LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


 

 

September 19, 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. 

 

 

Shooting Stars

Date: Fridays now through September 27 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
Location: Milwaukee

Description: "Shooting Stars" will reveal the mystery behind the dazzling light streaks that shoot across the night sky. This show will explain what shooting stars or meteors really are and talk about the fireball that crashed into Russian soil last February. Guests will be able to learn how and when to see shooting stars. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

UWM Planetarium (MAP)

1900 East Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 


Oktoberfest Milwaukee
Date: Fridays and Saturdays now through Sat., September 28 

Location: Glendale

Description: The party lasts all month at Old Heidelberg Park. Grab your stein and head over for music, dancing, and great food. There is a big selection of German beers, games for the kids, and parking is free. Do not miss Milwaukee's original and most authentic Oktoberfest. In fact it is one of the best in the country. This event is open on Fridays from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. and Saturdays from 3 p.m. until Midnight. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Heidelberg Park (MAP)

700 W. Lexington Blvd. Glendale, Wisconsin 53217


 

Oktoberfest
Date: Fri., September 20 and Sat., September 21

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and Saz's Hospitality Group will be hosting a two-day Oktoberfest celebration on Marcus Center grounds. This event is free and open to the public. It features authentic German beer, food, live music, and the Glockenspiel, a life-size replica of a cuckoo clock. Delectable food and drink will be available for purchase from Saz's Hospitality Group, which will feature a full bar and a concessions menu, including Saz's Friday night Fish Fry and a Saturday Spanferkel (pig roast). The grounds will be open on Friday, September 20 from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday, September 21 from Noon to 10 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information, including the line-up of performers.

 

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

 

Public Education is a Civil Right March and Rally

Date: Sat., September 21

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Students, parents, educators, and friends of public schools from around Milwaukee and across Wisconsin will assemble at Milwaukee High School of the Arts at 10:30 a.m., then march across the 16th Street Bridge to Forest Home Avenue School, where a rally will commence at 1 p.m. to proclaim the civil right of every child to a world-class public education. March participants and rally speakers will showcase aspects of quality public education that students have lost or risk losing from massive cuts to public school funding since 2011. Organizers are demanding that officials fully fund public schools to provide a world-class education for every Wisconsin student, keep a strong local taxpayer voice in school governance, stop privatization of public education, hold voucher schools accountable, and require quality physical infrastructure for schools. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Milwaukee High School of the Arts (MAP)

2300 W. Highland Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53233

 

Forest Home Avenue School (MAP)

1516 W. Forest Home Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204

 

 

10th Annual Bay View Bash
Date: Sat., September 21 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Description: Milwaukee's largest all-volunteer street festival has come to be a fall tradition in Bay View. Enjoy tasty treats, beautiful art, music on several stages, crafts, and community organizations. I will also have a table set up most of the day in order to make myself available to neighbors for comments, questions, and conversation. This event will take place on Kinnickinnic Avenue between Potter and Clement. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

 

Global Union

Date: Sat., September 21 from Noon to 6 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: In only eight short years, Global Union has become Milwaukee's go-to big-beautiful-dance-party-slash-farewell-to-summer. It helps that it is in one of the city's best parks. This one-day event is free and open to the public. Global Union 2013 features bands from Pakistan, Argentina, Haiti, Quebec, and Algeria, with some surprise guests from our own hometown. After all, Milwaukee is a part of the world, right? There will also be great international food, crafts, and community organizations operating during the festival. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Humboldt Park (MAP)

3000 S. Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207
 

 

Food Network's Restaurant Impossible visiting Oak Creek

Date: Tues., September 24 and Wed., September 25

Location: Oak Creek

Description: The TV show Restaurant Impossible will tape an episode at Mike La Susa's Italian Restaurant in Oak Creek next week, and the show is looking for volunteers to help with the renovation of the restaurant. The host, chef Robert Irvine, overhauls the menus and dining rooms of struggling restaurants in two days on a budget of $10,000, hence the need for volunteers. This is a great way to help a local business succeed in our community. At the restaurant, volunteers will help with everything from cleaning and painting to decorating and construction, including possible plumbing and electrical work, depending on their skills. Volunteers would work from 1 to 8 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. on September 24 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on September 25, and have to agree to possibly being on camera. All clothing and shoes worn have to be logo-free. Email nick@shootersinc.com with your preferred shift or shifts, full name, email address, and cell phone number. Make sure to put "FN Oak Creek Volunteers" in the subject line of your email. The show airs on Wednesdays and this episode would air sometime in the fall or winter.

 

Mike La Susa's Italian Restaurant (MAP)

8955 S. 5th Avenue

Oak Creek, WI 53154
 

 

Dear Friend,

 

This week we take time to mourn those we lost in D.C. in yet another senseless act of violence. Continue reading for more about this and other current issues, including Republicans jeopardizing $28 million in taxpayer dollars, an update on this week's session events, and a change to the Make College Affordable Tour.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Thoughts and Prayers with Those Devastated by Violence

Like many others across the country, I was devastated by the news coverage of the tragic shooting that occurred at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. My thoughts and prayers go out to those whose lives were torn apart by this tragic act of violence.

As a community that has experienced the devastation of violence first-hand, at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, and countless additional less publicized tragedies, we know it takes time to grieve and start to move forward. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and neighbors of those wounded, killed, or present in the shooting during this difficult time.

 

In the days to come, we must step beyond partisan roadblocks to seek real solutions to prevent such tragic and senseless acts of violence. It is also important that we do not simply wait for terrible acts of mass violence to occur before we work to create safer communities. Many of our neighborhoods have started holding town halls to seriously discuss how to make Milwaukee and the surrounding areas safer from violence on a daily basis. Earlier this week, for example, I joined Milwaukee community members in discussing how gun violence has negatively impacted the lives of neighbors across the city and how we can work together to address the issue. I encourage you to join me and attend these local meetings in the future.

 

 

Worse Details Emerge on Sporting Grant

Last week we mentioned a $500,000 sweetheart deal for a group with ties to Republican legislators and organizations, which was rescinded at the last minute. As if the details about this political payback were not shocking enough, even more information has come to light recently showing that this grant was created and awarded despite the fact that Republican legislators knew that it could cost Wisconsin up to $28 million in federal dollars. 

 

During the Wisconsin budget debate, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent two sharply worded letters to the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) after getting word of the $500,000 grant. The letters said adopting the grant would cost the state $28 million in annual federal money because the DNR would have inadequate control of how the grant funds were used. Despite the warning from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lawmakers spent the next two weeks working on the budget, but did not fix the provision to safeguard millions in federal funds. Taxpayers could have ultimately been on the hook for both the $500,000 grant and the loss of $28 million in federal funding. Sacrificing taxpayers for political allies is not the Wisconsin way.

The purpose of the grant was to provide funds to a conservation or sporting group allowing them to reach out to Wisconsin's youth to increase their interest in hunting and angling. Unfortunately, the language prevented most established groups, such as the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, from applying for the grant. This left only United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation Inc. able to apply with zero competition. It just so happens that United Sportsmen has ties to the Republican Assembly Majority Leader, who has since left office to take a political appointment. These recent revelations have left the public and legislators upset that this great opportunity for sporting groups now has the appearance of being nothing more than a sweetheart deal for a political supporter.

 

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.

  • Have 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.

Fortunately, the concerns of taxpayers, legislators, and other sporting groups were heeded when the governor surrendered to public pressure and canceled the controversial grant to United Sportsmen. We have yet to hear what will happen to the $500,000 in taxpayer dollars following the cancellation. It is my hope that the grant process will be reopened and modified in light of recent events. This week, Democratic members of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) called on committee co-chairs to commit to funding a legislative solution that will allow the grant process to move forward. I will be sure to keep you updated on this important issue.

 

Click here to view a copy of the letter sent to JFC committee co-chairs.
 

 

Session Day Update

This week, the Senate took up a number of legislative proposals. One proposal was noticeably absent from the Senate session calendar on Tuesday, while another controversial proposal was passed despite strong objections.

 

Managed Forest Law on Hold

One proposal that was noticeably absent was the fast-tracked legislation to change Wisconsin's managed forest laws. These laws were created in 1985 to encourage timber production and provide more recreation space for outdoor enthusiasts. Under the program, land owners receive a tax break if they agree to follow a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved forest management plan and keep the property open to the public.

 

Recently, Republican senators introduced legislation that would allow the open-pit iron mining company drilling in Northern Wisconsin to be exempted from some requirements of this program. Under the bill, property owners would be allowed to close public access to up to 4,000 acres of managed forest land indefinitely. This sweetheart deal would allow the company to avoid $900,000 in back taxes and fees. This proposal is excessive, unjustified, and unfair not only to taxpayers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts, but also to the other 30,000 Wisconsin landowners participating in the managed forest program. It also treads on our stewardship tradition and shared Wisconsin values. Apparently, this bill is so extreme, the Republican authors are still gathering votes. I will be sure to keep you updated on the status of this proposal.

 

Repeal of Tenant Rights

After passing regressive legislation related to jobs, education, and health care earlier this session, Senate Republicans are now attacking the rights and basic protections of renters in Wisconsin. The legislation, Senate Bill 179, passed this week will strongly benefit powerful landlords at the expense of tenants. Further, this bill supersedes local ordinances, getting in the way of local control.

 

Here are just some of the concerning provisions that were included in this regressive legislation:

  • The bill weakens protections for victims of crime by enabling landlords to evict tenants if a crime is committed on the rental property, even if the tenant could not have prevented the crime. There is an exception in the bill for cases in which crimes involve sexual abuse, domestic abuse, or stalking, but not for other crimes such as robbery.

  • This bill throws out all local ordinances related to rental housing and prohibits enactment in the future. This includes ordinances that are designed to protect the health and safety of occupants. Every community is different and local elected leaders should not be prohibited by the state from doing their job.

  • Right now, landlords pay for their responsibilities and tenants pay for theirs. This bill makes the tenant responsible for all damages, including normal maintenance and code violations just because they "occupy " the apartment. Such problems have been and should be the responsibility of the property owner, not the renter.

  • Tenants may find themselves in a race home with their landlord who can immediately change the locks and throw out their belongings if a tenant loses a legally disputed eviction. This provision requires courts to hand over apartments to landlords immediately once the court has ruled with the landlord and allows landlords to treat the property in the residence as abandoned. In disputed evictions the tenant are generally not planning to on leaving, so their belongings would still be in the property. Last year, 3,571 eviction actions were filed in circuit courts across Wisconsin.

  • Overturns the current two-step process  of notifying law enforcement to warn an improperly parked vehicle before towing vehicles illegally parked on private property. Under this law, landlords can skip the notification step as long as local law enforcement is notified at some point and a fee is paid. This lack of notification will likely cause confusion for police and vehicle owners who may think they are dealing with a case of stolen property rather than a towed vehicle.

Most abhorrently, this law would have provided landlords with the tools to evict victims of domestic violence or rape if that crime occurred at their residence. It is sad to see that those in charge were more than willing to treat victims like criminals by throwing them out on the street after reporting a crime. Fortunately, this heartless provision was removed at the last minute thanks to the efforts of Senate Democrats and an amendment authored by Senator Jon Erpenbach of Middleton.

 

Despite concerns expressed by Senate Democrats, Republican legislators refused to adopt many of the amendments we created to solve the problems found in Senate Bill 179. In both the Milwaukee and Madison communities, nearly half of the population rents. This anti-consumer protection bill will have a negative impact on many of our neighbors. The Supreme Court has set the precedent that landlords are inherently more powerful and thus tenants need certain protections from potential bad actors. Having a place to call "home" is part of the American dream. This law will take us backwards, not forwards on realizing this dream for all Wisconsinites, including renters.

 

 

Change to Make College Affordable Tour

Due to unforeseen changes related to legislative obligations, my colleagues and I have been forced to cancel some of the college tour stops. While we have already visited the UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and UW-Marathon County campuses, we have to cancel the stops at UW-Green Bay, Lawrence University, UW-Eau Claire, and UW-Platteville. The stop at UW-La Crosse will still continue as planned. Information for this event is provided below:

 

September 26 at Noon

UW-La Crosse Cartwright Center, Port O' Call Room

1725 State Street

La Crosse, WI 54601

 

A big thank you to the students, parents, recent graduates, and educators that came out to participate in the Make College Affordable Tour, which addressed important issues, such as the cost of higher education, access to affordable health care, and Wisconsin's prospects for economic recovery.

 

I apologize for those who had been planning to stop by and share their thoughts at the cancelled tour stops. I would still like to hear your opinion and perspective on how to make college more affordable and accessible to current students and future Wisconsin workers. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts by emailing me your story or taking my brief online survey about higher education affordability. I created this 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.

Click here to take the 2013 Higher Education Affordability Survey.

 

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 would really like to do more to support our local economy. Do you have any suggestions for achieving such a goal?

A: One of the best ways you can support our local economy is by visiting your neighborhood farmers' market, which usually features food and wares produced by fellow Wisconsin neighbors. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, there are many benefits to buying local for producers and consumers alike, including:

  • Strengthens Our Local Economy--Buying locally increases employment, attracts businesses to the area, and ensures more money stays within our own community.

  • Supports Family Farms--The number of family farms in Wisconsin are decreasing. We need to keep these local farmers in business so that we preserve Wisconsin's rural landscape and farming tradition.

  • Fresher Food--Local food is fresher than food shipped from other states and countries. Additionally, locally grown foods tend to contain fewer pesticides.

  • Decrease Farm to Table Distance--On average food travels 1,500 miles to reach a consumer's plate. Decreasing food miles lessens the impact on the environment and our dependence on oil.

  • Enhances Connection Between Producer and Consumer--Buying locally provides consumers the opportunity to connect with businesses and learn more about their growing and management practices.

Wisconsin is home to plenty of farmers' markets that can be found all across the state. We are fortunate to have many of them located right here in our community. Although, keep in mind that while many of these markets are currently open, they are seasonal and we are now nearing the end of the 2013 season. Please see the list below to find a farmers' market near you.

East Town Market
Date: Through October 5
Time: Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Cathedral Square Park located at Kilbourn and N. Jefferson in Milwaukee

Click here for more information.

East Side Green Market
Date: Through October 12
Time: Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Beans & Barley parking lot located at 1901 East North Avenue in Milwaukee

Click here for more information.

South Shore Farmers Market
Date: Through October 12
Time: Saturdays from 8 a.m. to Noon
Location: 2900 South Shore Drive in Milwaukee

Click here or for more information.

South Milwaukee Downtown Market
Date: Through October 10
Time: Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee & 11th Avenue in South Milwaukee

Click here for more information.

Riverwest Gardeners Market
Date: Through October 27
Time: Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Garden Park located at the corner of Locust and Bremen Streets in Milwaukee

Click here for more information.

 

In recent years, organizations that promote the idea of buying local have begun to emerge throughout the country, benefiting local communities tremendously. One such example can be found in our very own Milwaukee. Local First Milwaukee is an independently- owned organization comprised of Milwaukee-based businesses that works to make Milwaukee a more sustainable community, enable it to compete with other cities, and build a market share for local businesses. The Web site even offers deals to local residents to encourage them to keep their money in Milwaukee. Statistics show our communities will benefit from buying local. In fact, for every $1 you spend at a locally owned business, more than 68 cents, versus 43 cents at a national chain, remains in that community.

Click here for more information about Local First Milwaukee.
 

Want even more incentive to buy locally? I encourage you to learn more about the organization Small Shops United, which offers its members rewards for purchases made at locally owned shops. Simply register, track your purchases with a handy rewards card, then hand your card to participating neighborhood merchants to claim your rewards.

 

Click here for more information about Small Shops United.

 

Did You Know...?

While you may know that Wisconsin is one of the top honey producers in the nation, did you know that the honey bee is also our state insect?

 

In 1977, Wisconsin designated the honey bee as our official state insect. We are not alone, however, in our love of honey bees. In fact, the honey bee is an official state symbol in 17 states.

 

Honey bees play an integral role in pollination, which is critical to plant and human survival. Honey bees live in hives comprised of up to 80,000 individual bees. A hive consists of one queen bee, a small group of male drones, and a vast majority of worker bees.

 

One problem that has started to plague bee colonies is Colony Collapse Disorder. This disorder describes the very serious die-off of honey bee colonies across the country, which can have a detrimental impact on local businesses, our economy, and Wisconsin's ecosystem.

 

Click here if you would like more information from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection about Colony Collapse Disorder or would like your hive inspected.


 

September is National Honey Month

Every September since 1989, the United States has celebrated National Honey Month. During this month, we appreciate the many uses of honey--sweetener, energy source, cough suppressant, skin moisturizer--and recognize the hardworking beekeepers that produce it. In Wisconsin, we take great pride in our honey industry. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin gathered an impressive 4.5 million pounds of honey in 2012, which makes it the 8th highest state in honey production. The National Honey Board reports that the average wholesale price for honey in 2012 was $4.09 per pound. At that price, honey generated roughly $18.4 million for our state's economy that year, making it a valuable, job creation industry for Wisconsin.
 

The honey production process begins with worker bees collecting nectar from flowers. The type of flower affects the taste and color of the honey. Clover, for example, produces a light amber color, while buckwheat makes a dark brown honey with a bold flavor. After the bees fly back to their hive, they refine the nectar through a repetitious process of digestion and regurgitation--a little gross to imagine, but an essential step. The bees then deposit this watery syrup into empty cells of the hive's honeycombs. To preserve it for long-term storage, thousands of bees fan their wings in unison, generating enough airflow to evaporate the excess water in the syrup. Once it reaches the right concentration, the bees seal the finished honey by capping the cells with wax. Harvesting the honey is much more straightforward. Beekeepers simply scrape away the wax caps and spin the honeycombs in centrifuges, draining the honey into receptacles. After straining the collected honey for impurities, it is ready to be bottled and sold to consumers.
 

The Wisconsin Honey Producers Association (WHPA) is the top promoter of our state's fine honey and beeswax products. Formed in 1864 by local beekeepers, the WHPA strives to advertise its industry to consumers, as well as educate its members and the general public on the latest advancements in honey production. Its chief ambassador is the Honey Queen, a young woman elected to the post at the annual WHPA convention. She travels across the state speaking to student, civic, and economic groups, and also attends farmers markets, festivals, and fairs on behalf of the association.
 

If we want our beekeeping industry to remain one of the best in the country, we need to support it by buying local. When purchasing honey at a grocery store, check the bottle to see if it bears the official "Wisconsin Certified Honey" logo. Only products which have been approved by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) can use the logo, and DATCP will not certify honey unless it is produced entirely from hives in Wisconsin. Another great choice is to buy quality honey directly from local beekeepers at farmers' markets. Wherever you get your honey, buying it from local producers guarantees great taste and helps our state's economy thrive.

 

 

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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