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December 20, 2012



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


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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. 



The Sound of Music
Now through Mon., December 31
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Come enjoy The Sound of Music this holiday season in Milwaukee. This timeless classic makes for a perfect evening for the entire family. When Maria, a nun-in-training, proves to be too high-spirited for religious life, she is sent to serve as governess for the seven children of a widowed naval captain. Her amazing rapport with the children combined with her generosity and kindness gradually captures the heart of the austere Captain von Trapp. Shortly after marrying, the whole family is forced to flee invading Nazis by escaping over the mountains of Switzerland. The family’s narrow escape on the eve of World War II is one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in musical theatre. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-7811 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Skylight Music Theatre (MAP)
158 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Family Free Day at Zoo
Date: Tues., December 25 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: All Milwaukee County residents with a valid ID will receive free admission to the Milwaukee County Zoo on this day, although the parking fee remains in effect. CLICK HERE or call (414) 256-5466 for additional information on this event and the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Milwaukee County Zoo (MAP)
10001 W. Blue Mound Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226



Milwaukee Winter Fest
Date: Wed., December 26 through Mon., December 31

Location: Milwaukee
Description: Winter Fest, Milwaukee’s one-of-a-kind, interactive indoor winter festival for families, returns for six days of fun. Winter Fest features more than 50 different rides, activities, and attractions for children and adults, including a zip-line to the South Pole, radar snowball pitch, Winter Fest roller rink, a polar café, and more. Tickets are available for pre-purchase online through December 25 at $12 for children ages 3-17 and $8 for adults 18 years old and older. Tickets will also be available after December 25 at the door starting at $15 for children and $10 for adults. CLICK HERE or call (414) 908-6000 for more information.

Delta Center (MAP)
400 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53203


Miller Lite Free Rides
Date: 8 p.m. Mon., December 31 through4 a.m. Tues., January 1

Location: Milwaukee and Waukesha areas
Description: Miller Lite Free Rides are returning to the Milwaukee and Waukesha areas for New Year's Eve. Miller Lite has teamed up with the Milwaukee County Transit System and Waukesha Metro Transit to provide free bus service on many routes throughout the Milwaukee and Waukesha areas as a safe transportation alternative for those celebrating the New Year. CLICK HERE or call 1-800-FREE-RIDES for detailed route and schedule information. You can also text "FREERIDES" to 90464.







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


This week we remember those we lost to gun violence in Connecticut. We also take a look at the challenges facing our state as we approach the New Year and a new legislative session.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7




Mourning Those We Lost

Our country is currently in a state of mourning for the 20 children and 7 adults that were killed in Newtown, Connecticut late last week by a lone gunman. As a father, I cannot help but see my son's eyes when I look into the faces of those we lost so young.


The sheer magnitude of what was lost that day was summed up well by President Obama when he said:

"Our hearts are broken today. The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them: birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams."


As stories have been coming out, it has become evident that many of the teachers and staff that gave up their lives on that tragic day did so out of love to protect their students. I am humbled by these brave and selfless individuals who sacrificed everything and acted heroically to try and save the innocent children they often referred to as "their kids." 


As a community that experienced the devastation of violence first-hand earlier this year, at both the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek and Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, 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.



Challenges to Tackle in New Year

Last session was a historic one in Wisconsin. As we approach the New Year, it is time to examine the challenges facing our state as we get closer to the start of the new legislative session.



Just last week, Governor Walker made a misleading and false claim saying that Wisconsin was close to creating 100,000 jobs since he took office. While many of us wish that this figure accurately portrayed our current economic situation, economists at the Department of Revenue and even the governor's own spokesperson have since said that the data the governor cited when making this announcement was used improperly and misrepresents the truth.


It was determined that this jobs figure was made based off of data from the Quarterly Census Employment and Wages (QCEW) published by the Department of Workforce Development to calculate the number of jobs created from December 2010 to June 2012 (the most recent quarter available). This misleading data touted by Governor Walker was not seasonally adjusted. Comparing seasonally adjusted numbers to non-seasonally adjusted numbers is like comparing February temperatures to those in July. Therefore, picking and choosing the numbers the way Governor Walker is does not accurately reflect the number of jobs Wisconsin gained since December 2010.

To most accurately calculate jobs numbers, states are encouraged to use the seasonally adjusted census data released by the U.S. Department of Workforce Development. Analysis of this data shows that Wisconsin has only created about 25,411 private sector jobs since Governor Walker took office. With only two years left on the governor's first-term, it is unlikely that he will come anywhere close to achieving his biggest campaign promise of creating 250,000 jobs.


It also appears that if Wisconsin does not change its course, we may continue to see much of the same stunted job growth and insufficient economic development. Last week, Forbes Magazine released their Best States for Business ranking, which showed that Wisconsin has fallen from 40th to 42nd. It notes our state has an expected job growth rate of -0.3% for 2012. Additionally, the profile for Wisconsin notes “The Badger State adopted the slogan 'Open for Business' in 2011, erecting signs along the state border. The results have been middling at best as job growth is projected to be second worst in the U.S. through 2016." Unfortunately for our state, just putting up signs does not make Wisconsin open for business. Clearly changes need to be made to alter our fate.


While Wisconsin's workers are struggling to find jobs, our children are also experiencing the challenges our state must strive to overcome. The 2011-2012 budget cut over $800 million from K-12 education--the largest cut to education in Wisconsin’s history. Since then, teachers and students have been struggling with class sizes exceeding 40 students, which I saw first-hand after visiting multiple schools in each of our five area school districts.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, almost two-thirds of state school districts will receive less state aid in 2012-2013 than the previous year. False claims that Act 10 savings covered all cuts and put local schools in a better position are butting heads with the daily reality. School districts were forced to eliminate many valuable programs. School libraries, special education, and reading specialists were hit especially hard. Additionally, districts let go of nearly 2,400 staff last year, and about 75% of districts cut teachers.

Recently, State Superintendent Tony Evers provided a realistic strategy for moving public education forward again. It starts with implementing his “Agenda 2017” plan. Through improved standards and instruction, revamped assessments and data systems, increased school and educator accountability, and school finance reform, Agenda 2017 will raise graduation rates, close gaps, and increase career and college readiness. Below are some Agenda 2017 reform items that need to be put into action or require legislative approval, including:

  • Fully fund job readiness assessments for all high school juniors to reduce barriers to college and employment

  • Increase accountability for all schools receiving tax dollars, including voucher schools, to ensure public dollars are wisely invested

  • Commit to implementing the superintendent’s “Fair Funding for Our Future” plan to fix funding flaws in our broken system and increase equity between low- and high-poverty areas

If Wisconsin is going to be a pro-business state, it must also be pro-education. We cannot afford to follow failed policies of the past when we have common sense solutions in front of us. Therefore, I urge the governor and members of the Legislature to support Superintendent Evers’ Agenda 2017 and Fair Funding for Our Future plans. I am optimistic we can work together to provide our children with a brighter future.



Another challenge Wisconsin has had to grasp is how to stretch what little money we have during these tough economic times. One of the best ways to ensure our tax dollars are being used wisely and as intended by the people of Wisconsin is to increase accountability and transparency measures so we can all track where the money is going to determine if the investments we are making are sound. In general, Wisconsinites agree that accountability and transparency are crucial to a well-functioning government that places the people first. This is illustrated by our laws requiring open meetings and records, thoughtful checks and balances in government structures, and significant disclosure for campaign contributions.

We recently saw what can happen when accountability and transparency are sacrificed by state agencies. Major concerns with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) were brought to light in a public hearing on October 17 in the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

WEDC was hastily created in 2011 by Governor Walker, who is now the chairman of the WEDC Board, to replace the state's Department of Commerce. Unfortunately, WEDC was handed $85 million in taxpayer dollars but never given a rule book. This mistake has cost taxpayers dearly and caused the agency to perform irresponsibly. For two years, calls for common sense accountability and transparency measures were ignored by those in charge. Void of checks and balances to properly safeguard our limited resources, WEDC has been allowed to operate in the shadows.


This public-private agency has had persistent problems since its inception. These include circumventing Wisconsin’s fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw, which led to an independent audit being conducted, was losing track of $50 million in loans, including about $12 million already overdue. According to the audit, WEDC also failed to double-check credit card purchases and accounting journals of staff. Such a basic business practice is necessary to prevent internal fraud, including embezzlement. Additionally, the agency did not track the tens of millions in taxpayer dollars it gave to businesses. This shoddy accounting contributed to WEDC failing to follow-up on delinquent loans.

WEDC’s culture of secrecy has left taxpayers in the dark on their investment in this agency. We cannot afford to continue footing the bill to cover the mistakes made by WEDC. With Wisconsin still struggling economically, failing to create promised jobs, and lagging behind the rest of the country, it is unacceptable to allow WEDC to continue to play fast and loose with our tax dollars.

Regardless of which party is in control, it is always better to error on the side of more accountability and transparency, not less. I look forward to working with my Democratic colleagues, Republican legislators, and the governor to make our state agencies, like WEDC, more transparent on behalf of Wisconsin’s taxpayers.



Health care is a major economic issue as it affects all Wisconsinites and businesses statewide. A healthy workforce means less sick days, catching health issues before they become chronic conditions, and increased productivity. Our state still has many challenges to overcome regarding health care in Wisconsin, including recent attacks on women's health priorities and opting to punt implementation of health care exchanges to the federal government. As we approach the upcoming legislative session, economic issues, including health care, must be a top priority.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal health care reform law on June 28, 2012, making meaningful health care reform implementation in Wisconsin imperative. Unfortunately, in November, Governor Walker submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, stating that Wisconsin will not adopt a state-based exchange but rather let the federal government create one. Despite initially rejecting this opportunity, Wisconsin may still have a chance to adopt its own exchange in the future. Given that Wisconsin is unique with its own health care needs, moving forward with implementing a state-based exchange, instead of one controlled by the federal government, seems to be the best option for our state.

Wisconsin will also face challenges regarding women's health, such as combating problems that have arisen in other states that, like Wisconsin, passed regressive women's health measures during the last legislative session. Providing women in Wisconsin an opportunity to seek preventive care services, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support in our state. However, last session, Republicans attacked Wisconsin’s health services for women by eliminating all state funding for health centers that provide all-options family planning services. These funding cuts affected at least 50 health centers throughout the state, some of which act as the sole provider of family planning and preventive care services for low-income women. This means more mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters will lose access to life-saving cervical and breast cancer screening and other reproductive health services unless these centers are able to independently maintain adequate funding.


Other states, including Texas, passed similar regressive laws regarding women's health recently and have come to realize that such pursuits may end up costing taxpayers dearly. Texas estimates that their decision to cut $73 million from family planning and women's health centers could cost taxpayers an additional $273 million during the 2014-2015 biennium due to an anticipated additional 23,760 babies being born in poverty because of decreased access to birth control. This consequence of eliminating funding for women's health and family planning centers has already caused Texas legislators on both sides of the aisle to rethink their hastily crafted law.


To move forward together, we need to stand on the side of best practices that promote healthy communities, save taxpayer money, and give all Wisconsinites an opportunity to receive basic health care services. In fact, for every public $1 spent on preventive family planning services taxpayers save, on average, $4. Like Texas, Wisconsin should also stop to think of the unintended consequences of eliminating state funding to family planning and women's health centers.



A report titled Transportation and the New Generation released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) earlier this year reveals that for the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less. As a result, our state now faces the challenge of supporting growing public transit use despite massive cuts to public transit funding.

Despite the fact that public transit use is increasing while people are driving less, highway expansion projects were highly prioritized this last session over repairing our local roads and investing in our public transit infrastructure. This assault began with the rejection of $800 million in federal funds to create jobs and a high speed rail option connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and additional communities.

The attack continued with the elimination of the new Regional Transit Authorities and extensive cuts to public transit in Governor Walker's budget to instead fund questionable and unnecessary transportation projects, such as interstate highway expansion. In addition to a loss of $77 million in shared revenue, the our local communities of Cudahy, Oak Creek, St. Francis, South Milwaukee, and Milwaukee saw cuts to state transportation funds totaling nearly $3 million.

As a result, local governments were forced to shift funding, raise fares, change or eliminate routes, and reduce vital services. Many of these changes were seen by riders in our own community. In 2012, the Milwaukee County Transit System was forced to increase fares for TransitPlus users by 75 cents, raising the cost of each bus ticket to $4. The system also had to eliminate some bus services.

Having a well-supported public transit system is vital to maintaining and creating jobs in our community. According to the Milwaukee County Transit systems, on average 140,000 rides are provided daily. Of these, 39% are commuters traveling to and from work, another 5% are heading to job interviews, and 11% are students making their way to classes to learn valuable skills for their future careers. Therefore, my colleagues and I will continue to do what we can to encourage the bipartisan passage of key public transportation initiatives.



Wisconsin also faces challenges when trying to balance environmental protections with economic development. Sensitive natural areas are crucial to Wisconsin’s economy, culture, and public health, and we must continue to safeguard these resources. Despite Wisconsin’s long tradition of protecting the environment, our pressing need for jobs and economic growth emboldened some legislators to push proposals that ignored Wisconsin’s belief that our quality environment is not just important to outdoor enthusiasts, but also vital to our economy. One way this was shown was through the three competing mining proposals introduced last session.


Below is a list of just some of the environmental concerns contained in Assembly Bill 426, which is expected to be reintroduced this year:

  • Allowing a company to drain lakes and fill in pristine trout streams, lakes, and rivers

  • Eliminating the requirement that a mine waste site provide for reclamation and minimize the risk of environmental pollution

  • Specifying that activities violating local floodplain or shoreland zoning ordinances are permitted

  • Specifying that if there is a conflict between the ferrous mining statute and another state environmental statute, the mining statute will win out, regardless of the nature of the conflicting provision

Mining is part of Wisconsin’s past and present, and we have an exciting opportunity to responsibly grow this industry for the future. Unfortunately, last session legislative leaders only allowed debate on the proposal that was most costly to taxpayers and least protective of the environment. I supported an alternative proposal that would have updated our laws to be similar to those in active mining states, like Minnesota and Michigan. Neither bill passed before the Legislature’s session ended in March 2012. I look forward to once again working with legislators on both sides of the aisle when session resumes to see if we can pass responsible mining reforms that protect Wisconsin's tradition of stewardship.


Early projections indicate that massive cuts to things we value, such as education, public transit, and safety net programs for neighbors have left us with an extra $340 million in revenue. However, cutting billions from crucial state programs and services so we can have spare change left over at the end of the budget cycle is not the Wisconsin way. These unnecessary cuts have a significant impact on our family, friends, neighbors, and communities, some of which are irreparable. We cannot say we have a surplus when we have a values deficit.


During the upcoming session, my colleagues and I will be fighting to ensure the middle class are not forced to again bear the brunt of these cuts, especially when others are not paying their fair share. We will also work to pass proposals that represent Wisconsin's shared values to move our state forward for all. While such efforts will most definitely be challenging, they are also necessary to get Wisconsin headed in the right direction.



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 read an article in the paper that said Milwaukee teachers are leaving because of the city's residency requirement. Is this true?


A: There continues to be flaws in the way reporters recently chose to address this issue, as facts went unchecked, experts were not interviewed, and one side of the issue ignored. In reality, there are a number of significant factors that have caused quality teachers to leave Milwaukee.


One of the main reasons our schools have been forced to endure class sizes of 40 students and are unable to hire the teachers we need is because Wisconsin's schools saw the biggest budget cut in state history. As a result, districts let go of nearly 2,400 staff last year and about 75% of districts cut teachers. Many of these teachers left not out of choice, but out of necessity because districts could no longer afford to pay them given the drastic decrease in state aid they received.


Another reason teachers, especially younger ones, are leaving is because of state changes that have restricted career growth. These concerns were recently cited by staff in the Nicolet School District through a survey commissioned by the School Board. Because of these changes, new teachers often feel as though they are stuck at the bottom of the pay scale with little to no chance of being able to move up. As a result, many of these young professionals have sought work in different fields or left Wisconsin altogether to teach in other states that offer better opportunities, allow for advancement, and provide family-supporting jobs.


Finally, as State Superintendent Tony Evers brought to our attention in his state of education address, the contentions surrounding Act 10 and the 2011-2012 Biennial Budget have unjustly placed targets on the backs of our teachers. He shared plenty of stories detailing how the lives of teachers have been negatively impacted by disparaging rhetoric. One teacher, for example, drives to a grocery store two towns away to ensure she can shop in peace. Another teacher broke down in tears when asked what advice she would give to aspiring educators. While a different teacher admitted no longer telling people her profession out of fear of where the conversation would go. Every Monday through Friday, from September through June, we entrust Wisconsin's teachers with those most valuable to us--our children. Should we expect them to stick around if we fail to give them the respect they deserve?




Did You Know...?

You may be aware that the Wisconsin State Capitol erects a holiday tree in the ground floor rotunda annually. But did you know that this tradition has been going on since 1916?


This year's tree is a 35-foot balsam fir that was donated from the Meyer Castle Tree Farm in Medford, Wisconsin. It is decorated in hundreds of handmade ornaments by Wisconsin's school children following the theme of "Goods and Products Made in Wisconsin."

The tree also boasts over 2,000 energy-saving LED lights and a train set that runs around the trunk.



Preparing for the Upcoming Budget

Wisconsin has a two-year budget cycle, which typically runs from July of an odd-numbered year through June of the next odd-numbered year. For example, Wisconsin’s next budget, the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget, is expected to take effect on July 1, 2013, and end on June 30, 2015.

The budget is the longest, most complex bill of session. Therefore, it requires multiple steps and takes about a year to complete. The process began this fall when state agencies submitted their funding requests to the governor and the Department of Administration (DOA). The governor is currently working with his appointees in DOA to craft a budget proposal reflecting his priorities, which will be announced in late January or early February. After reviewing the proposal and getting feedback from neighbors via public hearings, the Joint Committee on Finance will amend the governor’s proposal and submit it to the Legislature for approval. Both houses must pass an identical budget proposal before it can be sent back to the governor for partial vetoes and his signature.

I always appreciate hearing from neighbors about issues that are important to them, including those that come up during the biennial budget process and the upcoming legislative session. Here are some ways to remain informed and stay in touch on state and community issues:

Legislative Notifications--Offers a free email notification system that alerts subscribers of legislative activities relating to issues that they have identified as important. This is an excellent way to keep informed about the issues that are important to you.


Click here to sign-up for this free service.

Committee Calendars--Tracks all upcoming committee meetings and public hearings.


Click here to view a copy of the calendar.

WisconsinEye--Provides 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.


Click here to watch videos made available by WisconsinEye.

Eye on Lobbying--Keeps track of which organizations are opposing or supporting proposed legislation.


Click here to visit this Web site offered by the Government Accountability Board.

Contact Me Directly--If my office can be of any assistance to you regarding any state or community matters, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also, if you would like updates on community and state news, please visit and subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, the Larson Report. For more information about me and to get real-time updates on issues affecting our community, follow me on Twitter, @SenChrisLarson and connect with me on Facebook,


Watch the Senate's Inauguration Ceremony

The Senate will be holding its inauguration ceremony on  at 2 p.m. Monday, January 7. During this time, session will be called to order and 17 members of the Senate will be introduced, have their election certified, and sign the Oath of Office. Some of these senators will be sworn in for the first time, while others will be marking their re-election to office. This day will also kick-off the 2013-2014 Legislative Session.


Click here on Inauguration Day to watch the Senate's inauguration ceremony on WisconsinEye.




Happy Holidays!

The holidays are finally here and holiday cheer is all around us. With the decorative lights, festive carolers, and community celebrations, it is hard not to get into the holiday spirit. I encourage you to enjoy the holiday season by spending time with family and friends. As we prepare for the New Year, we should take a moment to reflect on 2012 and make plans to have a better, healthier, happier year in 2013.

Our community hosts an array of activities to help us celebrate the holiday season. Continue reading to see a list of family-friendly holiday events taking place throughout our neighborhoods.

A Christmas Carol on Stage
Now through Monday, December 26

The ultimate holiday tradition returns again for its 37th year. Dickens’ classic masterpiece will delight and brighten your holiday season with beautiful carols and a timeless message of hope, peace, love, and the true meaning of the holiday season. Bring the whole family and join in a tradition that has been delighting audiences for generations.


The Pabst Theater (MAP)
144 E. Wells Street

Milwaukee, WI 53202


Click here for more information or to buy tickets.


The Nutcracker
Now through Wednesday, December 26
Join Clara, Fritz, and Marie on a journey where toys, flowers, and snowflakes come to life. Are they enchanted somehow? Perhaps. Are you? Most definitely. With the Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra performing Tchaikovsky’s unforgettable score alongside the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, you will be absolutely charmed by this feast for the senses.

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


Click here or call (414) 273-7206 for more information or to purchase tickets.


Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival

Now through Monday, December 31

This six-week festival will spread holiday spirit with animated light displays in Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park, and Zeidler Union Square, as well as decorated streetscapes and hundreds of events. Marvel at the spectacular sights aboard the convenient Jingle Bus, a Coach USA bus that takes visitors on a 40-minute tour. For $1 per person, visitors can relish in the holiday spirit while admiring a festive panorama. The tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors who will acquaint riders with key attractions and landmarks.


Click here for more information about the Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival, and other holiday events going on in the Milwaukee area.


A Kodachrome Christmas
Now through Monday, December 31
Enter the colorful world of cable access TV hostess Earlene Hoople as she tapes her last Christmas special. The self-proclaimed “Queen of Rural Media” entertains with participatory bell-ringing, cookie baking, a family slide show, some outrageous advice for surviving the holidays with relatives, and a whole lot more.

Next Act Theatre (MAP)
255 S. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204


Click here or call (414) 278-0765 for more information or to purchase tickets.



Giving Back This Holiday Season

The holiday season also provides many opportunities to give back to our community. This winter, try volunteering in one of our local food pantries. Hunger Task Force Inc. and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, both based out of the Milwaukee area, provide excellent volunteering opportunities. More information can be found on their Web sites:



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