LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

October 3, 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. 



Medicine Collection Program

Date: Now

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: The South Milwaukee Police Department is collecting medicine from South Milwaukee residents. Citizens may bring unwanted or expired medicine to the South Milwaukee Police Department, which now has a medicine collection box in the lobby for citizens to utilize for this program. Contact the Department's non-emergency phone number at (414) 768-8060 for more information on hours and what medications are accepted.
 

South Milwaukee Police Department (MAP)

2424 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

 

Milwaukee Film Festival

Date: Now through Thurs., October 10

Location: Varies

Description: Now in its fifth year, the Milwaukee Film Festival promises not to disappoint. This 15-day event offers 241 feature and short films. With such a wide variety, everyone should be able to find a film that speaks to them. Also, the films shown this year are the cream of the crop, with many having been voted audience favorites at other festivals.
Films will be shown at a number of area theaters, including the Oriental Theatre and the Downer Avenue Theatre. CLICK HERE for more information. 

 

 

Historic Milwaukee's Downtown Thru The Eras Tours
Date: Now through Sun., October 13

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This unique tour of Milwaukee's most prestigious downtown buildings starts at the Plankinton Building and ends at the Milwaukee Art Museum to view its stunning new architecture. Meet in front of the T.J. Maxx entrance in the Plankinton Building (Shops of Grand Avenue). Cost is $10 for Non-Members, $2 for children ages 6-17, and free for children under six and Historic Milwaukee Incorporated Members. No reservations are necessary, except for groups of 10 or more. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Plankinton Building (MAP)

161 W. Wisconsin Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53226

 

Brady Street Pet Parade
Date: Sun., October 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This year, the Brady Street Pet Parade party will be bigger than ever to celebrate 12 furry years on Brady Street. Critters of all shapes and sizes take to the streets for this annual pet parade and pet blessing. In addition to a costume contest, there will also be a tail wagging contest and a pet/owner look alike contest. In-person registration will be available the day of the event. Spectacular sidewalk sales, great raffles, prizes, canine agility demonstrations, vendors, and pet photo ops await at this popular family-friendly event. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

 

Milwaukee Foreclosure Prevention Event

Date: Thurs., October 10 from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Mortgage Worries? Get free help at this foreclosure outreach event. Lenders and housing counselors will be on hand to meet with you and help you understand your options, provide information about payment plans and/or foreclosure mediation, and offer mortgage refinance or modification. The event will be held on Thursday, October 10 from 1:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Washington Park Senior Center. CLICK HERE to view the fliers for this event (both in English and in Spanish).

 

Washington Park Senior Center (MAP)

4420 W. Vliet Street Milwaukee, WI 53208

 

 

Book Discussion Groups at the Oak Creek Library
Date: Thurs., October 10 at 4 p.m.
Location: Oak Creek

Description:  Two new book clubs are starting at the Oak Creek Public Library. BOOK CH@TS is open to 6th-8th graders, and TEEN RE@DS is open to 9th-12th graders. The book discussion groups will meet every other month to discuss a book that follows a particular theme. This year, BOOK CH@TS is reading books with multiple perspectives, and TEEN RE@DS is looking at books about World War II. The groups will meet on alternating months, on the second Thursday of the month at 4 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Oak Creek Library (MAP)

8620 S. Howell Avenue

Oak Creek, WI 53154
 

 

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

 

Dear Friend,

 

A lot of newsworthy events are currently happening at both the federal and state level. Therefore, this week's newsletter will discuss the beginning of open enrollment in the health care exchange, the federal government shutdown, Wisconsin's latest jobs numbers, and various proposed policy changes that could affect our neighborhood schools. Continue reading for more on these and other important topics.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Open Enrollment in Exchange Begins

The Health Insurance Marketplace or "exchange" began open enrollment on Tuesday, October 1. Through this Marketplace, families, individuals, and small business owners can shop for health insurance online. The federal government has launched a Web site, www.healthcare.gov, that will help individuals find and purchase the coverage that meets their needs and budget.

 

 

The exchange helps to simplify accessing affordable health care, as it compiles all of your options and allows you to compare them in one place. All of the information presented in the Marketplace is written simply so it is easy to understand, allowing you to make the best decisions about your health care. The process for enrolling in the exchanges has been streamlined into a four-step process, which is listed below:

  1. Create an Account--Provide some basic information to create a secure account.

  2. Apply--Enter information about you and your family including your income and household size. This information will determine the plans for which you qualify.

  3. Pick a Plan--Compare all the plans and programs for which you are eligible side-by-side as listed by the Web site.

  4. Enroll--Choose a plan that meets your needs and enroll. Coverage for these plans can start as soon as January 1, 2014.

Click here to visit healthcare.gov to find your health care options today.

 

The creation of the Health Insurance Marketplace and its corresponding Web site is just one aspect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA offers states the option of extending coverage of our health safety net programs for our family, friends, and neighbors. The federal government picks up 100% of the cost for the first three years and no less than 90% every year thereafter. Unfortunately, the governor and legislative Republicans decided to reject the ACA's recommended path to pursue their own Medicaid plan, which will cost the state more in taxpayer money to cover fewer Wisconsinites. It is shocking that 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. Why they made this decision is beyond comprehension and flies in the face of logic.

 

 

The Federal Government has Shut Down

As you may know, the Federal Government shutdown on October 1, 2013, due to disagreement in the U.S. Congress regarding governmental spending. When there is no Congressional decision on spending allocations, no spending may be done. As a result, there are some services that will be rendered unavailable or restricted until funds are allocated. During this time, it is important to remember that hundreds of thousands of workers will also be placed on indefinite unpaid leave. Members of Congress, on the other hand, will not miss any paychecks.
 

During the shutdown, federal departments will only maintain services that are deemed "essential," others will be closed. Military will be mostly unaffected due to legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado and signed into effect by President Obama on Saturday, September 28, 2013, although National Guard units across the nation have cancelled training. As a self-funded entity, the U.S. Postal Service will also continue normal operation. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Coast Guard, and Customs and Border Protection will experience up to a loss of 20% of staff, but will continue operation. Further, Passport and Visa applications will use funds generated from fees to stay in operation until the capital is depleted. There is also positive news for our displaced workers as it has been announced that Unemployment Insurance and worker compensation will be unaffected. Questions directed towards some departments, as well as those regarding the allocation of federal grants and funding, may be delayed as work is being continued with limited staff.
 

In addition to some federal departments and agencies, there are other services that will also be rendered unavailable to the public. All units of the National Park Service will be closed and will be manned only by law enforcement personal and fire fighters. Barriers will block off sites such as Yosemite National park, the Statue of Liberty, and numerous monuments in Washington D.C. The Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution will also be unavailable during this time. The Environmental Protection Agency will not be issuing permits for buildings or resource extraction operations during the furlough. The IRS will not provide assistance to taxpayers during the shutdown, and refunds will likely be delayed.

 

Click here for more information about the federal government shutdown.
 

Some Wisconsin safety net programs may be affected by the government shutdown, as well, including food programs for low-income women, children, and the elderly. While these programs likely have enough funds to get by for the next few weeks, the Wisconsinites that rely on such programs may be shifted to food pantries, which are already stressed.

 

Click here to read a recent Journal Sentinel article about this issue. 

 

In the days leading up to the shutdown, the Republicans in Congress had been protesting the implementation of health care reform. A resolution that would delay any shutdown until December passed in the Senate, but was kept from a vote in the House by Speaker Boehner. Without this vote, Republican legislators could not cross the aisle and vote in favor of the continuation.

 

Poll after poll, including a recent CNN/ORC International poll, has shown that most Americans oppose the government shutdown. Six in 10 respondents rejected the approach of Congressional Republicans thinking it was more important to avoid a shutdown than to make major changes to the Affordable Care Act. Further, more respondents are also placing the blame for the shutdown with Congressional Republicans (46%) rather than President Obama (36%). Finally, 69% of respondents said that Congressional Republicans are acting like "spoiled children" in the budget fight, while 58% think that of Congressional Democrats and 49% think that of President Obama.

 

Click here for more information about this poll.

 

The government shutdown remains in place for now. However, I will be sure to keep you apprised of any changes should the federal government deviate from their current holding pattern.

 

 

Latest Jobs Numbers Show WI Stalled

Newly released federal figures show Wisconsin is stalled when it comes to creating jobs. Last week, new jobs numbers were announced and showed that over the past year, our state has dropped to 34th in the nation in private sector job growth.

The numbers do not lie when it comes to pinpointing the cause of Wisconsin's continued economic recovery breakdown. Prior to Walker's first budget, Wisconsin was in the top half of the country for job gains for five consecutive quarters. It is no coincidence that immediately after Governor Walker signed his first budget into law that Wisconsin spent the next seven consecutive quarters in the bottom half.

 

It also looks like our economy will not be improving anytime soon. This week, Forbes magazine placed Wisconsin at 41st in its 2013 "Best States for Business" rankings behind Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa, which rank 6th, 8th, and 12th respectively. Forbes also projects that Wisconsin will continue to fall and ranked it 45th in the nation in for job growth through 2016.

 

In November 2010, Walker sold Wisconsinites the promise of a vehicle for economic change. Unfortunately, it has become obvious after three years of job creation failure that we were sold a lemon. We have a job creation agency, WEDC, that has been more successful at creating scandals than jobs. We also have a Republican-controlled Legislature that refuses to invest in proven job creation methods, such as investing in education, supporting affordable health care, and expanding public transit infrastructure. Instead they have doubled down on divisive policies and political games, which have proven to be a losing job creation strategy in Wisconsin.

 

We cannot continue driving down this same road. We owe it to Wisconsin families to try a different route.
 

 

Battle Over Common Core Standards Looms

Wisconsin adopted the Common Core Standards (CCSS) to measure state performance in mathematics and English language arts in 2010 to help create a focus for success as students transition into postsecondary education and careers. The new standards are being used to replace the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. Teachers, parents, experts, and community leaders all weighed in to help create the Common Core State Standards for English language arts, mathematics, and literacy in all subjects. Wisconsin is also currently participating in a multi-state project to develop new common standards for science. Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, Wisconsin's state assessments will be based on the CCSS.

 

Click here for more information about the Common Core State Standards.

 

Last week, legislative Republicans announced the creation of Select Committees to discuss Wisconsin's use of the Common Core State Standards. The chairs of the new committees claim the standards are controversial, despite their adoption by 45 states and broad bipartisan support nationwide for more rigorous standards to help students prepare for the demands of our 21st century economy.

The Select Committees will be hosting several public hearings on this issue. Unfortunately, none of these hearings will be taking place in our community. Below is the schedule: 
 

Thursday, October 3 from Noon to 8 p.m.

Room 417 North of the Wisconsin State Capitol

*Note: This event has already occurred


Thursday, October 17 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

City/County Building in Fond du Lac


Wednesday, October 23 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire


Wednesday, October 30 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Northcentral Technical College in Wausau

Opposition to the standards looks like a grassroots movement, but these opponents appear to be organized and motivated by an array of extreme, Tea Party organizations with multi-million dollar budgets and experience in mobilizing crowds and lobbying lawmakers, including groups with deceptive names such as: The Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, the Pioneer Institute, Concerned Women for America, and FreedomWorks.

 

Click here to view a recent Cap Times article about the Common Core debate.

 

Legislative Democrats, some Republican legislators, and State Superintendent Tony Evers have raised concerns about attempts to get rid of the Common Core State Standards. According to Superintendent Evers, "We cannot go back to a time when our standards were a mile wide and an inch deep, leaving too many kids ill prepared for the demands of college and a career. We cannot pull the rug out from under thousands of kids, parents and educators who have spent the past three years working to reach these new, higher expectations that we have set for them. To do so would have deep and far reaching consequences for our kids, and for our state." I share these concerns and look forward to hearing the thoughts of Wisconsinites at these upcoming public hearings.
 

 

GOP Seeks to Sell-Off MPS Buildings

Legislation is currently being circulated for co-sponsorship that would compel the city of Milwaukee to sell underutilized school buildings owned by MPS. According to LRB 0928 and its companion LRB 3194, MPS must submit an annual inventory of their buildings. Any buildings deemed by the Legislature to be surplus, vacant, or underutilized will then be available for sale by the city of Milwaukee. This proposal has been introduced by Republican legislators--many of whom likely receive political donations from voucher school proponents--so that buildings can be sold to profit-driven schools participating in the unaccountable voucher system.

This bill will have a negative impact on our community for many reasons. For example, MPS often holds onto buildings that are vacant or underutilized so that they can house future charter or MPS schools. For the first time in several years, enrollment is up at MPS and this proposal could cause the district to lose out on opportunities for future expansion. Further, this may even be more costly to MPS and taxpayers in the long term as it could force the district to purchase new land and unnecessarily construct new buildings when older ones would do. MPS has been successful at responsibly selling and redeveloping underutilized buildings. Over the last few years, the district has sold four buildings, leased 11 buildings to charter school operators, and used eight buildings to expand successful programs.

In addition, selling MPS buildings that are currently vacant or underutilized due to needed repairs may be a safety hazard. Maintaining consistent building and safety standards, especially when building space is repurposed as a school environment, needs to be prioritized and standardized. Section 2 of Wisconsin State Statute 119.46 mentions the responsibility of the school board to communicate allocating funds for maintaining school buildings. Still, LRB 0928 does not extend the safety standards required of the MPS district to voucher schools who could potentially purchase these MPS buildings. While it is likely that MPS would like to make repairs to these buildings and utilize them in the future, because of record budget cuts instituted by Governor Walker and Republican legislators, they do not currently have the funds to reinvest in all of their existing properties.

Like other proposals that have come before it, this one seeks to unfairly penalize Milwaukee so that political allies can benefit. This is not the Wisconsin Way. Due to the potential consequences this bill could have on our community, I will oppose it should it advance to the Senate floor for a vote.
 

 

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.

 

 

Ask Chris

I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.

Q: What are they going to do with the money that was intended for United Sportsmen?

A: The Legislature has yet to determine what will be done with the $500,000 grant that was controversially awarded to United Sportsmen of Wisconsin and later rescinded amid a flurry of scandal. However, Democratic Representative Nick Milroy will be introducing legislation to ensure reputable groups could apply for the funds from this previously mishandled grant. In addition to eliminating the grant program in the budget bill, Rep. Milroy's legislative proposal would also require the DNR to promulgate rules to establish a new program to distribute award grants to nonprofit organizations to do the following:

  • Educate and train Wisconsinites who engage in hunting, fishing, or trapping

  • Conduct programs to recruit more Wisconsinites to engage in those activities

  • Manage programs to encourage continued engagement in those activities

Rep. Milroy's sporting heritage bill would also require:

  • The nonprofit organizations that receive a grant to demonstrate that they are able to perform the activity for which the grant is made to the satisfaction of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

  • A 25% match from the recipient so they are also invested in their program's future

  • The DNR to consult with the Sporting Heritage Council in awarding the grants under the program

  • The DNR to award grants totaling no more than $450,000 in any biennium and no nonprofit may receive more than $100,000 in any biennium

For the past month, stories about the $500,000 sweetheart deal for a group with ties to Republican legislators and organizations have flooded Wisconsin newspapers. 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. While it is known that the trips occurred, it is not verified whether or not this legislator paid his own way, or not.

  • 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.

  • 18 Tea Party legislators signed a letter encouraging the grant to United Sportsmen.

Although after closer examination, 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 cited, convicted, and 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.

While Democrats have drafted legislation to move forward with a new grant program to ensure our hunting and angling tradition stays alive in Wisconsin, Republicans have yet to announce what they have in mind for the $500,000 in taxpayer dollars following the cancellation of the grant. 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 the cranberry is Wisconsin's State Fruit, but did you know that cranberries, which are native to North America, were first harvested in our state around 1860 by Edward Sacket of Berlin, Wisconsin.

The cranberry was once called "crane berry" by settlers because of its blossom's resemblance to the Sandhill Crane. Cranberries are now grown in 20 counties throughout central and northern Wisconsin. In fact, Wisconsin cranberry growers harvest enough cranberries annually to supply every man, woman, and child in the world with 26 cranberries.
 

 

October is Cranberry Month

October is here, meaning that it is once again time to celebrate Cranberry Month. This holiday offers us a chance to appreciate the people that produce great quantities of cranberries and recognize the benefits this fruit offers our great state.

 

Cranberries are integral to Wisconsin's economy. According to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, there are currently 250 growers in Wisconsin that cover 21,000 acres of land. These cranberry farms also support approximately 3,400 jobs, although the Wisconsin cranberry industry supports approximately 7,200 jobs in total.
 

The demand for cranberries has increased as new health benefits have been discovered. As a result, cranberry production in Wisconsin has experienced tremendous growth over the last 10 years. In fact, Wisconsin produces almost 60% of the nation's cranberry supply. So if you have cranberry sauce at your Thanksgiving celebration, chances are the cranberries come from right here in Wisconsin. This small red fruit is Wisconsin's number one fruit crop in value and acreage, and makes up 85% of the state's fruit production. It also accounts for nearly $300 million of Wisconsin's annual economic output.
 

Disease and weeds can threaten the overall production of cranberries, with the latter being a more significant threat to the potential economic impact for cranberry producers, and in-turn, our state. Cranberries are low-growing, and weeds compete for water, nutrients, and light. Diseases among cranberries are not as common as weed issues, but when they manifest they can cause significant damage to cranberry crops. Cottonball Disease can cause the most damage to cranberry crops, as it causes the berries fill with a cotton-like fungus making them unmarketable.
 

The cranberry is Wisconsin's state fruit and will be celebrated at various festivals throughout the state, including the Stone Lake Cranberry Festival (October 4-5) and the Eagle River Cranberry Festival (October 5-6). Please take the time to appreciate this healthy and important fruit--the cranberry.
 

 

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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