February 23, 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


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. 


To Kill a Mockingbird
Now through March 11
See this classic Pulitzer Prize-winning story that has become one of the most beloved and beautifully compassionate stories ever written. Set in small-town Alabama during the Great Depression and seen with brilliant clarity through the eyes of a young tomboy, this tale is about innocence, tolerance, family, and the courage to live what you believe.
The Repertory Theater will also be partnering with leading community organizations, including the Milwaukee Public Library, to create a city-wide series of events and discussions around To Kill a Mockingbird, including dramatic readings, book and panel discussions, talkbacks with artists moderated by university scholars, and more. CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets.

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


Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market
Saturdays from 8 a.m. to Noon through April 14

Shop local Saturday mornings this winter as the Tommy Thompson Youth Center hosts the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market. A wide variety of vegetables, artisan cheeses, baked goods, meat and poultry, organic dairy, and much more will be available for sale. CLICK HERE for additional information.

Wisconsin State Fair Park (MAP)
640 S. 84th Street
West Allis, WI 53214
(800) 884-3247



Kohl's Education Center Grand Opening
February 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Come celebrate the grand opening of the Kohl's Education Center inside the Milwaukee Art Museum. Be one of the first to visit the fun, interactive exhibitions which help to encourage, inspire, and bring more art awareness to young children. The Art Generation Studio, Lab, and Gallery will all be open for children and families. Come explore, participate in fun activities, and collect a cool prize. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Family Free Day at Zoo
March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
All visitors receive free admission to the Milwaukee County Zoo on this day, although the parking fee remains in effect. CLICK HERE for additional information on this event or the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Milwaukee County Zoo (MAP)
10001 W. Blue Mound Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 256-5466












































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


This week we will examine how some elected officials have chosen to repeatedly place the agenda of special interests above the needs of our family, friends, and neighbors. An update on the various mining proposals is also included.


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




Governor Gets an Incomplete on Education Report Card

Cuts of $1.6 billion in Governor Walker's budget put the debate over education front and center in Wisconsin. The struggle for the future health of our public schools and the success of our children is continuing to intensify as school districts are being forced to contemplate a second round of severe budget cuts for the next school year. In startling new developments, we learned that the Governor and Republican lawmakers' repeatedly chose the interests of lobbyists, such as School Choice Wisconsin, ahead of the well-being of the communities and neighbors they swore to represent.


Shortly after Governor Walker signed his budget into law, he announced a partnership with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers to jointly craft a new school accountability system that would be submitted to the federal government and if accepted, would allow Wisconsin to replace the failed No Child Left Behind system currently in place. Additionally, Governor Walker and Superintendent Evers stated that this new accountability program would be applied to every school that accepts publicly funded students, which would include public schools, private schools in the state-funded voucher program, charter schools, and virtual schools.


Click here to view an article announcing this new partnership and accountability plan.


Three task forces--Read to Lead, Effective Educator Design Team, and School Accountability--were set up by Governor Walker and tasked with providing recommendations for legislation to create the new school accountability system. These recommendation were then supposed to be placed into one bill and brought before the Legislature this session.


Click here to view an article discussing the various task forces and their goal of producing legislation.


Governor Walker once again professed his intention of developing a unique accountability plan that would be required of all schools that receive public funding in his State of the State address where he said:


"Dr. Evers and I have been working with a diverse group of individuals to develop our plan to let parents, teachers, and communities know which schools are performing well, so that we can replicate their success. And we do need to know which schools are failing, so we can help them.


"Ultimately, educators, parents and even employers will be able to look at the scores of schools and school districts across the state. Every school that receives public funds--be it a traditional public school, a charter school, or a choice school--will be rated by a fair, objective, and transparent system. We are proud of the work done by this design team and I want to thank Dr. Evers and his staff for the great leadership and collaboration on this important project."


Click here to view Governor Walker's entire State of the State address.


Early in 2012, the recommendations of the three task forces were supported with a vote in each task force and then converted into bill provisions by Senator Luther Olsen and Representative Steve Kestell so they could be placed in one bill and circulated. Unfortunately, when the final bill draft was introduced as Senate Bill 461, it appeared that all of the recommendations proposed by the School Accountability Task Force had been omitted by the bill's authors. The exclusion of the accountability provisions was very surprising to everyone involved, given that Sen. Olsen and Rep. Kestell supported those very provisions as members of the School Accountability Task Force. What motivation could there possibly be to exclude such vital, common sense provisions from a bill aimed at increasing the accountability, transparency, and quality of our neighborhood schools?


Click here to view the recommendations that were agreed to by Governor Walker, legislators, and other School Accountability Task Force members.


Click here to view a copy of the bill created by the recommendations of the School Accountability Task Force.


That question was answered loud and clear after emails surfaced as a result of an open records request. The emails indicated that Republican legislators and the Governor decided to break their promise to bring greater accountability to Wisconsin schools after being approached by the powerful school choice lobbyists. Governor Walker and Republican legislators are no stranger to such groups as School Choice Wisconsin, as most have received substantial political contributions from this and similar special interests. The links below document how in the case of Senate Bill 461, financial ties to these special interest groups were enough to trump the concerns of Wisconsinites these elected officials are supposed to represent.


Click here to view campaign contributions to elected officials from school choice organizations.


Click here to view emails uncovered by the open records request.


In addition to broken promises and providing preference to special interest groups, Governor Walker, Sen. Olsen, and Rep. Kestell continued with their pattern of backroom politics by misleading the public in an attempt to cover-up their decision to reject a bipartisan effort to improve our schools.


On February 15, the Senate and Assembly Committees on Education held a joint public hearing on Senate Bill 461. Most community members that testified expressed concerns about the missing provisions suggested by the School Accountability Task Force and wanted to know why these bipartisan measures were not included in Senate Bill 461. After repeatedly shutting down such lines of questioning, Rep. Kestell finally addressed the excluded accountability provision saying they were not ready and still needed to be drafted. When an attendee presented Rep. Kestell with the draft he said did not exist and reminded him that the draft was based on the recommendations made unanimously by the School Accountability Task Force, Rep. Kestell refused to discuss the issue further. It is sadly ironic that the process used to bring about greater accountability and transparency in publicly funded schools has become such a controversial topic. It is a story of deceit, broken promises, and special interest influence.


Unfortunately for Wisconsinites, this is not the first time that School Choice Wisconsin and other special interests have had their agenda chosen over the well-being of the people of Wisconsin. Republicans inserted a provision into the budget that established four criteria for a school district that, if met, would allow private and religious schools to take up to $6,500 in tax dollars per student away from our public schools. Republican legislators indicated that their intention with this budget provision was to simply expand the voucher program to Racine alone, but created an unintended consequence with this measure.


In August, Senator Mike Ellis and Representative Robin Vos introduced Senate Bill 174 to amend the state budget and close the loophole by saying that only school districts that have already qualified as an eligible school district may qualify as an eligible school district once Senate Bill 174 is in effect. This bipartisan bill has since passed unanimously in the Senate and has simply been waiting for several months to be scheduled for a vote in the Assembly before it can be signed into law.

Click here to view a copy of a letter that was submitted urging the passage of Senate Bill 174.


Children, parents, and taxpayers deserve to have the necessary accountability measures in place on all schools receiving public funds. It is time that Governor Walker and Republican legislators uphold the promises they made to the people of Wisconsin and place all of us above the interests of a few lobbying groups.




Bipartisan Mining Proposal Introduced

As Wisconsin continues to look for a balance between economic opportunity and environmental security, the issue of mining continues to develop. Another proposal was introduced this past Tuesday by pro-mining moderates in the Senate. This bipartisan proposal was created in response to concerns raised by both Democrats and Republicans about the initial mining proposal that was introduced, Assembly Bill 426. It is my hope that Legislature will listen to neighbors and experts during the process and craft a bill that strikes a balance between job creation and environmental safeguards.


Below are the provisions for the new, bipartisan Wisconsin Way, Mining Reform Act, that aims to strike a balance between job creation and environmental health through preserving our existing environmental safeguards and streamlining the application process for businesses. 

Provides certainty and predictability in the ferrous mining permit process:

  • Creates a reasonable timeline and defined end date for the company to complete a mining permit with the Department of Natural Resources

  • Creates a flexible process with off ramps that allow the Department of Natural Resources and the company to pause the timeline to address concerns as they arise

  • Promotes collaboration with both state and federal regulators

  • Streamlines the prospecting permit process

Protects the publicís right to participate in the permitting process:

  • Streamlines the contest case process to ensure the publicís voice is heard, while being respectful of business needs

  • Maintains opportunities under current law for citizens to participate in the permit process

Protects local taxpayers without increasing the overall tax burden for mining companies:

  • Requires $5 million in up front, guaranteed payments in lieu of property taxes to local communities during the first five years of mining operation

  • Ensures the mining company will not have to pay more in taxes than under current law over the life of the mine

  • Increases payments to local communities by $75,000 for covering costs associated with negotiating with the mining company and hiring mining experts

  • Sends 100% of the funding to the area impacted by the mine, ensuring 70% are for direct payments to offset the costs to taxpayers, 20% are for a fund to help create a diversification program similar to Minnesota and provide for catastrophic abatement, and 10% are to help offset transportation infrastructure costs

Assures that the company will pay the costs of the permit:

  • The applicant will pay the full cost of the Environmental Impact Study

  • The applicant will pay for the Department of Natural Resources staff associated with a mining permit up to $2 million

Maximizes collaboration with state, federal, tribal, and local governments:

  • If mitigation is necessary and the damaged wetlands are within ceded territory as established by the treaties of 1837 and 1842, then any new project must occur within ceded territory

  • Safeguards the process for the Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers to work together on mining permits

The issues around the mining proposals change daily. Ultimately the Republican majority controls what proposal will come before the full Senate for debate, consideration, and passage.


I remain hopeful that we can reach a bipartisan compromise that can secure economic opportunity in our state while safeguarding environmental quality. I will be sure to keep you updated on the status of these mining bills as work continues.




Weekly Radio Message Addresses Jobs

Each week, Senate and Assembly Democrats issue a radio message to the people of Wisconsin on a timely issue. The elected officials that deliver the address each week varies. I was asked to deliver this week's address, which focused on job prospects in Wisconsin.


Click here to listen to the weekly Democratic message.




Bill Aims to Find Efficiencies in State Agencies

Eliminating wasteful spending in government and improving its overall efficiency is a concern that has been raised by many neighbors. Therefore, I will be co-sponsoring LRB 1366, legislation that takes a positive step towards ensuring our tax dollars are used wisely.

Currently the Legislative Audit Bureau serves the public by promoting efficient government through revealing efficiencies and shortcomings in the way state agencies operate. The Legislative Audit Bureau performs these reviews only when asked by the Legislature. Because auditing is dependent on legislative action, the agencies are often only looked at when the agency becomes the center of a controversy. As a result, agencies can go substantial periods of time without being thoroughly reviewed by this nonpartisan agency. This lack of review can lead to inefficiency, mismanagement, and waste that is not always detected by the agencies themselves.

LRB 1366 provides a proactive approach to agency review. Under this legislation, all large state agencies would be subject to an audit every five years. Such an arrangement would ensure that all our agencies will be evaluated by a nonpartisan source and without too much time passing between reports. This proposed review process would continue our commitment to the efficient use of taxpayer resources. By providing a climate where state agencies are accountable for their actions, both the quality and resource management of these agencies should improve.

In difficult economic times, it is more important than ever to use resources carefully and effectively. Because LRB 1366 promotes efficient use of these limited resources while holding agencies accountable for their decisions, I will be supporting this legislation.


Click here to view a copy of LRB 1366.




Correcting Oversight Regarding Tech College IDs for Voting Purposes

Voting is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution. As you are probably aware, Wisconsin's voters must now show identification when casting their vote as a result of new restriction placed into our laws by 2011 Wisconsin Act 23. What you may not know, however, is that as part of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, technical college students are excluded from the same rights that other students have in regard to using student identification for voting purposes.

In order to correct this oversight, I am co-sponsoring LRB 3042, legislation that removes the onerous and unnecessary barriers to voting current in place for Wisconsin's technical college students. Students enrolled in our technical colleges deserve the same opportunity to use student identification as other college and university students, since technical college IDs already meet the requirements outlined in 2011 Wisconsin Act 23.

On February 7, the Government Accountability Board sent a request to be approved by Governor Walker to allow technical college students to use their student IDs for voting purposes. If this provision is denied, we will continue to push for the passage of LRB 3042.

A study done by George Mason University examining voter turnout for the 2010 general election, ranked Wisconsin among the top five states with the highest voter turnout. We should be focusing on continuing this proud tradition in elections by promoting and protecting peopleís democratic right to participate in their government, including those at our technical colleges, rather than maintaining unnecessary roadblocks.


Click here to view a copy of LRB 3042.



Join Me for Conversation in the Murray Hill Neighborhood

Tuesday, February 28 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Join me, the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, and fellow neighbors at the Urban Ecology Center next Tuesday. This is your chance to listen to a legislative update and talk in person about any questions, concerns, or opinions you might have about our community or state.


Please do not hesitate to contact me or the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association for additional information.


Click here for contact information for the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association.


Urban Ecology Center (MAP)

1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211




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.

Fixx Coffee House (MAP)
3558 East Sivyer Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235



Thank You Neighbors!

Thank you to everyone that attended the coffee this past weekend in Oak Creek. Our neighbors stopped by the Falk Park Pavilion on Sunday to share their perspectives on community and state issues.


I also had the pleasure to speak to many of our neighbors at the annual Bay View Winter Blast. This community festival featured musical entertainment, family activities, community group stands, and Bay View's only chili cook-off.

The thoughtful comments and questions are greatly appreciated. Hearing your perspective on issues that will have a significant impact on our community is crucial as we wrap up the legislative session.



National Children's Dental Health Month

Smile, because February is National Childrenís Dental Health Month. Sponsored by the American Dental Association and now in its 10th year, Childrenís Dental Health Month raises awareness about the need for proper oral hygiene in our youth. Good habits formed at an early age give kids a strong start on lifelong dental health.

Childrenís dental health continues to be a significant concern across the state and around the country. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 60% of children have tooth decay, the most common childhood disease. In Wisconsin, one child in every two school classrooms is in need of urgent dental care, while five others suffer from untreated tooth decay, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Kids with dental diseases are put at a double disadvantage, as untreated dental conditions can result in costly complications and tooth pain, which also makes it difficult for children to concentrate and learn in school.

For many children, a healthy smile can be difficult to achieve as economically disadvantaged kids often face steep obstacles in obtaining dental health attention. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 80% of tooth decay is found in 25% of children from low-income families. This gap is evident in Wisconsin, where, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, low-income families face significant barriers when seeking dental health attention.


National Childrenís Dental Health Month is a good time to remember that dental care is important for everyone, particularly those most at risk of being overlooked.



Submit Your Application Today

If you have ever wanted the chance to become a part of state government, the Office of the Governor is now accepting applications for appointment to a number of boards, commissions, and councils. This is the perfect opportunity to collaborate with other citizens across the state to develop innovative and positive solutions that will be provided to lawmakers on issues that affect our communities.


Click here to browse a list of the boards, commissions, and councils accepting applications.



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 throughout the current legislative session. 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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