LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

November 14, 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. 
 

Sheridan Park Centennial Raffle

Date: Now through Fri., February 14

Location: Cudahy

Description: Enter the Sheridan Park Centennial Raffle for your chance to win a grand prize that includes a trip to New York, a tour of Central Park, and tickets to a Broadway play. This is a fundraising effort to help improve the park. Raffle tickets will be available beginning Friday, November 8 through Friday, February 14 at Joe's "K" Ranch, the Cudahy Library, City Hall, Cudahy Historical Society, Pulaski Inn, and through members of the Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Sheridan Park. The raffle drawing will take place during a Valentine's Day dinner on February 14 at Pulaski Inn. Tickets for the dinner will be available at Pulaski Inn. Raffle ticket holders do not need to be present in order to win. Support a great cause to improve Sheridan Park and buy your raffle tickets today.

 

Pulaski Inn (MAP)

3900 E. Pulaski Avenue Cudahy, WI 53110
 

 

Take the Scare out of Medicare

Date: Mon., November 18 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Location: Cudahy

Description: Seniors and their family members can learn more about Medicare at this informational session at the Kelly Senior Center in Cudahy.

 

Kelly Senior Center (MAP)

6100 S. Lake Drive

Cudahy, WI 53110

 

 

Danceworks Performance Company: INTERSECT
Date: Fri., November 15 through Sun., November 24

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Danceworks Performance Company kicks off a season of collaboration by crossing paths with some of Milwaukee's most influential musicians and guest choreographers for a concert of innovative premieres. CLICK HERE or call (414) 277-8480 for more information.

Danceworks (MAP)
1661 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Les Miserables

Date: Fri., November 22 through Sun., December 29

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Centerpiece to their season, Les Miserables is the show that inspired Skylight to focus on freedom and revolution as a conversation through the entire year. Set in 19th century France in the midst of revolution, this timeless musical follows Jean Valjean on his quest for redemption after being jailed for stealing a loaf of bread, inspector Javert who relentlessly pursues parole violator Valjean, and an abundance of other compelling and entertaining characters. Skylight looks forward to producing this legendary, Tony Award-winning musical in the intimate Cabot Theatre. This epic tale of passion and sacrifice will be a phenomenal way to share live theatre with the family during this holiday season. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-7811 for more information.

Skylight Music Theatre (MAP)
158 N. Broadway Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 


Heritage Place Tree Lighting
Date: Sat., November 23 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Stop by this holiday event located at Heritage Park on the northwest corner of 10th and Milwaukee Avenue.  Santa will stop by for a visit and hot cocoa and cider will be available to enjoy. A music performance by South Milwaukee Public Grade Schools will begin at 4:30 p.m. with the tree lighting immediately following performance. Also, the South Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce will offer coupon booklets at the Tree Lighting containing specials from area businesses. CLICK HERE for more information.
 



 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

This week the Senate concluded session for 2013 and will not meet again until 2014, unless called into Special Session. Therefore, this report addresses the final bills taken up in committees and on the floor including legislation to overhaul our elections, harm our water quality, and protect our privacy. Continue reading for more on these and other important state and community issues.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Elections Overhaul Reaches Assembly

Over the past three years, Republican legislators have spent more attention and time on overhauling our elections than they have on creating jobs in our stunted economy. Not only did they ram through legislation that forces ID restrictions on Wisconsin's voters, but they also introduced legislation that would do the following: eliminate same-day registration, polarize and politicize the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), limit who can volunteer to work at the polls, create additional barriers when providing proof of residency, disqualify legitimate votes that were subject to certain clerical errors, and make it easier to disqualify votes cast in a race that ends in a recount.

 

One more piece of this plan to disenfranchise voters was taken up this past Tuesday, when the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections took up legislation that would further limit voter access to the polls. Under current law, voters can apply to vote in-person absentee with the local municipal clerk beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 5 p.m. or the close of business on the Friday preceding the election, whichever is later. Assembly Bill 54 would penalize local municipalities seeking to provide greater access to the polls for qualified voters by changing this existing law.

Under this bill, in−person absentee voting applications may only be received by each municipal clerk's office Monday to Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. In addition, the clerk's office may not be open more than 40 hours a week beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 5 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election in order to receive in-person absentee voting applications. This means that municipalities that choose to offer extended hours during weekdays or open their doors on weekends prior to an election will no longer be allowed to do so. Unfortunately, the people that really lose out under this proposal are Wisconsin's workers who are unable to leave their job to vote absentee during normal business hours.

In addition to making it more difficult for our hard-working Wisconsinites to exercise their constitutional right to vote, this bill also infringes on the rights of local government. Who better to know if the municipal clerk should offer extended hours for voters than the office that conducts the elections for those Wisconsinites each Election Day?

 

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 2012 general election, as well. According to the G.A.B., Wisconsin saw a turnout rate of 70.1% in that election. 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. Further, exhaustive investigations into the accuracy of Wisconsin elections has proven that restrictions on Wisconsin voters are profoundly unwarranted. These are numbers of which to be proud. Upholding this tradition, not reversing it, is the Wisconsin way.

 

Bad Water Bills Flooding Legislature

In recent weeks, a couple of bills related to our water quality have been making their way through the Legislature. As it is not always possible to turn back the clock after we damage the quality and levels of our water supplies, it is imperative that we carefully consider these potentially harmful bills.  Otherwise, the economic health of our businesses, physical health of our families, and environmental health of our state may be placed in serious jeopardy. Continue reading for more about these bills.

 

Damaging High-Capacity Well Bill Passes Committee

Late last week, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources voted on legislation, Senate Bill 302, that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from considering the cumulative impact of high-capacity wells in Wisconsin. This bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote with three Republican senators supporting it and two Democratic senators opposing it. That means this bill is now available to be voted on by the full Senate. This legislation is concerning as it rolls back existing protections and undermines the ability of the DNR to protect our ground and surface waters on behalf of all Wisconsinites.

 

There are currently 40% more high-capacity well applications in Wisconsin than there were only two years ago, and the trend does not seem to be slowing. There are very serious groundwater quality problems in several areas of the state, including Waukesha, Madison, and Green Bay, and this bill will only exacerbate such issues in these and other communities across Wisconsin.

The waters of Wisconsin belong to the people of Wisconsin, and it is the responsibility of the DNR to protect those water resources for all of us. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently affirmed this obligation in a 2011 unanimous decision, which stated that the DNR must consider both surface waters and groundwater when evaluating high-capacity well permits as the two are inherently connected. To meet this obligation, the DNR must be able to assess how new, high-capacity wells may draw down and dig up rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands in the area surrounding the well. Senate Bill 302 would prohibit the DNR from considering the cumulative impact of high-capacity wells throughout our state, which in-turn undermines the DNR's ability to protect our groundwater and surface waters on behalf of current residents and future generations.

This legislation goes against our tradition of community conservation and stewardship and 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. Should this bill reach the full Senate for a vote, I will be sure to oppose it.

 

Repeal of Shoreland Zoning Protections

The full Senate also took up legislation, Senate Bill 183, that would repeal shoreland protections in municipalities across the state. Under current law, cities, towns, and villages are to follow the shoreland zoning rules set by their county. Under this bill, these smaller municipalities would be able to annex land and ignore these existing environmental safeguards.

 

There are several concerns that my colleagues and I raised during the committee and floor debates on this bill. First, this bill would undo continuity along our shores from one municipality to the next while simultaneously incentivizing smaller municipalities to use "back door" tactics to get around current standards. Additionally, this bill could effectively remove shoreland protections from the very parcels of land that need it most, such as low-density areas along waterways that may be undergoing rapid development as they are annexed to municipalities.

 

Given that our concerns were left largely unaddressed by Senate Republicans, I voted against the passage of this bill. After passing in the Senate, this bill will be sent to the Assembly for concurrence as its Assembly companion already passed in that house. Governor Walker will then need to decide if he will support or veto stripping basic standards of protection for our shorelands.

 

Protecting Our Right to Privacy

Privacy is a right that many of us have come to highly value. Whether that means privacy blinds in our homes, or maintaining confidentiality between us and our doctor, attorney, or clergy, we go to great length to safeguard our right to privacy.

 

However, it appears that this same right to privacy is often being ignored by employers with regards to their employees. Across the country, some employers have demanded employees turn over their usernames and passwords for their personal accounts that they utilize on their free time during nonwork hours. Requiring access to personal, social media accounts is clearly an invasion of privacy, yet as the bill states "current law does not regulate employer access to, or observation of, the personal Internet accounts of employees and applicants for employment."

 

Therefore, a bipartisan group of legislators have introduced a proposal, Senate Bill 223, that updates Wisconsin's privacy laws to reflect our ever changing technology so that Wisconsinites can retain their secure, personal accounts. This bill makes it illegal to require an employee, job applicant, student, prospective student, tenant, or prospective tenant to turn over their username and password to any social media Web site. Under this bill, employers, landlords, and universities can still:

  • Monitor what is done on a company-owned computer.

  • Restrict what Web sites are visited on a company- owned computer.

  • Monitor anything done publicly on a Facebook or Twitter page.

  • Conduct an investigation or require an employee to cooperate in an investigation of any alleged unauthorized transfer of confidential information via social media.

As you can see, this privacy update still allows Wisconsin companies and businesses the flexibility to determine what their employees can and cannot do while on the clock. It also enables these employers to continue monitoring that their employees are not posting damaging content about the company on social media sites. However, this bill also ensures that Wisconsinites are able to maintain secure and private accounts on their own time.

 

This bill passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday, November 12, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to support it. It has since been sent to the Assembly for further action.

 

Click here to view a copy of this bill.

 

 

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: Have any bills been introduced this session to help communities pursue historic preservation projects?

A: Our community, like many in Wisconsin, is no stranger to revitalizing our main thoroughfares and historic neighborhoods. From the former warehouses in the Third Ward to the stores along KK in Bay View to the homes in the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, our communities understand the economic and cultural importance of preserving rather than bulldozing.

 

This week, the Legislature took up a bill, October 2013 Special Session Assembly Bill 4, that aims to increase the reinvestment and redevelopment of historic buildings across Wisconsin, including right here in our neighborhoods. As we know from experience, investing in these historic buildings helps spark new life by attracting boutique firms, shops, and entrepreneurs that have traditionally been the backbone of Wisconsin's economy.

This proposal streamlines the process for historic tax credit usage in Wisconsin and offers better incentives to historic building owners to renovate their property and offer new uses to local communities. Currently, the state of Wisconsin offers a 5% match of the cost of rehabilitating historic buildings. This bill would increase that match to 20% of the cost, as long as the building owner invests a minimum of $50,000. Pre-approval through the Wisconsin Historical Society for any historical rehabilitation projects seeking to use tax credits for historic preservation is also required under this bill to ensure the prospective tax credit recipient meets state and federal standards.

In the past, the Historic Third Ward in the city of Milwaukee utilized these tax credits to revitalize the community. This bill will ensure that even more property owners can take advantage of this highly successful tax credit program.

 

This bill passed the Assembly on October 17 and was later passed by the Senate on November 12. I was pleased to be able to cast my vote in support of this bill and look forward to it being signed into law by the governor shortly.

 

Click here to view a copy of this bill.
 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that Wisconsin is known as "America's Dairyland" because it ranks first in the U.S. for cheese production. But did you know that according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin also ranks number one in the U.S. for cranberry production, dairy goat production, ginseng production, carrots for processing, and snap beans for processing?
 

 

Remember to Vote on Tuesday

Some communities in Wisconsin will be holding special elections on Tuesday, November 19. If you live in one of these communities, please remember to go out and vote. The polls are open on Tuesday, November 19 from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Voting is a great way to ensure that your voice is heard and that you hold those representing you accountable.

 

Click here for more information about Tuesday's upcoming elections courtesy of the Government Accountability Board.

 

 

Join Me at the High Public Cost of Low Wages Town Hall

People who work for a living should be able to make a living. As it stands, the $200-billion fast food industry pays its frontline workers so little that more than half of them are forced to rely on our safety net programs, like BadgerCare and FoodShare, leaving taxpayers responsible for picking up the tab of nearly $7 billion every year. Right here in Wisconsin, we pay $166 million to supplement the low wages of Wisconsin workers so they can feed themselves and their families and keep a roof over their heads. It is time for the people of Wisconsin to stop subsidizing the profits of corporations whose CEOs make millions while their workers are forced to seek assistance to make ends meet.

 

Join me, other legislators, community leaders, and our neighbors on Thursday, November 21 in examining the problem of the high public costs of low wages and help us in finding a solution. The information for the town hall is provided below.

High Public Cost of Low Wages Town Hall
Thursday, November 21 at 5:30 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Center
1531 W. Vliet Street

Milwaukee, WI 53205

 

 

Attending Local Veterans Day Events

This past weekend, as well as Monday, I took some time out to attend some local Veterans Day events, including the ceremony in Oak Creek and the annual presentation at Cudahy High School. I would like to thank our local communities and neighbors that attending and for making these events truly special.

 

I would also again like to thank all of our veterans for their dedicated service to our country. There are no words to describe just how grateful I am for all that you have sacrificed to keep us safe here at home.

 

 

Attention High School Juniors and Seniors: Apply to Senate Scholars Today

The Senate Scholars Program is an intensive week-long education program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. This is a wonderful opportunity for Wisconsin youth to view the role of the Legislature in democracy first hand and gain experience in the areas of policy development, constituent relations and processing legislation. Senate Scholars will also have the chance to work closely with senators, legislative staff, and University of Wisconsin faculty. Admission to the program is highly competitive and limited to 33 academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from across the state. Applications are due on Friday, January 3, 2014. Applicants will then be notified of their acceptance on or shortly after January 17, 2014.

2014 Senate Scholar Sessions:
February 9-14
February 16-21

March 9-14

If you have additional questions about the program or the application process, I encourage you to call Cyrus Anderson or Erin Allers by phone at (608) 266-2610 or via email at senatescholar@legis.wi.gov.

 

Click here to visit the Senate Scholar Program's Web site for more information.

 

Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Petition

Exponential increases in tuition and fees coupled with challenging economic times over the years have made it nearly impossible for students to work their way through school, as was commonplace in the past. In fact, nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally.
 

Wisconsin's Student Debt Crisis
Unfortunately, Wisconsin currently ranks 10th in the nation for number of college students with debt, with 67% of graduates from four-year schools having loans to repay. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt). Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years and Wisconsin's student loan borrowers have an average debt of $22,400. It is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388 per month for about 18.7 years.

Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the Great Recession, and is now the second largest consumer debt in our country, more than credit cards or auto loans. Having this money tied up in debt is a huge drain on our already struggling Wisconsin economy as the money spent on student loans could instead be spent on cars, new homes, and at local businesses in our communities.

 

Some issues related to student loans can only be dealt with at the federal level. Unfortunately, Congress' current partisan gridlock leaves little hope for real relief for student loan borrowers in the near future. We cannot wait for Congress to act. It is time for innovative, common sense solutions that will provide real relief for Wisconsin's student loan borrowers.

Therefore, I am asking that the Wisconsin State Legislature passes the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, which would do the following:

  • Allow Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to deduct their student loan payments from their income tax, resulting in annual tax savings of approximately $172 for the typical borrower or as much as $392.

  • Enable Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, putting potentially hundreds of dollars back in their pockets and into Wisconsin's economy annually. For example, a borrower with an interest rate of 6.8% and the average University of Wisconsin graduate's loan debt of $27,000 who could lower their interest rate to 4% could save over $40 per month. That would put nearly $500 back in their family's pocket over the course of a year.

  • Provide students and parents with detailed information about student loans, the best and worst private lenders, and ensure that students receive loan counseling so that Wisconsin's student loan borrowers can make informed financial decisions about student loans.

  • Ensure data is collected and tracked about student loan debt in Wisconsin to help policymakers and the public better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in our state.

As you can see, this legislation offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. I hope legislative Republicans will see the economic value of moving forward with such a proposal. Therefore, I encourage them to join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. Wisconsinites cannot afford to wait any longer for more affordable college education and decreasing their debt burden.

 

Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Petition

If you would like to see the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill become law, I encourage you to sign onto the Higher Ed, Lower Debt petition. The petition states the following:

I support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill authored by Sen. Hansen and Rep. Mason. It is a positive step forward in making higher education more affordable in Wisconsin and frees up money for Wisconsinites to spend in local communities and our state.
 

Click here if you would like join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill by signing on to the petition to encourage the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass the bill.


I also encourage you to tell your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in taking action. The more Wisconsinites that advocate for the bill, the more likely it is to pass.
 

 

Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey

I created a survey for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to save a stamp and take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!

 

 

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