LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

October 10, 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. 
 

 

Shrek: The Musical
Date: Fri., October 11 through Sun., November 17
Location: Milwaukee

Description: "Once upon a time, there was a little ogre named Shrek..." And thus begins the fairy tale of an unlikely hero who finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking Donkey, a feisty princess who resists her rescue, and a cast of banished fairy tale misfits. This musical brings a story of adventure, friendship, and ogre love that is bringing ugly back. This musical is best for children ages 6 and up. CLICK HERE for more information.

First Stage Children's Theater (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Pioneer Farm Days
Date: Sat., October 12 and Sun., October 13 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Oak Creek

Description: Stop by this Fall Harvest celebration and old-time farm show. See antique tractors, engines, and machinery on display and at work. Watch a sawmill cutting logs into lumber or a thresher separating wheat from its straw. There will also be a flea market, farmers' market, farm toy show, and events for the kids. Admission is $4 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

American Legion Park (MAP)

9145 S. Shepard Avenue

Oak Creek, WI 53154

 

 

2nd National Hmong Human Rights Conference

Date: Fri., October 18 and Sat., October 19

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Hmong Human Rights committee of the Hmong Student Association at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee invites you to attend its 2nd National Hmong Human Rights Conference. This conference aims to address contemporary social issues in the Hmong community. CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-1122 for more information including a list of confirmed presenters.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (MAP)
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53201

 

 

21st Annual Dia de los Muertos Exhibition

Date: Fri., October 18 through Sat., November 16

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This October marks 21 years of the Walker's Point Center of the Arts celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a rich Mexican tradition. Curated by local art historian Juan Lopez, this traditional celebration will include a touch of contemporary flavor with ofrendas (altars/offerings) created by local artists of various backgrounds in addition to sculpture and 2-D work related to the holiday. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a celebration of life. It reminds one to reflect on what they value through the commemoration of loved ones and their lives, while at the same time generating enthusiasm for the friends and family around us. As the celebration progresses, this dynamic gathering of people transforms itself into a festivity of life. Informational tours and culturally relevant crafts for kids are available during the course of this exhibition. The opening reception will be held on Friday, October 18 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

Walker's Point Center for the Arts (MAP)
839 S. 5th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

As neighboring states in the Midwest, Wisconsin and Minnesota have more in common than they do differences. Yet the two states took opposing approaches to implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and have achieved very different results. This week's newsletter will compare these two states with regards to federal health care implementation. It also features articles on legislation that penalizes asbestos victims, a bill to provide chemotherapy parity, and a letter signed by 18 legislators in support of United Sportsmen.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Obamacare Comparison: WI vs. MN

As neighboring states in the Midwest, Wisconsin and Minnesota have more in common than they do differences. Yet the two states took very different approaches to implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and have achieved very different results.

 

Paying More to Cover Fewer People

A key component of the ACA is the opportunity to receive additional funding from the federal government to strengthen our safety net program, BadgerCare, by filling the gaps in coverage. In fact, the federal government offered 100% of the funding needed to fill the coverage gap for the first three years and at least 90% in subsequent years. In February, our governor announced he would reject the ACA's recommended path to pursue his own Medicaid plan, which will cost the state more taxpayer money to cover fewer Wisconsinites.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) had an opportunity to set Wisconsin back on the right track when it took up this portion of the state budget on June 4, 2013. Instead, they approved most of the governor's plan in a 12-4 vote. Senate Democrats introduced several amendments on the floor to the 2013-15 state budget pertaining to Medicaid funding including an amendment to accept the full Medicaid expansion funding. This amendment was rejected by the Republican majority.

It defies logic that extreme legislative Republicans would choose to reject the opportunity to expand health care coverage to nearly 85,000 more Wisconsinites, save the state $119 million over the biennium, and create approximately 10,500 new jobs for a state that is lagging behind the rest of the nation. Instead of responsibly covering more Wisconsinites, some neighbors will now lose BadgerCare coverage and be pushed into an exchange that is not designed for their income level. Families unable to make that payment will be left uninsured and using emergency rooms with the costs shifted on to taxpayers.

 

Minnesota, on the other hand, opted to accept additional federal funding for their Medicaid program. The adoption of these funds was done through passage of legislation  that was signed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in February 2013. As a result, Minnesota was able to expand health care coverage to 35,000 additional childless, low-income adults without having to utilize additional tax dollars from the state for at least the next three years.

 

Forgoing a Personalized, State-Based Exchange

Implementing the new changes outlined in the Affordable Care Act required states to either create their own state-based health care exchange, opt to follow the standards and guidelines set forth by the federal government, or adopt a hybrid of the two.


Governor Walker had said that Wisconsin would not consider building a state-based exchange until after the November election hoping that the country would elect a new president and overturn the health care reform law. When that did not happen, he unilaterally decided that Wisconsin would forgo the opportunity to create its own exchange.

 

Wisconsin has unique health care needs. Such specialized needs required creating an exchange tailored to meet the needs of Wisconsinites. Unfortunately, this is not the path Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans selected.

 

In contrast, neighboring Minnesota opted to keep the exchange local by creating their own online marketplace, called MNSure. The path our Republican leaders chose have likely had a negative impact on the premium costs in Wisconsin compared to those in Minnesota. In Minnesota, the average monthly premium across all age groups will be $192. The next lowest average is in Tennessee at $245. And the national average is $328. Unfortunately for Wisconsinites, we will see average monthly premiums of $361. That is 88% higher than the average premium in Minnesota. It is important to mention that the average premium rates cited do not include possible premium discounts, which could further lower premiums for lower- and middle-income individuals.

 

The End Result Favors Minnesota
While we all know our Green Bay Packers are far superior to the Minnesota Vikings, the same cannot be said of our governor's choices when implementing the Affordable Care Act in Wisconsin. Not only will Wisconsin be paying more to ensure fewer Wisconsinites, but Wisconsinites will also be paying more on average towards premiums than our neighbor state. All the facts indicate that our governor and Wisconsin's Legislative Tea Party Republicans were so focused on opposing affordable health care at all costs, that they sacrificed our health care coverage and wallets in the process. Looking at the case study of Minnesota, we are reminded that things could have been so much better.


 

Penalizing Asbestos Victims

This week, the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor took up legislation--Senate Bill 13 and its companion, Assembly Bill 19--intended to limit the rights of victims to pursue legal action against personal trusts, such as lawsuits related to asbestos exposure. Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that are resistant to heat and many chemicals, and do not conduct electricity. As a result, asbestos had previously been used as an insulating material, until it was discovered to have negative health effects. Asbestos was used to insulate factories, schools, homes, and ships, and to make automobile brake and clutch parts, roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, cement, textiles, and hundreds of other products. Therefore, war veterans and workers in the manufacturing, mining, or construction industries are particularly at risk of overexposure to potentially deadly asbestos.


Workers can be exposed to asbestos mainly by inhaling fibers in the air they breathe. This may occur during mining and processing asbestos, making asbestos-containing products, or installing asbestos insulation. The inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers can cause serious diseases and scarring of the lungs and other organs that may not appear until years after the exposure has occurred. Mesothelioma and lung cancer are two of the more severe lung problems that can result in overexposure to asbestos.

 

During the public hearing on these bills, veterans groups, like the Wisconsin VFW and the Wisconsin Military of the Purple Heart, publicly expressed great concerns over two bills. According to the Wisconsin Asbestos Victims Network, Asbestos kills at least 10,000 Americans every year, and Wisconsin has the 14th highest rate of asbestos deaths in the nation. Tragically, while military veterans represent 8% of the nation's population, they comprise an astonishing 30% of all known mesothelioma deaths that have occurred in this country.

Further, military.com cites that virtually every ship commissioned by the United States Navy between 1930 and about 1970 contained several tons of asbestos insulation in the engine room, along the pipes, and in the walls and doors. The sailors that manned these ships and the men who repaired them were prime candidates for asbestos exposure. While asbestos products were discontinued by about 1980, active military members are still affected by asbestos as hundreds of military installations were left with asbestos in the flooring, ceiling tiles, wall insulation, building foundations, and military vehicles.

 

In the years since this dangerous substance was discovered to have cancer causing properties, manufacturing and mining companies have compiled billion dollar trusts to compensate victims for their illnesses as a stipulation of filing for bankruptcy. These bills could limit victims' rights to pursue a personal injury case against these trusts. The restrictive measures in this bill will adversely impact all personal injury cases, and will especially hinder asbestos litigation.

Senate Bill 13 and Assembly Bill 19 include provisions to dictate strict discovery and scheduling requirements for certain types of lawsuits. Most troubling, the bills mandate that a plaintiff who files a lawsuit must disclose, within 30 days after he or she files the action, whether he or she has filed or anticipates filing a claim against a personal injury trust.

The language in these bills are just another attempt to limit the legal rights of victims. Imposing a 30-day time limit to pursue a tort claim on a victim of cancer or other severe illness is both unfair and unjust. Additionally, requiring that plaintiffs present all their documents, records, and trial or discovery materials when the case commences is contrary to current legal procedure for lawsuits and will have a detrimental effect on an otherwise legitimate case.

Ensuring victims' rights is vital to ensure that justice prevails in our legal system and should not be minimized in order to better serve special interests. Therefore, I will not support either of these bills should one of them reach the Senate floor for a vote. Assembly Bill 19 has passed the full Assembly and was voted out of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor along party lines, so it could be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor at any point. Senate Bill 13 also passed in the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor along party lines. It too can be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor, but would also have to pass in the Assembly in order to be signed into law.

 

Click here to view a copy of Assembly Bill 19 and its companion.
 

 

Chemotherapy Parity Bill Gets Hearing

Typically, intravenous chemotherapy medications are covered under a health plan's medical benefit. Oral chemotherapy medications, on the other hand, are generally covered under a health plan's pharmacy benefits, which usually results in higher out-of-pocket costs for the chemotherapy patient.

Oral chemotherapy medications are becoming the standard course of treatment for many cancer patients. These medications are less invasive and pose fewer complications, such as infection, than their intravenous counterparts. Oral chemotherapy medications also offer an alternative for patients that have failed to respond to other treatments, including intravenous chemotherapy. In addition, for some individuals oral chemotherapy is their only treatment option as there are no intravenous equivalents to battle certain forms of cancer, such as Multiple Myeloma and Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia.

Last session, I signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation which would have ensured that chemotherapy patients on health insurance policies regulated by the state of Wisconsin receive equal coverage for intravenous and oral chemotherapy treatments. Unfortunately, this legislation never reached the Senate Floor for a vote before the previous session ended. This was a blow to our Wisconsin neighbors whose treatment options were unfairly limited.

 

Senate Bill 300, legislation similar to last session chemotherapy parity bill, was reintroduced this session and received a public hearing in the Senate's Housing and Insurance Committee this week. Our family, friends, and neighbors fighting against cancer should never be forced to forgo treatment as a result of health care coverage discrepancies that have impeded access to the vital lifesaving medications they need. Therefore, I will support Senate Bill 300 should it reach the Senate floor for a vote this session.


Fortunately, we are also looking forward to implementation of the new health care reform law. Under the rules of the new health care reform law, out-of-pocket costs for coverage are limited to $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families. With this safeguard in place, our neighbors will worry less about the high co-pays on medical expenses we have seen up to this point. This includes the costs associated with the expensive oral chemotherapy treatment.

 

Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 300.
 

 

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 heard legislators signed a letter in support of the $500,000 United Sportsmen sweetheart deal. Is this true? Who would sign on to such a letter?

A: My Democratic colleagues and I remain committed to working with Republican legislators to make good on the promise of investing in our next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. However, in order for us to move forward together, we need Republicans to join us by admitting they made a mistake in solely supporting the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation for the $500,000 sporting grant. Unfortunately, not even two months ago, 18 Republican legislators sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources' Wisconsin Sporting Heritage Program Grant Application Committee recommending that they strongly consider United Sportsmen for a $500,000 grant. Some of the letter's language is listed below:

 

"As you consider the applications for the grant, we would like to offer our support for the United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation (USWF). The mission of the USWF is consistent with that of Wisconsin Act 168, The Sporting Heritage Act.

 

"The USWF has a strong partnership with sporting conservation and shooting organizations. USWF works towards sound conservation practices of game and habitat to ensure increased participation and protection of hunters, fisherman, trappers, and gun owners across Wisconsin. The budget language provides an opportunity to implement the goals of Wisconsin Act 168 and build on its legislative successes. We believe that USWF not only meets but will exceed the criteria outlined in the budget for grant approval and we urge your concurrence."

 

This letter proclaiming support for United Sportsmen was signed by the following legislators: Senators Tom Tiffany, Frank Lasee, and Glenn Grothman, and Representatives Scott Suder, Rob Swearingen, Mary Czaja, Chris Kapenga, Mike Kuglitsch, John Jagler, John Spires, Paul Farrow, Jim Steineke, Mary Williams, Tyler August, Bill Kramer, Scott Krug, Warren Petryk, and Joel Kleefisch.

 

As many of us know, stories about the $500,000 sweetheart deal for a group with ties to Republican legislators and organizations have flooded Wisconsin newspapers for the past month. Below are some of the shocking facts that have come to light regarding the recently rescinded sporting grant:

  • The narrowly-tailored language creating the grant in the Republican budget prevented established hunting, fishing, and conservation groups from applying for the grant.

  • The only eligible group for the grant was United Sportsmen, which had ties to the Republican Assembly Majority Leader who was in charge at the time the grant was drafted and awarded.

  • Republican legislators ignored warnings from the federal government that awarding the $500,000 grant to their political ally could cost Wisconsin up to $28 million in federal funds.

  • The lobbyist for United Sportsmen offered free fishing excursions to then-Assembly Majority Leader just days before the $500,000 grant was awarded to the group. The former legislator has since claimed that he paid for his portion of the trip.

  • A top Department of Natural Resources official was featured at a fundraiser for United Sportsmen in May, just weeks before the group was awarded the $500,000 state grant.

Although after closer examination, and contrary to the letter signed by 18 legislative Republicans, it appears that even the sole qualifying sporting group, may not have qualified after all. In fact, here are some of the problems with the group awarded the grant that have since become public:

  • Lied on multiple occasions, either intentionally or unintentionally, about their 501(c)(3) nonprofit status having been approved when that was not the case, a requirement to receive the grant.

  • Had no history of doing the type of training for which the grant provides funding.
    Admitted that the funds would almost solely fund staff salaries and consultants.

  • Their president was fined for a hunting violation. The violation involves state fish and game law that the group would have been receiving taxpayer money to teach to new hunters and anglers as part of the grant. The group's president later claimed that he would not have been cited under current law because of recent changes to state statutes, but that claim, according to the DNR, is false.

Democrats have called for bipartisan support and have drafted legislation to move forward with a new, accountable, and transparent grant program to ensure our hunting and angling tradition stays alive in Wisconsin. Representative Milroy, the bill's author, has taken the unusual step of delaying sending this proposal around to the full Legislature so that he can work with Republicans first before circulating it for co-sponsorship. Moving forward with conserving our outdoor traditions is more important than politics, so it is my hope that Republicans will join us in our common sense efforts to reopen and modify the grant program in light of this scandal. I will continue updating you on this important issue as new details emerge.
 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that Wisconsin is a prominent maple syrup producer, but did you know that our state's maple syrup production hit a 20-year high in 2013, increasing five-fold from the previous year?

 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state farmers in Wisconsin produced 265,000 gallons of syrup in 2013, compared to 50,000 gallons in 2012 and 155,000 gallons in 2011. This amount was the most since the agency began tracking maple syrup production in 1992. The key to this year's production boost was cool weather that extended late into spring. Vermont is currently the nation's top syrup producer, followed by New York, Maine, and Wisconsin.

Our love of all things maple has also translated into our state symbols, as the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) is our official state tree. It was selected by school children in a statewide vote in 1893. Oaks, pines, and elms were also favorites, but the maple won out.

 

 

New Survey Available on K-12 Education

A quality education is a shared Wisconsin value that many of us highly treasure. Our next generation of workers are in our Wisconsin schools right now, and their success or failure will likely dictate whether Wisconsin will succeed or fail in the years to come.

 

As a result, the statewide expansion of the private voucher program and the reduction of state aid to the majority of our local public schools for the 2013-2014 school year have become increasingly hot topics. Therefore, I would like to hear your thoughts on K-12 education in Wisconsin. I have created an online survey to learn more about you and your perspective. Please take the time to fill it out. I look forward to hearing back from you on the important issue of K-12 education in Wisconsin.

 

Click here to take the K-12 Education Survey now.
 

 

Fire Prevention Week is Here

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the first National Fire Prevention Day. It has since developed into an entire week in the month of October as a way to educate people on how to prevent fires in the home. Each year has its own theme and this year's theme is "Prevent Kitchen Fires." According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), cooking is the top cause of home fires and home fire injuries. In honor of this year's theme, the NFPA has released a number of kitchen safety tips, which are listed below:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you fry, grill, or broil food.

  • Maintain a kid-free and pet-free zone at least 3 feet away from the stove.

  • Turn pot handles away from the stove's edge.

  • Keep a lid and oven mitt nearby when you are cooking to use in case of a grease fire. If you have a grease fire, slide a lid over the pan. Turn off the burner and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.

September and October are also peak months for fires in college housing. According to the NFPA, roughly 70% of fires in dormitories, fraternities, sororities, and barracks begin in the kitchen or cooking area. It is important to remember to never leave any cooking unattended. Cooking equipment is involved in roughly 150,000 home fires nationwide each year.
 

No matter where you live, there are important steps you can take to be ready in case of a fire. First and foremost, make sure you have smoke alarms and they are set up properly. The NFPA reports that roughly two-thirds of home fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms cut the risk of dying in home fires in half. All smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month and be replaced every 10 years. Another essential precautionary measure is to make and practice an escape plan out of your house. If possible, know at least two ways out of every room in your home. Additional precautions to prevent home fires are listed below:

  • Be mindful of where and how you use heating equipment. This includes regularly cleaning chimneys and keeping heating equipment, such as space heaters and stoves, away from things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.

  • Smoking can kill in more ways than one. In 2010, smoking materials, including cigarettes, started an estimated 17,500 home structure fires, resulting in 540 deaths, 1,320 injuries, and $535 million in direct property damages, making it the leading cause of home fire deaths.

  • Do not overcrowd outlets and be sure your house's electrical work is up-to-code. Half of home electrical fires involve electrical distribution or lighting equipment, while other leading types of equipment include washers or dryers, fans, air conditioning units, or water heaters.

  • Do not leave candles unattended. More than half of all candle fires start when things that can burn are too close to the candle.

 

 

Important Notice Regarding the Larson Report

A handful of neighbors have reported problems viewing the photos or links in the Larson Report. If you are having problems, please check the settings in your browser and email accounts. Make sure that your settings are set to "Ask before displaying external content" rather than "Always display external content (such as images) sent by trusted senders." This will allow you to determine that I am a trusted sender, rather than having your email account or browser guess.

 

If you still have problems viewing photos or links in the Larson Report, please check it out online at www.senatorchrislarson.com. I post the Larson Report to my Web site every Thursday before sending it out to Larson Report subscribers.

 

 

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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