LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


 

 

September 26, 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. 



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
 

 

Oktoberfest Milwaukee
Date: Fri., September 27 and 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

 

 

Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum Grand Opening

Date: Sat., September 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: All are welcome to celebrate the grand opening of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum on Saturday, September 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Riverside Park. This new 40-acre area of plants, trees, and shrubs features a rare oak savannah habitat. Enjoy music, craft, exploration, and fun for the whole family. Tours start at 10 a.m. and the ceremony will be at 11 a.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Riverside Park (MAP)

1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Black Hole Bash

Date: Thurs., October 3 and Fri., October 4 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Black Hole Bash is a two-day extravaganza to celebrate the extreme gravity of black holes and how we investigate their intriguing nature. The event will include a hands-on exhibit, discussions with black hole experts, a special planetarium show, and stargazing (weather permitting). The party atmosphere will be complete with a cookout and music. General admission is $3. Guests will be able to enjoy various foods and beverages available for purchase. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

UWM Planetarium (MAP)

1900 East Kenwood Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

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

 

Dear Friend,

 

This week's newsletter focuses on the importance of respectable, trusted, nonpartisan organizations staying true to their mission statement on behalf of the people of Wisconsin. Continue reading for more on this and other relevant issues such as trying to close the Open Meetings Law loophole, the importance of looking at ground and surface waters before approving high- capacity wells, and providing notice that 92,000 Wisconsinites will be losing their BadgerCare shortly.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

WisconsinEye Must Rescind Biased Press Release

For years, I have been an unwaivering supporter of WisconsinEye. I fully endorse their goal to provide the public with unfettered access to committee meetings, public hearings, session days, and other government activities, which allows the public to view legislative debate and policy-making without editing, commentary, or analysis. Therefore, I was surprised to see a press release by WisconsinEye on September 17, 2013, that gave commentary and analysis surrounding the events that transpired on the floor of the Wisconsin State Senate regarding Senate Bill 206--forced ultrasound legislation.

 

 

Click here or on the media player above to watch the session debate on Senate Bill 206.

 

The comments in the press release in question were seemingly the result of what WisconsinEye felt was a violation of their user agreement with with a local organization that may have used WisconsinEye footage for a political ad. However, rather than simply admonishing the group for the potential user agreement violation--an action that would have been within reason--WisconsinEye took their press release one step further by providing an analysis of the events depicted in that footage.

 

As you may remember, all but one Democratic senator was shut down from speaking on passage of the forced ultrasound bill. The debate that took place the day prior was on amendments to the bill. In shutting down these 14 Democratic senators, Republicans also ignored the voices of the Wisconsinites represented by Senate Democrats. Therefore, not only is this WisconsinEye statement untrue--likely because it was written by an individual who was not present for the actual debate and only watched footage after the fact-- but it also clearly violates their mission statement.

 

Wisconsinites have always been able to trust the content provided by WisconsinEye, but this recently published, biased, partisan press release from the organization calls that trust into question. Therefore, after meeting with WisconsinEye about the concerning press release, I have also written them a letter requesting that they rescind their press release in order to restore the public's faith in their organization and mission. Below is the text of that letter:

 

The content of your press release absolutely contradicts the mission statement of WisconsinEye found on your Web site. The mission statement concludes with "WisconsinEye tells these stories of our public life, with an independent, nonpartisan perspective and without bias." The biased claims in your press release violate each of these tenants.

 

You state that an ad using WisconsinEye footage creates "the false impression that Senate debate was inappropriately shut down..." As someone that watched my colleagues get screamed at and gaveled down that day, I am stunned that your organization has decided to make statements about the appropriateness of that kind of out-of-control, bullying behavior that ended debate while senators waited to speak.

 

The press release goes further to claim that senators were "aligned" with [the group]. I was there and listened to the only speech allowed by a Senate Democrat on final passage of SB 206, the forced, invasive ultrasound bill. She spoke for Wisconsin women, not any one group. The shock, disbelief, and outrage expressed by senators was in response to the heavy-handed tactics that cut off debate and gutted Senate decorum on an issue that has a devastating impact on women across Wisconsin.

 

Perhaps most egregious is your proclamation that "No one was shut down. All voices were heard." This profoundly biased and erroneous statement shreds the promise of your mission statement. Many senators stood waiting to be recognized to speak on final passage of the bill, your declaration that they had nothing further to offer is absolutely inaccurate. Anyone watching the video can clearly see the senators were shut down and that our voices were not heard.

 

When I saw your press release, I was reminded of the horrible Badger-Sun Devil referee call. Like those referees, you have made an error that undermines the public confidence in your ability to be impartial and fair. That bad call ended in a loss for Wisconsin. Unlike those referees, you have the opportunity to rescind your erroneous, biased, judgmental statements and work to restore integrity to WisconsinEye's reputation.

 

I respectfully ask that you recognize that your statements violate the WisconsinEye mission statement and immediately and publicly rescind your statement.

 

Click here to contact WisconsinEye and share to share your thoughts on this issue.

 

I look forward to hearing back from WisconsinEye on their course of action for addressing this misstep. I will be sure to keep you apprised of this situation regarding WisconsinEye.

 

 

Closing the Loophole in Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law

My colleagues and I are circulating legislation that would ensure Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law is applied to legislative committee meetings. This will close the existing loophole that enables the Legislature to circumvent the Open Meetings Law it created to increase accountability and transparency within the Legislature and other governmental bodies on behalf of the citizens of Wisconsin.

Several Wisconsin citizen advocacy groups and open government organizations support these changes, including the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, Common Cause in Wisconsin, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network, and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Currently, Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law requires governmental bodies to notify the public at least 24 hours before holding meetings except in an emergency, in which case two hour notice is allowed. The meetings must be held in places that are accessible and open to the public.

 

Most people reasonably expect that the Open Meetings Law applies to the Legislature. However, as a 2011 lawsuit involving Act 10 highlighted, a loophole exists in the Open Meetings Law that allows the Legislature to ignore the laws it created in order to set its own rules for public meetings. Specifically, the Wisconsin Supreme Court refused to decide whether legislative leaders violated the state's Open Meetings Law when they rushed to pass a bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers. As a result of that 2011 ruling, the Legislature is now legally free to follow its own rules when it comes to open meetings--even if those rules violate the law or provide no public notice of a meeting.

Therefore, we are introducing legislation to correct this problem by closing the existing loophole. One piece of legislation is a constitutional amendment, which would permanently close that loophole and hold the Legislature's committee meetings to the same standards of openness and transparency as city councils, school boards, and all other government agencies. Specifically, the amendment would require the Legislature to enact laws requiring reasonable notice of and public access to committee meetings of the Legislature and other government bodies. It also makes it possible for legislators to be subject to citations and civil penalties for violating the law.

 

Given that amending the constitution is a lengthy process, we have also introduced legislation that would change the Legislature's rules to hold the Legislature accountable immediately to the Open Meetings Law.

Our neighbors have a right to be sufficiently notified of legislative committee meetings and for the meetings to be open and accessible to the public. This amendment takes an important first step to preserving that right and keeping the statehouse doors open to the public they serve.
 

 

Rolling Back Water Quality Protections

This Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Natural Resources took up Senate Bill 302, legislation that would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from considering the cumulative impact of high-capacity wells in Wisconsin. 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 rivers, lakes, streams, and wetlands in the area. 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.

It is not always possible to turn back the clock after we damage the quality and levels of our water supplies. Therefore, I will be fighting against this bill to ensure that Wisconsin adequately protects the economic health of our businesses, physical health of our families, and environmental health of our state.

 

 

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: I am currently on BadgerCare. How will I know if I am one of the people that are losing their coverage?

A: According to the Department of Health Services, 92,000 Wisconsinites currently on BadgerCare Plus will lose their health care coverage at the end of the year. The Department will be notifying these people via letter this month.

The letter is confusing at the very least. It only notifies residents that "you or someone in your household is being cut from BadgerCare. The letters do not specify who in the household is being cut or provide many details as to why. To add further insult to injury, the letters to specific individuals confirming their removal from BadgerCare will not be sent out until December 18 of this year, three days after the deadline to apply for insurance at the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This could lead to thousands of Wisconsinites finding themselves without health insurance come January.

The sad part about all of this is that it could have been avoided. A key component of the ACA is the opportunity to receive more funding from the federal government to strengthen our health care safety net by filling the gaps in coverage. In fact, the federal government offers 100% of the funding needed to fill the coverage gap for the first three years and at least 90% in subsequent years. In February, the 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. This series of decisions was what ultimately caused these 92,000 Wisconsinites to lose their health care coverage unnecessarily.

 

If you are one of these 92,000 people, click here to see potential alternatives though the exchange at healthcare.gov.

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. But from the start, it appears that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans were intent on sabotaging the success of the ACA in Wisconsin without regard for the harm this would cause thousands of low-income workers and families in our state. From their refusal to create our own Wisconsin-specific exchange to their refusal to accept the return of federal tax dollars to strengthen BadgerCare to their refusal to release the actual rates for insurance through the exchange. All of this is carefully plotted to hinder the effectiveness of the ACA in Wisconsin.

This refusal to truly strengthen BadgerCare for Wisconsin's working families is an attack on the growth and security of our middle class. Republicans have again made the wrong decision for Wisconsin families. 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. No matter how you do the math, it is immoral to pay more to insure fewer people.

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that this is the last weekend to stop by Milwaukee's Oktoberfest. But did you know that German is still by far the most common ancestry in Wisconsin, with 35% of ancestries reported by state residents as fully or partly German?

 

The history of German immigrants coming into Wisconsin is quite evident, particularly in our very own Milwaukee. Milwaukee's first German settlers arrived in 1839, just four years after the region's first public land sale. By 1860, they formed a majority of the city's population, and Milwaukee became the most German large city west of Berlin. Although they lived in all sections of town, the immigrants´┐Ż particular stronghold was the area west of the Milwaukee River, with North Third Street being their "downtown."

 

 

Open Enrollment Begins on October 1

The Health Insurance Marketplace or "exchange" begins open enrollment on October 1, 2013. Through this exchange families, individuals, and small business owners can shop for health insurance online. Therefore, the federal government has launched a Web site, www.healthcare.gov, that will help individuals get the coverage that meets their needs and budget once the exchange is up. Although actual costs and plans are not on the Web site yet, you can answer a set of questions on the site that will allow you to see what coverage you may be eligible for, links to content, and a checklist to help you apply. While this is not the actual application, it is a great way to get started and to see what you might be eligible for when the Marketplace is in full swing. People will be able to view and enroll in actual plans starting October 1, 2013.

 

Click here to view a handout I created that provides information about the Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Marketplace.

In order to use the Health Insurance Marketplace once it is up and running you will simply fill out an application to learn if you are eligible for free or low-cost coverage, if you can get lower costs on monthly premiums for private insurance plans, and if you qualify for lower out-of-pocket costs. The exchange helps to simplify getting 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.

Click here to visit this new Web site.
 

 

September is National Baby Safety Month

Although ensuring the safety of children is a priority year round, I especially want to bring awareness this week to our community's staggeringly high infant mortality rate given that September is National Baby Safety Month. Infant mortality, which is defined as the number of infants who die during their first year of life, is a huge public health concern, especially in Southeastern Wisconsin.
 

According to the city of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee had an infant mortality rate of 9.6 deaths per 1,000 births in 2012, while the national average was far lower with a rate of 5.9 deaths per 1,000 births. More alarming still is the disparity between races, where in 2011 Milwaukee's black population recorded a rate of 14.8 deaths per 1,000 births, which is almost three times the national average. Among the infant fatalities in Milwaukee, 50% are due to premature birth, 20% are the result of congenital abnormalities, 20% can be attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and 10% are caused by avoidable accidents.
 

As the parent of a baby myself, these statistics are very concerning. However, you can play a part in reducing the infant mortality rate with these precautions provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services which include:

  • Having a Safe Sleeping Environment--Infant deaths from SIDS are often correlated with a poor sleeping environment. To combat SIDS, infants should never co-sleep with their parents. Additionally, they should be put to sleep on their backs, in a crib by themselves, and away from pillows, which can cause suffocation.

  • Breastfeeding--According to the Wisconsin Department of Heath Services, breastfeeding has been shown to be the most nutritious for infants. This promotes a healthier lifestyle and reduces the chance of infant morality. If you have questions about whether or not breastfeeding is right for you and your child, please contact a physician.

  • Continuing to Learn--Many parents are unaware of potential dangers to their infants. It is important to make sure infant car seats and cribs are correctly installed. Additionally, teaching parents the dangers of "shaken baby syndrome" has amounted to better infant care and longevity.

  • Reducing Stress During Pregnancy--Chronic stress drastically increases the probability of a premature birth, which can cause medical complications or even death. Premature births can also be onset with teen pregnancies or drug and alcohol use during pregnancy.

  • Participating in the Nurse Family Partnership Program--This program gives assistance and advice to low-income, first-time parent women in four of Milwaukee's ZIP codes that are most troubled by high infant mortality.

The infant mortality rate in Milwaukee has been improving. In fact, from 2011 to 2012, the city's overall infant mortality rate drop from 10.2 deaths per 1,000 live births to 9.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. As a result, Milwaukee is on pace to reduce the city's overall infant mortality rate by 10% by 2017. Although the future is promising, all parents in our community need to focus on increasing safety and awareness in their own homes. Infant mortality is a huge concern, but I am optimistic that together, we can reduce the number of infant deaths, and ultimately lead Wisconsin in the right direction with regards to infant safety.

 

 

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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