December 15, 2011



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



Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707


Web Site:












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. 


A Christmas Carol
Now through December 24

Wisconsin’s favorite holiday tradition returns for its 36th year. This timeless Dickens classic will touch your soul and brighten your holiday season. Even the most cynical “Bah Humbugs” will leave with a song in their heart and a feeling of hope and redemption. Ticket prices start at $15 for children, $20 for seniors and $25 for adults. CLICK HERE for more information or to buy tickets.

Milwaukee Repertory Theater (MAP)
108 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 224-9490



The Nutcracker Ballet

Now through December 26

"The Nutcracker" is a dazzling journey to a magical land where dolls, toys and snowflakes come to life under the direction of Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score, performed live by the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra and Milwaukee Children’s Choir. For additional information or to purchase tickets, please CLICK HERE.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 273-7206

Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
Now through December 29

It is Christmas season in Room One, and first-grader Junie B. is a mix of emotions. Visions of goodies from the school’s holiday gift shop frolic about her mind. But, at the same time, she worries that the Holiday Sing-Along could resemble the disaster of skits past. And worst of all, the drawing for the Secret Santa gift exchange has left her stuck with the least desirable name in the class – Tattletale May. Watch as Junie B. learns to cope with her challenged holiday spirit. Tickets start at $15. CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 273-7206



Fill the Shelves: A Benefit for the Milwaukee Public Library
Now through December 31

Help raise money for the Milwaukee Public Library at the annual Fill The Shelves benefit. The Boswell Book Company will provide books to purchase for donation at the Katie Gingrass Gallery. Purchase a book this holiday season to fill the shelves of the Milwaukee Public Library and give the gift of a great read.

Katie Gingrass Fine Art Gallery
241 N. Broadway Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 289-0855

Candlelight Walk
December 16 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Celebrate the winter solstice and explore Riverside Park by candlelight with a guided walk, accompanied by poetry and readings of the season. After the walk, return to the center to warm yourself by the fire with apple cider, snacks and music by Regina Gallero. Walks leave every 15 minutes starting at 7 p.m. Admission is free for all ages. Call (414) 964-8505 to register. For additional information, please CLICK HERE.

Urban Ecology Center (MAP)
1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211
(414) 964-8505





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


While other legislators and local elected officials worked hard this week to bring increased accountability to Milwaukee's property tax bills, Governor Walker introduced a new policy that tramples on your First Amendment rights.


As usual, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or opinions you may have about our community or our state.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7




Capitol Access Restricted...Again

Governor Walker and his administration are set to implement a new policy to prevent Wisconsinites from using their First Amendment right to free speech. Starting tomorrow, December 16, groups of four or more people must obtain permits for all activity and displays in state buildings, including the Capitol, and apply for those permits at least 72-hours in advance. Families and groups of four or more can also be required to pay a fee or obtain liability insurance or a bond before getting a permit.


Who Would be Affected?

Governor Walker and his Department of Administration (DOA) appointees were rather vague in the language used to draft this new policy. It is expected that Capitol Police will be responsible for determining who is in violation of this policy and what action should be taken on a case-by-case basis. Because of the unclear language and the inability of DOA and Capitol Police to list examples of what does or does not violate the provision limiting access to the Capitol, many people may unknowingly be in violation of this order and be forced to face the consequences.


This provision has the potential to be applied to families of four or more, 4th grade classes on a field trip, tour groups, and advocacy organizations handing out literature on their lobby days. Capitol Police would also have the authority to choose when to enforce it or not as they could penalize a group of six choosing to sing a song in opposition of Walker, while choosing to allow a group of 10 to chant in support of Walker.


Continuation of Policies to Decrease Government Accessibility

Throughout this year, Governor Walker and Republican legislators have:

  • Abruptly halted public hearings on controversial legislation before citizens were able to speak

  • Violated Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law

  • Locked the public and legislators out of the Capitol

  • Rejected transparency and accountability measures proposed on numerous bills

  • Pushed special interest legislation that had no public author

Our governor should be encouraging input and participation from his neighbors, not seeking retribution and suppressing those that may disagree with his policies. We must work together to encourage a more open government and increase accessibility to our elected officials, rather than adopting policies that aim to restrict First Amendment rights.


It is my hope that the embarrassment of the governor's unconstitutional restrictions will force DOA to change this policy before its implementation.


Click here to view a copy of this policy change.


Increasing Transparency in Taxes

My Milwaukee colleagues and I were successful in our efforts to ensure greater transparency and accountability on Milwaukee’s property tax bills. Since September, we have been working with the Milwaukee Treasurer, Comptroller, Mayor, and members of the Common Council and Milwaukee Public School Board of Directors to develop an information sheet to be distributed with property tax bills providing separate cost information for Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which was formerly listed as one lump sum. Milwaukee taxpayers will now receive a detailed break down of how much they pay for Milwaukee Public Schools and how much is funneled into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program.

Click here to view a copy of the handout on property tax transparency that is being circulated to City of Milwaukee taxpayers.

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. New 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%.

These changes come at a time when public schools are forced to make do with $1.6 billion less in state aide over the next two years, while spending on programs like the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program continue to balloon. In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students. The tax levy for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program already exceeds the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District by nearly $10 million and is expected to exceed Milwaukee Area Technical College’s in the next few years.

MPS and Taxpayers Picking Up the Tab to Educate All Students
This simple change will clarify for Milwaukee taxpayers to what extent public schools have been bailing out their private and religious counterparts. Currently, Milwaukee taxpayers are being forced to pay for the public, private and parochial school programs in Milwaukee, despite the fact that only our public schools are actually required to educate all children, including those with special needs. So although Milwaukee taxpayers are footing the bill for public and private schools across the city, if they have a child with special needs and would like their child to get a parochial education, they will likely see their child rejected for admittance to such a school. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 19% of students in Milwaukee Public Schools are special education students, while only 1.6% of students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program are in special education.

Fixing the Funding Formula

This handout takes a step in the right direction by showing taxpayers how the funding flaw is directly affecting them. Currently, Wisconsin does not accurately count all students and only provides funding to Milwaukee for students attending public schools. This in-turn places the financial burden of voucher students solely on the backs of Milwaukee taxpayers. I will continue working hard to ensure that the state of Wisconsin is held accountable for the education of all of our children by adopting a funding formula that is fair.


I realize the complexity of this issue and appreciate those in the public who have been trying to draw attention to it. Please contact me with any clarifying questions you might have.


Mining Hearing Raises Transparency Concerns

The Assembly Committee on Natural Resources held a public hearing this past Wednesday to discuss a controversial bill that would change current laws related to mining in Wisconsin. This hearing comes less than a week after the introduction of this 183-page proposal.


Although this bill is expected to have a significant impact on Wisconsinites in the northern part of our state, the only Assembly public hearing was held at State Fair Park in West Allis at 10 a.m., 350 miles away from the affected area. As a result, many of our northern neighbors were forced to leave their houses between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in order to make the 7-hour drive and get to this important public hearing on time. Legislators and the public alike expressed frustration that this proposal appears to have no author, which makes understanding the intent of numerous provisions extremely difficult. The Senate is not expected to take up this issue until January.


As we continue debating this legislation, I encourage my fellow legislators to keep the right of the people to participate in their government their top priority. Extending this courtesy not only demonstrates our commitment to working for all Wisconsinites, but also is a practice of good government as it shows a willingness to increase accountability and transparency.


Click here to view a copy of this legislation.



Polluters Over People Bill Lurches On

The Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Environment and the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources voted on Senate Bill 326 and Assembly Bill 421 respectively, legislation that will prioritize polluters over people by undoing important environmental protections that keep our air clean and our water safe for drinking and recreation. This legislation passed along party-lines with Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats, including myself, voting against this controversial proposal.


Click here to view a copy of Senate Bill 326.

Wisconsin's strong commitment to stewardship is vital to our state's economic well-being and health. The success of many of our state's businesses, including those in agriculture and tourism, heavily rely on the vitality of our natural resources. Protecting our water supply and air quality are also important to safeguard the health of our families. Without adequate protections, our families will be left vulnerable to illnesses caused by harmful contaminants.

If passed, Senate Bill 326 would have a detrimental impact on communities across Wisconsin. With the help of conservationists and neighbors, we were able to get some of the most egregious water-related provisions removed from the bill before its passage in committee, including provisions that:

  • Undermine the recent Lake Beulah Supreme Court decision on groundwater protections by giving automatic approval of high capacity wells despite possible concerns, including over-pumping and competing users

  • Change the placement of bulkhead lines to decrease the amount of water that is available for public use by giving it away to private individuals

  • Threaten our water quality by gutting current standards relating to the dredging of material from lakebeds.

Thank you to my many neighbors who attended the 9-hour hearing on October 26 and contacted my office about these issues.


Unfortunately, the following concerns can still be found in this environmentally harmful legislation that threatens our natural resources and families by:

  • Tying the hands of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by not allowing follow-up requests for information from permit applicants

  • Encouraging DNR permit applicants to submit incomplete or false information since DNR is restricted in follow-ups

  • Giving DNR the authority to issue permits without a public hearing

  • Removing air quality protections, such as requiring industries to model their expected air quality impact to ensure the health of neighbors is not adversely impacted by pollutants they produce

Wisconsin has a long tradition of protecting our natural resources, as they are not just a part of our landscape, but a part of who we are as stewards of this great state. We should be working to pass legislation that protects the health of our families, communities and businesses rather than undoing that which safeguards Wisconsin's precious lands and valuable natural resources for today and tomorrow.



Making Our Roads Safer with Ignition Interlock Devices

We are now in the holiday season, which tends to be one of the most dangerous times of the year for alcohol-related driving offenses. This should be a time of celebration with family and friends, not tarnished by a tragedy resulting from drunk driving. Our family, friends and neighbors cannot afford to wait any longer for stronger drunk driving laws. Wisconsin’s drivers and passengers deserve greater peace-of-mind while on the road.


Like many in Wisconsin, I understand the tragic cost of the drunk driving epidemic that has touched all corners of our state. Too often drunk drivers cause accidents that kill or injure our family, friends and neighbors, shattering lives and tearing the fabric of our communities. We must do more to end these preventable tragedies and safeguard our loved ones.

In the past, the solution has simply been to take away the driver’s licenses of convicted drunk drivers. However, we know this does not do enough to prevent them from driving. DOT estimates for 2010 show that over 32,000 people were convicted of driving drunk in Wisconsin and nearly 32% of these were repeat offenders.

It is time that we do more to stop the fatalities, injuries and property loss caused by drunk drivers, which is why Rep. Tony Staskunas (D–West Allis) and I have introduced bipartisan legislation recently to strengthen our state’s drunk driving laws through increased use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs). This imperative legislation strengthens our lax drunk driving laws by stipulating that all first-time convicted drunk drivers have an IID placed in their vehicle. Currently, IIDs are only installed in vehicles of first-time offenders with blood alcohol content (BAC) of .15 or higher and repeat offenders. This life-saving technology has been proven to reduce drunk driving recidivism by 67 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


Click here to view a copy of this legislation.


Click here to view a letter from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) discussing the importance of IIDs in reducing drunk driving to save lives.



Sexual Assault Victims Targeted by DOJ Cuts

The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it would be slashing the Sexual Assault Victim Services (SAVS) grants by 42.5% for 2012. SAVS grants are state funds used to ensure that sexual assault service providers have the resources necessary to provide direct services to victims and their families, including: 24-hour crisis response, victim advocacy, and criminal justice, legal and medical advocacy.


There are 46 local service providers across Wisconsin that depend on this grant and, like many other vital state programs, they have been struggling to do more with less for years. Simply put, the additional cuts levied have the potential to decimate the ability of agencies to provide important services to sexual assault victims next year.


Last week my Democratic colleagues and I submitted a letter to DOJ requesting that they cease any further cuts to our vital SAVS grants. While we understand that agencies may have to absorb substantial cuts given these tough economic times, our budgets should not be balanced at the expense of Wisconsin's sexual assault victims.


According to the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance (OJA), there were 4,857 sexual assaults reported to law enforcement agencies in 2010, a 5% increase from 2009. What is even more concerning is that our youth are nearly three times more likely than adults to be victims of sexual assault and children ages 11 to 15 represent the highest victimized age group.


If we are truly committed to cracking down on sexual predators, we must also continue to reach out to and support the victims and their families by maintaining the SAVS grants. Therefore, I urge DOJ to reconsider their plan to slash these grants.


Click here to view the letter submitted to DOJ on behalf of Democratic Caucus members.



Cheesehead Celebrates 25 Years

On the lighter side of things, Rep. Sinicki and I are authoring a resolution to recognize the 25th anniversary of the invention of the Cheesehead Hat and commend its creator-and our South Shore neighbor-Ralph Bruno. Few things are as immediately recognizable and evocative of Wisconsin culture as the Cheesehead.

Ralph Bruno created the first Cheesehead Hat in 1987 as a tongue-in-cheek response to the jeers of “cheesehead” he received from Chicago Bears fans. Originally made from his couch’s stuffing, Ralph found his invention to be so popular that he developed a unique manufacturing process of foamation and opened his own factory to cater to the growing demand of the burgeoning Cheesehead population.

The invention of the Cheesehead embodies the resourcefulness and resilience of Wisconsinites. While a staple for Packer fans, the appeal of the Cheesehead transcends football and has become a recognizable symbol of the Wisconsin spirit worldwide. We should appreciate Ralph Bruno and Foamation, Inc. for their contributions to Wisconsin’s business community and cultural heritage.




Intern at the Capitol

I currently have an opening for a legislative intern in my Madison office. A legislative internship is a great opportunity for students and recent graduates to learn more about the legislative process while gaining practical work experience.

Intern responsibilities vary, but include policy research, summarizing proposed legislation, and responding to constituent inquires. All interns also assist with general office operations, including answering the phone.

Applicants must be able to work during normal business hours, and dedicate a minimum of 10 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid.

To apply for an internship, please submit a cover letter and resume electronically to or mail them to Wisconsin State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707.




Attention High School Juniors and Seniors: Apply to Senate Scholars Today

The Senate Scholars Program is an intensive week-long education program offered by the Wisconsin State Senate. This is a wonderful opportunity for Wisconsin youth to view the role of the Legislature in democracy first-hand and gain experience in the areas of policy development, constituent relations and processing legislation. Senate Scholars will also have the change to work closely with senators, legislative staff and University of Wisconsin faculty. Admission to the program is highly competitive and limited to 33 academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from across the state. Applications are due on January 2, 2012.


2012 Senate Scholar Sessions:

January 22-27

February 12-17

February 19-24


If you have additional questions about the program or the application process, I encourage you to call the Legislative Training Officer in charge of the program, Jacob Clark, at (608) 266-2610.


Click here to visit the Senate Scholar Program's Web site for more information.




See You in the Neighborhood

I created a survey that I am distributing to neighbors asking about various issues that are important to them, our community and our state. I have been distributing the survey door-to-door throughout our community and will continue doing so through December. To return the survey, simply fold it, tape it, and affix a stamp.

Click here to save a stamp and take the survey 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.


I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues. Hope to see you in the neighborhood soon!




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.


Click here to view this handout or visit my Web site,


Click here to view the same PDF in Spanish.




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