry, examines whether California's Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment. In 2008, California voters passed this ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state. The initiative aimed to overturn a California Supreme Court decision, which had previously ruled that the state's constitution required recognition of same-sex nuptials. This case is being brought to the U.S. Supreme Court by couples seeking to marry in the state.

The second case, titled Defense of Marriage Act: Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the U.S. House of Representatives v. Gill; Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Massachusetts; Office of Personnel Management v. Golinski; Windsor v. U.S., concerns the Defense of Marriage Act, also known as DOMA. This federal law went into effect in 1996 and defined marriage as a heterosexual union. As a result, spouses in a same-sex relationships are prohibited from claiming federal benefits currently available to heterosexual married couples. The benefits at issue include the right to file a joint tax return and receive Social Security survivor benefits. This law is being challenged by Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old woman fighting a $363,000 federal estate tax bill imposed after the 2009 death of her spouse.

Recent polling indicates support for marriage equality is growing, with the majority of Americans now saying they support allowing same-sex marriage. The poll, released by CNN/ORC International, indicated 54% now believe that marriage between gay and lesbian couples should be legally recognized, with 42% opposed.

Further, in 1998, the majority of Americans believed that a gay or lesbian individual could change their sexual orientation, whereas now only one-third believe that is the case. Hopefully this positive shift is signaling that our country is ready to move forward towards greater tolerance and marriage equality for all. I will be sure to keep you updated on the status of the Supreme Court's ruling on these two landmark cases related to marriage equality.
 

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that the impending arrival of the Brewer's Opening Day signals many exciting months of sausage races. But did you know that our very own Sheboygan, Wisconsin is considered the "Bratwurst Capital of the World?"

 

In 1970, Sheboygan battled Bucyrus, Ohio for the title of Bratwurst Capital of the World. After a grueling duel, the Sheboygan Press reported on August 14, 1970, that Judge John Bolgert had rendered an official decision bestowing the title upon Sheboygan and barring all other claimers from using it.

 

Our Sheboygan neighbors have a very specific way that they prepare their world-famous brats. First, they fry the brats rather than grilling them. Then, they place them on a round (not oblong) hard roll and dress it with onion and brown mustard.


Click here for more information from the City of Sheboygan about their claim to fame.

 

This year marks the 60th Annual Sheboygan Brat Days festival, celebrating Sheboygan's famous brats. Thousands will flock to this family-friendly event from August 1-3 of 2013.

 

Click here for more information about this summer's Sheboygan Brat Days.

 

 

 

Opening Day for Brewer's on Monday

Our Milwaukee Brewers celebrate Opening Day on Monday, April 1 at Miller Park, so stop by to cheer on our beloved Brewer's. We are looking forward to a great season filled with homeruns, sausage races, stadium sauce, Bernie Brewer, and fellow fans.

 

Click here for more information about our Milwaukee Brewer's, including the latest on the current team and how to purchase tickets.

 

 

 

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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