LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


 

 

May 9, 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 Senior Exhibition
Date: Fri., May 10 and Sat., May 11

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Milwaukee's most exuberant and anticipated exhibition of emerging talent returns in all MIAD galleries. Meet the artists and designers who innovate for the economy and community, and discuss their capstone projects from all of MIAD's 11 majors and 16 minors. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-8070 for more information.

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

 

Grant Park Weed-outs

Date: Sat., May 11 & 18 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Help neighbors pull invasive garlic mustard to protect plant diversity in Grant Park. Meet at the tennis court parking lot (Area 1). CLICK HERE or call (414) 764-0612 for more information.

 

Grant Park (MAP)

100 E. Hawthorne Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 


Native Plant Sale

Date: Sat., May 11 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Support South Milwaukee Middle School's Environmental Club by purchasing native, hardy perennials and garden vegetable plants. Prices start as low as $1 for 2.5-inch pots. Plants also make a great Mother's Day gift. This event will take place in front of South Milwaukee Middle School.

 

South Milwaukee Middle School (MAP)

1001 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

 

"Farm to Fork: The Good Food Revolution"
Date: Wed., May 15 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Growing Power's, Will Allen, will be the featured speaker at the Friends of the Golda Meir Library Annual Program, in the Library's fourth floor Conference Center. Also speaking will be Michael Lovell, UWM Chancellor; Gretchen Mead, Victory Garden Initiative Executive Director; and Stan Stojkovic, UWM School of Social Welfare Dean & Chair of the Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

UWM Golda Meir Library (MAP)

2311 E. Hartford Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Swan Lake

Date: Thurs., May 16 through Sun., May 19

Location: Milwaukee

Description: There is a reason Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is the most popular ballet of all time. It is one of ballet's most powerful stories of love and deception. Milwaukee Ballet's dramatic production promises to showcase the company's strong classical dancers, while the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra performs this timeless classic with passion and grace. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-7206 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

City of Cudahy Bike Auction & Rummage Sale

Date: Sat., May 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Cudahy

Description: Partake in the auction of bicycles and rummage hosted by the Cudahy Historical Society and Cudahy Police Department. Paddle sales begin at 9 a.m. with the auction starting at 11 a.m. A city rummage sale will occur simultaneously in the Historical Society Annex. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Cudahy Historical Society (MAP)

4647 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue

Cudahy, WI 53110

 

 

Bay View Historical Society Yard Sale
Date: Sat., May 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Stop by this annual yard sale to benefit the Society. Refreshments are available for purchase on the grounds of the historic Beulah Brinton House. The yard sale itself will be held on the grounds and inside the house. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Beulah Brinton House (MAP)

2590 S. Superior Street

Milwaukee, WI 53207

 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

This Larson Report revisits the problems at WEDC and in our voucher programs more in-depth. Continue reading for more information about these and other important issues including the budget's progress, mental health awareness, and legislative internships.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

 

Outrage Over WEDC Failure Grows

Outrage over Governor Walker's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation's (WEDC) repeated missteps continues to grow as more and more information comes to light through audits, press conferences, and public hearings. Last week, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released its findings on WEDC's performance thus far, which were then taken up this week in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and the Joint Committee on Finance. The audit confirms what legislative Democrats and concerned citizens have been saying from the beginning. Although it has been given great authority over our tax dollars, WEDC lacks the necessary accountability and transparency measures that should accompany such obligation.

 

Click here to view the WEDC audit in full.


While Democratic legislators offered extensive suggestions to improve accountability and transparency when WEDC was created, most of these protections and safeguards were rejected by legislative Republicans. By refusing to adopt commonsense transparency and accountability amendments, Republicans provided the avenue for WEDC to waste our tax dollars and fail to create Wisconsin jobs.

This public-private agency has had persistent problems since its inception in 2011. These include circumventing Wisconsin's fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw was losing track of over $50 million in loans, including about $12 million that were overdue.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, it appears WEDC's problems have not been relegated to the past. In fact, the revelations made in four audits of the agency, particularly the newly released report, are nothing short of shocking. Continue reading for more details on the latest audit findings of WEDC.

 

Failing to Track Job Creation
WEDC is currently tasked with administering many of the state's economic development programs, including grants, loans, bonding authorization, and tax incentives. However, the audit shows that WEDC has been failing to properly set goal objectives for job creation programs, follow-up with program participants, and ensure these businesses or organizations receiving taxpayer dollars are living up to their contracts to create jobs. Below are just some of WEDC's insufficient policies, which prevented them from administering their grant and loan programs effectively.

  • Had no policies for making awards through some of its programs, including the Capital Catalyst, Minority Revolving Loan Fund Expansion, or the WEDC Partner Operations Assistance programs. As a result, it is unclear how WEDC was able to award funds through these programs.

  • Had no policies for analyzing the risk of default by issuing new loans to recipients that did not repay prior loans, leaving taxpayer dollars in jeopardy and betting on a company that likely is unable to create jobs. For example, a business awarded a $100,000 loan from the former Department of Commerce was delinquent on its loan payments from 2005 to 2008 and again in 2011, taking the company 14 years to repay the loan. WEDC ignored the company's repayment history and issued it a $200,000 loan in January 2012.

  • Had no policies for determining when an applicant was eligible for a forgivable loan and conflicting policies related to recipients awarded match program funds. One policy required recipients to provide a three-to-one match, while a second policy stated that a one-to-one match was acceptable.

  • Did not always perform the analysis necessary to determine if an applicant's proposed project was eligible for a grant, loan, or tax credit. As a result, WEDC made some awards to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and ineligible amounts. For example, in October 2011 and November 2011, WEDC awarded business loans that were respectively $100,000 and $360,000 more than the maximum allowed.

  • Allocated tax credits for economic development projects that occurred before the contracts were executed and in ways that violated state law or program policies. This included issuing a $250,000 contract through a Jobs Tax Credit program without requiring the company to create any jobs.

  • Recipients of 59 awards submitted 45% of the contractually required progress from July 2011 through December 2012. WEDC also violated state law by not independently verifying the performance information reported by a sample of grant and loan recipients.

  • WEDC's governing board did not establish expected results for 10 of 30 economic development programs in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

  • Provided grants to companies tasked with creating family supporting jobs, ignoring the fact that half of the employees at such a company earned less than 150% of minimum wage.

  • Failed to collect funds from businesses that did not meet their contractual obligation, such as creating jobs. 

WEDC's inability to set goals, monitor programs and participants, and follow state statutes have made it nearly impossible for the Legislative Audit Bureau, or anyone else, to gauge the extent of its failure to create jobs and spur economic development. It is no wonder why Wisconsin currently ranks 44th in the nation in job growth, 45th in wage growth, and dead last in short-term job growth, given that its job creation agency is failing in just about every measurable way possible.

 

Potential Political Payback, Conflicts of Interest

The audit also revealed that some WEDC policies give the appearance of favoritism. One example of this is found in the administration of Wisconsin's tax credit programs. Some of the tax credits require the creation of Enterprise Zones based on an area's level of economic distress, which takes such factors as unemployment rate and percentage of families with incomes below the poverty line into account. The goal is then to provide loans to attract businesses to these distressed Enterprise Zones. However, rather than creating these zones based on demographics and economic distress factors, WEDC simply designated zones based on the locations of businesses that applied for tax credits. Such irresponsibility has likely impeded job growth in the areas that need it most, keeping those Wisconsinites in an unrelenting state of hardship.

 

Instances of conflicts of interests were also found within the audit. Unlike other state agencies, WEDC is not required to solicit bids before contracting. As a result, WEDC was able to hire the firms Baker Tilly and Schenck to help the agency with its IT systems and in conducting an internal audit respectively. However, it was since discovered that while Baker Tilly was under contract, WEDC offered a $750,000 loan to a  to a firm represented by Baker Tilly. When they rejected the initial offer, WEDC then increased its offer to a $1 million forgivable loan that would not need to be repaid if the firm fulfilled its contractual obligations. A similar situation was found to have occurred with Schenck as well. During WEDC's contract with Schenck for an independent audit of the agency, Schenk was also representing a firm and negotiating a financial award with WEDC, which offered the firm $900,000 in tax credits and a $237,000 grant. After a request for additional assistance, WEDC allocated the firm $1.1 million in tax credits and a $300,000 grant.

 

Additionally, unlike other state agency employees and elected officials, all WEDC employees are not currently required to follow state ethics laws, and are therefore allowed to accept gifts. However, the amount of gifts they have received is staggering. In a report to the Government Accountability Board, WEDC reported receiving 40 gifts totaling $55,100 from July 2011 to December 2011.

 

Such practices leave WEDC susceptible to becoming more beholden to businesses than the taxpayers they were hired to serve. As a result, the audit recommended that WEDC develop policies outlining in which situations multiple vendors should be solicited, evaluated, and conflicts of interest addressed.

 

Poor Staff Vetting and High Turnover

Since its creation, WEDC has demonstrated a failure to properly vet job candidates and retain staff once they are hired. WEDC's first chief financial officer departed the agency in July 2012. That individual's replacement, the former chief operating officer, then left in October 2012. In September 2012, Secretary Paul Jadin announced his resignation following the governor's appointment of Ryan Murray, a Republican political operative with no private-sector or economic development experience, as chief operating officer.

 

The drama continued this year when WEDC's third chief financial officer resigned in April after only one day on the job. Trouble continued this month when the agency's spokesman, John Gillespie, resigned after it was discovered that he had unpaid back taxes totaling over $36,000, among other outstanding debts.

 

The staggering number of turnovers and level of embarrassment resulting from poor hiring choices has made it difficult for the agency to effectively implement and manage job creation and economic development programs. Additionally, WEDC's floundering reputation and repeated failures likely make it difficult for the agency to hire and retain quality executive staff with experience in both the private-sector and economic development.

 

Questionable Use of Taxpayer Dollars

WEDC's economic development programs are not the only thing that lacks set policies and procedures in the agency. WEDC has also failed to set policies for its staff to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not being misused.

 

Most of the staffing problems revolved around agency purchasing credit cards. According to the audit, in September 2012, 77 purchasing cards had been issued to 76 of WEDC's 90 staffers. This number later increased to 83 cards, some of which had a credit limit of $20,000. After delving into the purchases further, some seem like an inappropriate way to use taxpayer dollars. These include spending our tax dollars on Badger tickets, alcohol, and iTunes gift cards. Further, taxpayer dollars were also spent on purchasing train tickets in China and meal expenses in India for two family members of the former chief executive officer. These funds were only reimbursed by the former employee in question after the Legislative Audit Bureau inquired about the charges and whether or not WEDC had been reimbursed.

 

The purchasing cards were also used to buy such things as gasoline, gifts, and meals. Such card purchases were banned under the former Department of Commerce because it could allow cardholders to commit fraud by double dipping as they could use their purchasing cards for the expenses and also request reimbursement for the same expenses, which is often difficult for agencies to detect. Yet WEDC still allowed staff to purchase such items on their cards, including $10,300 worth of gasoline.

 

Finally, WEDC ignored its own personnel policy related to iPhone purchases, which indicates that WEDC provides cellular phones to staff and owns the phones, which must be returned to WEDC upon termination. Yet documents that turned-up in the audit show a different story. Ignoring this policy resulted in WEDC paying for the following for each employee that requested an iPhone from WEDC:

  • Up to $150 to break existing cell phone contracts to purchase an iPhone and enter a new contract

  • Up to $210 to purchase an iPhone

  • Up to $35 to activate a new iPhone

  • $1,068 annually to cover the service charges

Additionally, iPhones were never returned after employment termination and were allowed by WEDC to be used for personal use. As a result, taxpayers are sinking thousands into each participating employee to provide them with a personally owned iPhone, rather than one belonging to WEDC.

 

Minor Changes, More Money?

Today, in a stunning move during a JFC budget hearing, Republican JFC members rewarded WEDC with more money than even Governor Walker asked for in his budget, despite their bad behavior. Republican members did grudgingly introduce a few minor changes in a small step towards greater accountability, but fell well short of the reforms needed to salvage the governor's floundering flagship agency.

 

Next Step

The scathing audit was the last straw for my colleagues and I regarding the failing WEDC. Apparently, we were not the only ones bothered by it as even a Republican Senator was quoted saying "I hope they can get their act together, but this is pretty darn bad. I'd say the jury is out whether this was a good idea to create this whole entity . . . I don't think there can be any more excuses. They've got to fix this thing."

 

Therefore, we hope Republicans will join us in our request to stop giving any new taxpayer dollars to this money pit until they have adequately addressed the concerns in the audit, and bring about greater accountability and transparency to this PUBLIC-private agency. We deserve better. Losing track of taxpayer dollars during difficult economic times is unacceptable. We cannot allow WEDC to continue this fraud, waste, and abuse at a time when neighborhood schools are not able to spend a single new dollar in the classrooms and 90,000 Wisconsinites are being cut from BadgerCare. Until accountability and transparency measures are enacted, no new taxpayer dollars should be wasted at WEDC.
 


 

Feds to Track Disability Discrimination in Voucher Program

In a letter released last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told Wisconsin that the state must ensure students with disabilities attending or seeking to attend taxpayer funded voucher schools "do not encounter discrimination on the basis of their disabilities."

 

Under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the state is obligated to ensure that students with disabilities seeking to attend voucher schools through the Milwaukee Parent Choice Program (MPCP) do not encounter discrimination on the basis of their disability status. For years, my colleagues and I have heard story after story from parents, neighbors, and advocacy groups illustrating this federal law is being widely ignored by Milwaukee's voucher schools. These experiences detail students with disabilities being deterred from attending an MPCP school, denied admission to a voucher school when they do apply, and expelled or forced to leave a voucher school as a result of the school choosing not to accommodate the needs of students with disabilities. In fact, while at least 19% of students in Milwaukee Public Schools are considered to have special needs, the same can only be said for about 2% of students participating in the MPCP program.

 

In the aforementioned letter, it seems that the federal government is also under the impression that students with disabilities are not being treated equally by MPCP schools receiving voucher funds. Therefore, they have given the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) the ability to better track voucher schools to ensure they are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such efforts were nearly impossible in the past as MPCP schools are exempt from the accountability and transparency measures required at our neighborhood public schools.

 

Tracking Discrimination

In order for DPI to comply with the federal government's aim to ensure the civil rights of students with disabilities are not violated in the MPCP program, and all other communities with such a program, they will implement the following reforms during the 2013-2014 school year and have their progress reviewed by the federal government:

  • State's ADA Title II Obligation: Eliminate discrimination against students with disabilities, or students whose parents or guardians have disabilities, in its administration of voucher programs. The private or religious status of a voucher schools does not absolve them from discrimination.

  • Complaints: Establish and publicize a procedure for individuals to submit complaints to DPI alleging disability-related discrimination in voucher programs. Complaints and responses will then be independently review by the federal government.

  • Additional Data Collection and Reporting: Collect data on how and to what extent students with disabilities are being served by voucher schools. Data should by taken of voucher schools during the 2013-2014 school year and include the number of students with disabilities enrolled listed by grade and disability type, denied admission, departed during the school year to re-enroll in public school, and suspended or expelled. Once the data is collected, it will then be submitted to the federal government.

  • Public Outreach to Students with Disabilities: Conduct outreach to educate the families of students with disabilities about the voucher program and provide specific, accurate information about the rights of students with disabilities. Their efforts will be monitored by the federal government.

  • Monitoring and Oversight: Ensure voucher schools do not discourage a student with a disability from applying for admission or improperly reject a student with a disability who applies to a voucher school. Require that a school that expels or forces a student with a disability to leave has a reason that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. DPI will be responsible for reviewing and investigating potentially unlawful cases of discrimination and will document actions taken by the agency to remedy the law violation.

  • ADA Training for Voucher Schools: Provide training on the Americans with Disabilities Act to new and existing voucher schools. Training materials and attendance sheets will then be sent to the federal government for review.

  • Guidance: Develop program guidance in consultation with the federal government to assist and educate voucher schools about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by 2014.

Discrimination Not Only Problem with Vouchers

Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction recently released a report confirming what has been a familiar notion to many in Milwaukee County: voucher schools do not provide a superior education to our neighborhood public schools. Statewide test assessments taken by students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and Racine's Parental Private School Choice Program (PPSCP) revealed that voucher students underperformed in mathematics and reading as compared to their local public school districts. The test scores reflect the reading and mathematics scores for students of all grades during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.

In Milwaukee, public school students fared 7.8 percentage points better in math during the 2011-2012 school year and 6.5 percentage points better in the 2012-13 school year as compared to MPCP students. MPS students also did better with reading proficiency, scoring 4.2 percentage points better in 2011-12 and 3.4 percentage points better in 2012-13.

Milwaukee Public School were not alone in their compared success to voucher school students. Students in the Racine Unified School District also did better in math and reading as compared to PPSCP voucher students. During the 2011-12 school year, public school students tested 0.9 percentage points higher in math and 8.1 percentage points higher in reading versus their voucher student counterparts. The same was true in the 2012-13 school year, where public school students scored 3.7 and 2.1 percentage points higher than voucher students in math and reading respectively.

Click here to view the results referenced in full.

The results of this recent report continue the previous trend that this unaccountable experiment on our children has failed. Scoring lower in math and reading than their public counterparts, voucher schools in Wisconsin have done a disservice to parents and future Wisconsin workers. After 20 years of report after report showing underperformance, the logical reaction would be to institute accountability measures for private schools receiving taxpayer funded vouchers, not expand them without reforms. As property taxes continue to rise while reading and math scores remain low, Wisconsin's middle-class families are the unlucky backers of a losing gamble with the education of our children.
 

Make Your Voice Heard

Despite recent failures, the Republican budget allows for no new spending--$0 dollars--for our traditional public schools but increases spending for voucher schools by up to $1,414 per pupil. It is time for all of us to do something about this misguided, nonsensical education budget. Let the governor and Republican Legislature know that you oppose their misplaced education priorities. Tell them to support public education and stop spending public dollars on unaccountable private voucher schools by signing this petition being circulated on SignOn.org. The petition states the following:
 

In 2011, Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature passed a budget that contained the largest cuts to public education in Wisconsin history--$1.6 billion gone from our kids' schools. Class sizes went up drastically. Quality after-school programs were eliminated. Good teachers were laid off.

This year, the governor's proposed budget freezes public school spending, while increasing funding for unaccountable and unproven private voucher schools. Tell Governor Walker and the state Republicans to stand up for our kids and not special interests that want to profit on the backs of our future generations.


Petition signatures will then be shared with your state representative, state senator, and the governor. Additionally, once a neighbor has signed on to the petition, they will then have the option to send information about the petition to others by sharing it on Facebook, tweeting about it on Twitter, or emailing it to friends and family.

Join 3,201 of your fellow Wisconsinites by clicking here to sign the petition.



 

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'm finding it difficult to stay up-to-date on what is happening with the current budget. I know it's in the Joint Finance Committee, but how to I stay apprised of what they are doing when they meet?

 

A: I understand where you are coming from. The budget is a long, time-consuming, and confusing process for legislators and the public alike. As you know, the budget is currently in the Joint Finance Committee (JFC). They have been meeting regularly to take up various budget provisions to amend or address. In fact, JFC met this Thursday to take up such issues as funding for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; residency ordinances for teachers, police, and firefighters; staff positions to implement ID restrictions on Wisconsin voters; and provisions related to Wisconsin's technical colleges.

 

However, there are some resources available to help Wisconsinites, like you, remain informed. I have listed of number of these below.

 

Committee Calendar--To see when the Joint Finance Committee is meeting and what budget provisions they are taking up that day, you can visit the Legislature's Web site, which offers a committee calendar complete with agenda items for each committee.

 

Click here to visit the Legislature's committee calendar.

 

Joint Finance Committee Home Page--The Joint Finance Committee also has its own Web page, which even provides the opportunity for Wisconsinites to sign-up to receive meeting notices by email.

 

Click here to visit the Joint Finance Committee's Home Page.

 

WisconsinEye--You can even watch the executive sessions currently being held by the Joint Finance Committee online. WisconsinEye provides the public with unfettered access to committee meetings, public hearings, session days, and other government activities, which allows the public to view legislative debate and policy-making without editing, commentary, or analysis. They also offer a daily schedule highlighting what videos will be played that day.

 

Click here to visit WisconsinEye's Web site.

Fiscal Bureau--This nonpartisan Bureau provides fiscal and program information and analyses to the Wisconsin Legislature, its committees, and individual legislators. The Bureau also serves as staff to the Joint Committee on Finance, which reviews and deliberates on legislation affecting state revenues and appropriations. The primary focus of the Committee's work, and thus, that of the Bureau, in each legislative session is the state's biennial budget. Their budget Web page not only offers the budget text in full, but also provides a summary and requested budget papers.

 

Click here to visit the Fiscal Bureau's budget Web page.
 

Twitter and Facebook--My Democratic colleagues on JFC are also trying their best to keep Wisconsinites up-to-date on the latest budget happenings. Feel free to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to stay informed.

 

Click here to like on Facebook.

 

Click here to follow on Twitter.

 

Hopefully you found these resources helpful. Using them in combination should help you stay better informed during the budget debate.

 

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that Wisconsin is known as the Dairy State and world renowned for its quality milk and cheese products. But did you know that Wisconsin is also the birthplace of malted milk?

 

In 1887 Racine food manufacturer William Horlick invented malted milk. The Horlick Malted Milk Company, started in 1875, was a pioneer in dried milk production. Malted milk originated as a health food for infants. Eventually, it became a standard offering of soda fountains across the country and found even greater popularity when mixed with ice cream into a "malted." The fondly remembered "malt shops" of communities large and small owe their very name to the Horlick brothers of Racine.
 

 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Every May, we observe Mental Health Awareness Month, which is dedicated to educating about the prevalence of mental illness in the United States. The goal is to not only increase awareness about mental health disorders, but also provide resources and support for our neighbors in need.
 

Mental health conditions are pervasive, affecting one in four members of our community and accounting for four of the 10 leading causes of disability in the United States. Unfortunately, less than one-third of adults and one-half of children living with a diagnosable mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and bipolar disorder, receive mental health services.

The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, guarantees that Americans will no longer be denied insurance because of a pre-existing ailment, including those related to mental health. More than 71 million Americans can now get free, preventive services including screenings for alcohol abuse and depression. Additionally, young adults under 26 years old are now able to stay on their parents' insurance plans during the crucial time when behavior health issues are likely to surface.

The Wisconsin Legislature has also demonstrated commitment to this cause. On April 30, 2010, the Wisconsin Parity Act was signed into law. The Wisconsin Parity Act ensures that businesses cover mental health and substance abuse problems, the same way they cover physical ailments. The passage of this act makes sure that Wisconsinites in need can receive necessary medical treatment without accumulating a massive amount of debt.

We all need to work together to spread awareness of this serious matter and promote access to the vital health and community services that are desperately needed by our neighbors living with mental health conditions. Individuals and their families with diverse and complex needs should not have to deal with unaffordable health care and inadequate resources.

Looking for help? Below is information about valuable resources available to those living in our community.


National Alliance on Mental Illness (Greater Milwaukee)

This organization works to improve the lives of individuals living with mental illnesses and their families through advocacy, support, and education.


NAMI Greater Milwaukee (MAP)
3732 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 106

Milwaukee, WI 53208
 

Click here or call (414) 344-0447 for more information.


Mental Health America of Wisconsin
This is an affiliate of the nation's largest and oldest community-based network dedicated to helping all Americans live mentally healthier lives. They advocate for changes in policy, educate the public by providing critical information, and deliver urgently needed programs and services.

 

Mental Health America of Wisconsin (MAP)

600 W. Virginia Street, Suite 502
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 

Click here or call (414) 276-3122 for more information.

Impact 2-1-1

The Milwaukee area has a central assistance hotline, where a Community Resource Specialist can be reached 24 hours each day by dialing 2-1-1. If calling from a cell or pay phone, please dial 1-866-211-3380 (toll free) instead. The 2-1-1 service can help with locating mental health services to meet your needs.

 

Click here for more information.
 

 

 

Legislative Internships Available

A legislative internship at the Capitol is an excellent way to gain valuable real life experience about everyday operations of the Wisconsin State Legislature and the state's legislative process. This internship is a wonderful opportunity open to both students and recent graduates. In addition to internships at the Capitol in Madison, there are also opportunities available at my new Milwaukee office, which is shared with Sen. Nikiya Harris.

 

Intern responsibilities vary, but include policy research, summarizing proposed legislation, and responding to constituent inquires. All interns also assist with general office operations, including answering the phone. In addition, there may be opportunities for interns to attend session days, sit in on committee meetings, and participate in in-district events.

 

Applicants must be able to work during normal business hours, and dedicate a minimum of 10 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid.
 

To apply for an internship, please submit the internship application, a cover letter, and a resume electronically to Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov or mail them to Wisconsin State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707. Please specify which office you are interested in working at when you submit your application materials. Do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions about this internship opportunity.

 

Click here for more information about this opportunity and to access the intern application.


 

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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