March 1, 2012
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.
To Kill a
Winter Farmers' Market
Hungry for Change:
Food, Ethics, and Sustainability
The Lives of Stars will track how different stars progress through birth, adulthood, old age, and ultimately death, an evolution astronomers have studied for decades. The program will also note some exciting changes stars endure when they run low on hydrogen fuel and can turn into an exotic object, such as a black hole. After stellar evolution is explored, a portion of the program will be devoted to viewing the current night sky. Admission is $2. CLICK HERE for more information.
UW-Milwaukee Manfred Olson Planetarium (MAP) 1900 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211
This spring the South Milwaukee High School Theatre Company is proud to present Bye Bye Birdie, a Tony Award winning musical that originally starred Dick Van Dyke and Chita Rivera. A comedy that all ages will enjoy, Bye Bye Birdie presents a hilarious satire of the 1950s. Inspired by Elvis Presley's draft notice in 1957, the plot follows the teenage hysteria that occurs when rock star Conrad Birdie is drafted into the army. Conrad's manager Albert Peterson, along with Peterson's love interest Rosie, devise a plan to promote Birdie a final time by promising one lucky girl a kiss from the star on national television. Unfortunately, the girl, Kim MacAfee, has a jealous boyfriend and a family who is not used to the limelight. Romantic comedy ensues as all of these characters interact on stage and the results will keep the audience in stitches. This production will be showing at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center on Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 10 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, March 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for seniors 60 and over, and $9 for students. A family 4-pack is also available for $33. CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets.
South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)
901 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
As the legislative session nears its conclusion, some bills are being held up in an attempt to gain partisan power, while others are being rushed through at an alarming rate. Such have been employed with legislation regarding our health safety net and our neighborhood schools. Continue reading for more information.
As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.
Playing Games with Our Most Vulnerable
Legislation to remove the cap placed on FamilyCare received unanimous approval in the Senate on February 14, 2012. Unfortunately, Assembly Republicans continue to play games, which included attaching an amendment to this bill that simply seeks to comply with the order handed down by the federal government that the cap on Medicaid programs, including FamilyCare, be removed.
We are fast approaching the end of the current legislative session and are quickly running out of time to pass legislation to remove the cap. If Republicans are unwilling comply with the federal mandate and pass this bill, it will have to be reintroduced when the next legislative session begins in January 2013. This would mean turning our backs on our most vulnerable neighbors.
The Importance of Our Health Safety Net
Currently, about one out of five Wisconsin residents rely on our state's health safety net programs for their health care needs. The number of individuals enrolled in Wisconsin's Medicaid programs has been steadily increasing in recent years due to our state's ailing economy, continued loss of family-supporting jobs, and increased health care costs. Given the hardships our neighbors our facing, it is one of the worst times to consider any additional cuts to our health safety net.
FamilyCare is a bipartisan community-based, long-term care program that plays a vital role in Wisconsin’s health safety net. The program serves our state’s most vulnerable neighbors, including the elderly and individuals with disabilities, to enhance their health and quality of life.
As you may know, Governor Walker’s 2011-2013 Biennial Budget instituted a cap on the FamilyCare program. During the budget debate, my Democratic colleagues and I expressed our concerns about how family, friends and neighbors would suffer by being denied these life-saving services. Unfortunately, voices from across Wisconsin were once again ignored and the cap went into effect on July 1, 2011.
A Pattern of Assault
Notable health care cuts placed in the most recent biennial budget are listed below:
The Governor continued his extreme agenda announcing an additional $554 million in cuts this past October. With these cuts, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) estimates that almost 65,000 Wisconsinites, including 30,000 pregnant women and children, will lose their current BadgerCare health care coverage.
Wisconsin's vital health care programs ensure that our families and neighbors are able to receive quality, affordable health care to prevent costly emergency room visits. These programs also help save valuable taxpayer dollars by keeping our loved ones in their own homes and active in their communities instead of placing them in nursing homes and in-patient facilities.
Rushing Special Needs Voucher Program
This past Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 486, legislation that would create a Special Needs Voucher Program. After listening to hours of testimony, this controversial bill left many with more questions than answers about how children with special needs would be educated, our neighborhood schools affected, and local taxpayers burdened under this bill.
Lower Education Quality for Special Needs Students
Some of the most concerning issues raised dealt with the caliber of education that would be provided to children with disabilities in our community. There is currently no provision in Senate Bill 486 that would require participating private and religious schools to periodically re-evaluate the individualized education program of a child with special needs. This runs counter to what is currently required of public schools under federal and state laws, which state that a child's individualized education program must, at the very least, be reviewed annually. Keeping individualized education plans up-to-date is vital to our children's education, as it ensures they are being taught in a way that fosters their learning and helps them develop essential life skills.
This bill weakens protections for students even further by not requiring participating private schools to have certified special education or related services personnel on staff to assist and educate any special needs students. In fact, it appears that under this bill, those teaching special education voucher students in private and religious schools would not even be required to hold a college degree. Parents should have some reassurance that their children are in capable hands and being taught by teachers that have the appropriate credentials and necessary experience.
Blank Checks to Private and Religious Schools
The significant flaws found in the program created by Senate Bill 486 do not just affect those special needs students who participate, but will also have a profound impact on all of our students as more money will be siphoned away from our neighborhood schools. Currently, public schools across Wisconsin only receive partial reimbursement of 26%, or a "sum certain" appropriation, of the total cost associated with educating a special needs child. Private and religious schools participating in the program created by Senate Bill 486, on the other hand, will receive a "sum sufficient" appropriation of 100%. This means if there are not enough school aids available to cover the cost of the program, other funds would need to be raided to fulfill the obligation.
Also under this bill, public and religious schools would be provided a maximum of $13,593 annually per special needs student, which is more than double the amount awarded for current voucher participants and almost three times the amount the state provides per pupil to our community schools for general aids. In addition to providing a higher reimbursement rate, Senate Bill 486:
It seems that if Senate Bill 486 were to pass, our neighborhood schools would essentially be forced to raid their drastically-cut budgets to write a blank check to private and religious schools. The implications of creating a special needs voucher program with very little accountability and transparency can be seen first hand in Florida's McKay Scholarship Program, which is similar to what is being proposed in Senate Bill 486. This program has been the subject of investigations that uncovered widespread fraud and abuse and was described by the Miami New Times as a "perverse science experiment, using disabled school kids as lab rats and funded by nine figures in taxpayer cash." Is this really the type of program we want to mirror?
Increased Burden on Taxpayers
Communities that have voucher programs in place, including our own, have seen the financial burden it places on their local property taxes. In 2010, state law compelled Milwaukee Public Schools to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools making up the voucher program, which amounts to 17% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy. Legislation at the state level recently expanded the voucher program in Milwaukee to allow private schools outside Milwaukee to participate, while also removing all enrollment caps on the program and raising the income limits on participants. Due to these policy changes in the Republican Budget, the cost of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program rose significantly, exceeding the state’s official 2012 estimate and increasing the financial responsibility of taxpayers to 22.6%.
Senate Bill 486 would again increase
that financial burden, as it would cost Wisconsin an additional $80
million annually, which would balloon as more children with special
needs participate in the program.
Changing Our Redistricting Process
order to encourage a new, more reasonable system of redistricting, I am
co-sponsoring LRB 3475, legislation that would create an independent
redistricting commission for Wisconsin. Redistricting has increasingly
become a tool for partisan gain and sadly neither party has resisted the
temptation to try and further their hold on power. This has created a
hyper-partisan environment where legislators and their attorneys are
more concerned with saving their own jobs, than ensuring each an every
Wisconsinite receives adequate and equal representation as is promised
to them by our Constitution.
Many states are shifting from a Legislative Redistricting Model to bipartisan or nonpartisan commissions to draw up their maps in an effort to decrease partisanship as well as legal fees involved with the process. In a state that has an Independent Commission Redistricting Model, maps are drawn by a redistricting commission comprised of nonpartisan members. If the Legislature rejects all three plans proposed by the commission, the State Supreme Court makes the final decision. So far 21 states use some form of a Commission Redistricting Model, such as an independent commission.
LRB 3475/1 would convert our current Legislative Redistricting Model to and Independent Commission Redistricting Model. The creation of this commission would have two goals:
1). Make the districts as compact and contiguous as possible
2). Make the districts as electoraly
competitive as possible.
In order to pass this constitutional
amendment, a resolution must pass through the Legislature in two
consecutive sessions and pass a statewide referendum.
Recent Events Show Change is
The court is continuing to hear this case and is expected to make a decision before the maps drafted by Republican legislators, their attorneys, and special interests go into effect in the Fall 2012 election.
Neighbors Support Changing
First Step Towards Change
Wisconsin residents deserve assurance
that they will not be treated as if they are pawns in a political game.
An independent redistricting commission would allow for more
accountability and transparency for what has recently been turned into a
politically biased and secretive practice. It is time that we get our
state moving forward again by taking politics out of such important
constitutional matters as redistricting. The passage of LRB 3475 would
be a good first step in cleaning up Wisconsin government and returning
power to the people.
Protecting the Rights of Shareholders
is important to ensure that everyone has a voice in our electoral
process. Many neighbors have expressed their concerns about the recent
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court
decision, which allows corporations to make unlimited contributions to
political campaigns. Therefore, I am co-sponsoring LRB 3530, the
Shareholder Protection Act, to help ensure that the tradition of
transparent, accountable government continues in Wisconsin.
The Shareholder Protection Act
requires top corporate leaders to seek the approval of shareholders
before the company makes contributions in state and local races.
Shareholders have the right to know what political activities, parties,
and candidates their potential earnings are being spent on. Such
relationships and patronages may have a profound impact on the
corporation's operation, reputation, and long-term sustainability.
Many shareholders make their investing decisions based on more than the potential for financial gain. Just as a shareholder is entitled to know if the company is investing in troubled regions or regimes, they should also be entitled to know and have an influence on the political activities and expenditures of the corporation the have a stake in. This proposal will help ensure that the political actions of a corporation actually reflect the will of the shareholders, rather than the whims of a CEO.
Friday is Read Across America Day
Read Across America Day is this Friday, March 2. The National Education Association established Read Across America day in 1998 to celebrate and get children excited about reading.
St. Patrick's Day Festivities
a full weekend of St. Patrick's Day events with the Shamrock Club of
Wisconsin this year, including the 46th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The St. Patrick's Day parade is the oldest and largest St. Patrick's Day
celebration in Wisconsin and has marched along Milwaukee’s streets since
This year’s celebration will kick-off Friday night at the Shamrock in Westown, located at the Miller Time Pub. Admission is free and guests will enjoy entertainment by Ian Gould and The Sandcravers. The parade steps off Saturday, March 10 at noon. It will start on Wisconsin Avenue at Old World Third Street and make its way through Downtown Milwaukee. Appearing in the parade will be Irish-themed floats, regional pipe and drum corps, Irish and Celtic organizations, and more. Anyone planning to attend the parade is encouraged to bring food items with them for the 3rd Annual food drive. Volunteers will be walking the parade route with grocery carts to collect donations.
Immediately following the parade the Post Parade Party will take place at the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center. The party will feature Irish entertainment and dancers along with traditional food and beverages.
Meet for Coffee at Fixx
Saturday, March 3 from 11 a.m. to Noon
I will have office hours open to the public at Fixx Coffee House in St. Francis. This is your chance to talk in person about any questions, concerns, or opinions you might have about our community or state. No appointment necessary. Feel free to call my office for additional information.
Click here to visit the Web site for Fixx Coffee House.
Thank You Neighbors!
you to everyone that attended the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association
Meeting this past Tuesday.
It was encouraging to see so many of our neighbors stop by to share their
thoughts on state issues.
Neighborhood Survey Available
I created a survey asking about various issues that are
important to our community, and our state. The input of neighbors is
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!
Know Your Voting Rights
Scott Walker and Republican legislators recently enacted some of the most restrictive ID requirements for voters in the country. While they have been working to silence Wisconsin's voters, I have been working hard to keep Wisconsin's voters informed of their rights. I have created a simple handout answering some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding Wisconsin's new voter restrictions.
|To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."|