LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

 

 

January 5, 2012

     

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

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

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below. 


Working Legacies: The Death and (After) Life of Post-Industrial Milwaukee
Now through February 6
Stop by this exhibition featuring the photos and histories of David Schalliol and Michael Carriere. This exhibition explores the legacy of work in Milwaukee through documentary photographs and site histories of former and current industrial facilities in the city, keeping an eye on their present use and local context. The result is a document of Milwaukee’s industrial past and present, and the hopeful groundwork for its future. From the manufacturing of wind turbines to tech-savvy urban farms, the demise of a working Milwaukee has been greatly exaggerated. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.

Milwaukee School of Engineering (MAP)
1025 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(800) 332-6763
 


Family Free Day at Zoo
January 7 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. For additional information on this event or the Milwaukee County Zoo, please CLICK HERE.

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

 


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration

January 15 at 1 p.m.
Always taking place in the month of January, this event focuses on keeping the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alive. The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Birthday Celebration programming highlights the youth in our community who every year interpret Dr. King’s words through an art, speech and writing contest. In addition, various cultural arts organizations take center stage, truly demonstrating the excellence of our arts community. The theme for this year's program is "Maintain Faith in the Future" which was taken from A Testament of Hope, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. The speech from which this theme was drawn was given in 1961 during Dr. King's fight for racial justice and acceptance. This event is free. CLICK HERE for additional information.

 

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
Uihlein Hall
929 N. Water Street
(414) 273-7206

 

 

Teen Art in the Park

January 8 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Express your creativity by joining like-minded teens and adults to help the Urban Ecology Center cover Riverside Park in snowmen or other winter creations. Warm up afterwards with some hot cocoa. No snow? No problem. The center will instead teach about other Ephemeral Art possibilities and teens and adults will still have the chance to beautify a local park. Remember to dress for the weather. This event costs $3 for members and $5 for nonmembers. Call (414) 964-8505 to register. CLICK HERE for more information.


Urban Ecology Center (MAP)
1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

It is a new year and with every new year comes hope that change can happen. It is my hope that during this year, the Legislature can renew its commitment to open and transparent government and leave the past year of secrecy behind.

 

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


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

 

Lifting the Veil of Secrecy

Under Governor Walker we have seen an ever-growing culture of secrecy and misdirection. Fortunately, as we enter the new year these efforts to keep the people of Wisconsin in the dark are starting to come to light. Just this week we saw indictments handed out to top Walker aides, verified that Governor Walker unjustly created a cap on FamilyCare and tried to take credit for its repeal, and saw Republican leaders harshly criticized for the backroom tactics used to draw the new legislative district maps. We will look at these events in more detail, in addition to others that occurred over the past year that steered Wisconsin off the path of transparency.

 

Removing the Unjust Cap on FamilyCare

During debate on Governor Walker's budget, my Democratic colleagues and I expressed our concerns about how people across Wisconsin would suffer because of the proposed cap on Medicaid programs, including FamilyCare. Since then, I have been contacted by hundreds of neighbors voicing their opposition to the cap and sharing how this change affected them personally or a family member.

 

It was hard for many of us to accept that cutting our safety net by imposing this devastating cap was even a possibility that could be considered by the Walker administration. As it turns out, it was not. Late last week we were made aware that caps placed on Wisconsin's Medicaid programs was not legal and as a result, the federal government ordered Governor Walker to lift the cap he placed on FamilyCare. Once session resumes, the Legislature will need to pass a bill to officially remove the current cap on Wisconsin's health safety net programs.

 

Courts Condemn Secret Process for Drawing Maps

After legislators, advocates and neighbors voiced concerns over the new legislative district maps drawn and hurriedly passed by Republicans earlier this year, two former legislators and 13 others filed a legal challenge. The group raised concerns that the partisan boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because of the way they treat minority communities and shift voters from one district to another.

 

In September a federal three-judge panel was assembled to hear the challenge. The panel, two of whom are Republican appointees, includes J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois.

 

Republicans introduced several motions attempting to keep the process used to craft the maps secret. Not only did the three-judge panel rule against these attempts, but they issued a scathing opinion saying the following:

"Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process."

 

The court went on to say that the taxpayers should not have to pay for the sanctions it issued and instead ordered the Legislature's attorneys to cover the costs because they are “those ultimately responsible for the sandbagging, hide-the-ball trial tactics that continue to be employed.”

 

Click here to read the court's full decision.

 

Pattern of Decreased Transparency

Governor Walker and his rubberstamp Legislature began their attack on our common sense open government protections with a special session, which allows them to fast-track bills. The following are just some of the bills authored and passed by Republican legislators during that session, reversing Wisconsin's progress in ensuring open government:

  • Special Session Senate Bill 1--Prevents victims and their families from obtaining justice against negligent corporations and manufacturers. Republicans rejected Senate Amendment 2, a Democratic amendment to ensure reports relating to health care violations are not kept secret.

  • Special Session Senate Bill 3--Creates tax incentives for corporations that relocate to Wisconsin. Republicans rejected Assembly Amendment 2, which would have required tracking the number of jobs created by these incentives to ensure tax dollars are being spent wisely.

  • Special Session Senate Bill 4--Gives $25 million more to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for corporate tax credits. Amendments were rejected by Republicans, which would have required the Audit Bureau to conduct an annual audit of the program and recoup credits if a business submits false information or fails to fulfill promises.

  • Special Session Senate Bill 6--Replaces the Department of Commerce with the public-private Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. To protect against the potential for corruption, an amendment was introduced to require all WEDC employees to be subject to the open records law. It was rejected by Republican legislators.

  • Special Session Senate Bill 8--Requires approval by the Governor on all administrative rules. This is an unprecedented power grab that decreases the power of the Legislature and makes Wisconsin's executive branch one of the most powerful in the country. I introduced Senate Amendment 8 that would have prohibited a Wisconsin governor from accepting campaign donations from those that would benefit financially from rule changes. Republicans ultimately rejected this amendment that would have eliminated the potential for conflicts of interest and maintained integrity in the rule process.

Following these bills, Governor Walker and Republican legislators continued to send Wisconsin in the wrong direction by pushing through the Republican budget, which was brimming with special interest giveaways, sneaking nearly 80 non-fiscal policy items into what was promised to be a purely fiscal document. The following provisions are some of the most egregious:

  • Approved a $162 million corporate slush fund for the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, but provided no details on how the agency would use these funds.

  • Eliminated the clean election initiatives in Wisconsin, taking power from voters and giving more control of our elections to wealthy, out-of-state corporations.

  • Seized powers from the constitutional offices of the Secretary of State and State Treasurer.

  • Granted unprecedented dictatorial authority to Secretary Smith at the Department of Health Services who will be able to make unilateral, unspecified changes to Wisconsin's medical Assistance programs, which could include dramatic service cuts to our most vulnerable.

  • Ripped authority from the Department of Public Instruction regarding its educational authority and stunted DPI’s power to develop important education improvement initiatives.

  • Allows the Walker Administration to sell state assets without bidding for the best deal for taxpayers.

My Democratic colleagues and I introduced amendments to remove such backwards provisions from the budget in order to ensure Wisconsin maintains its tradition of clean, open and transparent government. Unfortunately, Republicans voted down these amendments with little consideration for Wisconsin’s traditions.

 

In addition to placing the wish lists of special interests ahead of working families when pushing his legislative agenda, Governor Walker and Republican legislators have also tried a variety of methods to keep the doors of the Capitol locked to the public, by doing the following:

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

  • Violating Wisconsin's Open Meetings Law

  • Physically locking the public and legislators out of the Capitol

  • Implementing guidelines that makes it nearly impossible for individuals or groups that are not wealthy to utilize their constitutional right to free speech and assembly

No matter which party is in control, we need more accountability and transparency, not less. I will continue doing what I can to promote good government policies, not follow in Governor Walker's footsteps by forwarding legislation and policies aimed at keeping government actions under lock and key. I will also continue to keep you updated on the most recent events and any future events that indicate a threat to our tradition of open government as they develop.


 

Wisconsin Children Urge Passage of Outdoor Bill of Rights

This week, dozens of children, teachers, health care professionals and outdoor educators gathered in the Capitol to introduce the first ever Wisconsin Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights and to lobby their legislators for passage of the Wisconsin Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. This bipartisan resolution seeks to reconnect children with nature to both improve their overall health and ensure we have a new generation of stewards to protect Wisconsin’s valued natural environment. The Wisconsin Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights lays the foundation of our commitment to provide our children the opportunity to discover Wisconsin’s diverse wilderness by sharing in our hunting and fishing traditions, hiking on trails, and swimming in our lakes and rivers. We also codify a generational promise to our children that we will bestow them with clean air and safe drinking water.

This resolution is vital to the health of our children as there has been a recent shift away from outdoor activities to more solitary and stationary activities, such as watching TV and playing video games. According to a recent survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Fund, children ages 8-18 spend more than 7.5 hours each day, or 53 hours a week, on smart phones, computers and watching TV. These figures are in stark contrast with the amount of time children spend outdoors considering the average 6-12 year old spends just 30 minutes per week in unstructured outdoor activities such as gardening, camping or hiking.

As a result, our children are now suffering from a “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which has begun to take a toll on the health of our children who are facing skyrocketing obesity, diabetes and attention deficit disorder rates. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention find that from 1980 to 2008 childhood obesity in children aged 6-11 nearly tripled and childhood obesity in children aged 12-19 more than tripled. This means that approximately one out of every five children today is considered obese, leaving today’s youth at risk of becoming the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

The Wisconsin Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights promotes behaviors and activities that are shown to improve the mental and physical health of our children. Time outdoors is proven to benefit our children’s health as it decreases stress levels and lowers their risk of developing asthma or being overweight. It also increases our children’s chances for success since students who play and learn in outdoor settings perform better on tests, have higher grade point averages and cause fewer classroom disruptions.

This resolution is an opportunity for parents, policy makers, educators and health care providers throughout our state to affirm each child’s right to grow up healthy and have access to a clean and safe outdoor environment. By passing this resolution, Wisconsin would join other states, including Kansas, Florida and North Carolina, who have passed similar initiatives to nurture children’s connection with nature. As stated by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.” It is time that we start making that investment. By Adopting the Wisconsin Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, we are taking one step forward in that direction.

 

Click here to view a copy of the Wisconsin Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights.

 

 

 

Extending WiscNet for One More Year

Earlier this session, my Democratic colleagues and I succeeded in saving WiscNet from the chopping block in the Governor’s last budget. However, Governor Walker left a provision in his budget that called for the Legislature to conduct an audit of WiscNet by January 1, 2013, with the end of WiscNet scheduled to go into effect six months later. Legislation was introduced this past week to extend this timeline, which will provide for another full year of WiscNet functionality while the audit can be more fully studied and independently reviewed. 

 

WiscNet is a non-profit, cooperative Internet provider that supplies service to public higher education institutions, such as UW-Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, K-12 schools and libraries across Wisconsin. WiscNet services 450 members, many of which provide essential services such as health care and education. Without WiscNet, our educational institutions and libraries would have been forced to seek Internet and broadband services from for-profit corporate telecommunications providers at a greater cost to the state and taxpayers.


WiscNet is important to the future vitality of Wisconsin's economy in an increasingly online world. These services keep Wisconsin competitive and preserve our public education institutions. Because WiscNet is so important to the educational, economic and technological future of Wisconsin, I will be supporting LRB 3626 and 3655, which will extend the timeline.

 

Click here to view a copy of this legislative proposal.

 

 

 

Making Our Roads Safer with Ignition Interlock Devices

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. 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.


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 begin to change Wisconsin's culture of drinking and driving, which is why Rep. Tony Staskunas and I have introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen our state’s drunk driving laws through increased use of ignition interlock devices.

 

Click here to view a copy of this legislation.

 

This legislation strengthens our lax drunk driving laws by stipulating that all first-time convicted drunk drivers have an ignition interlock device placed in their vehicle. Currently, ignition interlock device are only installed in vehicles of first-time offenders with blood alcohol content 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.

 

This legislation is a step in the right direction. I continue to work with advocates and law enforcement as we strive to overhaul Wisconsin's arcane drunk driving laws.

 

Click here to view a letter from Mothers Against Drunk Driving discussing the importance of ignition interlock devices in reducing drunk driving to save lives.


 

 

Session to Resume this Month

The 2011-2012 Legislative Session is scheduled to resume on January 17. If you are looking to stay up-to-date on the issues that are important to you, I encourage you to take advantage of the following free legislative resources:

Wisconsin Legislative Notification System--An email notification system offered by the Legislature that alerts subscribers of legislative activities relating to issues that they have identified as important. Click here for more information.

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.

 

BadgerStat--Offers credible, nonpartisan information about how Wisconsin is performing compared to other states and serves as a watchdog on state government. Click here to visit BadgerStat's Web site.
 

 

 

Milwaukee County ID Event for Seniors

Wednesday, January 11 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Join the Milwaukee County Department on Aging and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele at the Italian Conference Center next week at an educational event for seniors discussing the new requirements on Wisconsin's voters. This is a great opportunity for seniors to learn more about the changes in voting laws and how they can prepare to vote under the new requirements.

 

This event begins with a hot breakfast buffet at 8 a.m. A press conference will be held from 8:30 a.m. until 9 a.m., which will be followed by a panel presentation and Q&A session from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. Invited panelists include: the Government Accountability Board, Department of Motor Vehicles, Milwaukee County Election Commission, City of Milwaukee Election Commission, Disability Rights Wisconsin and AARP.

 

The information being presented is particularly relevant to seniors in Milwaukee County, staff from senior service providers and community agencies, family members and caregivers of seniors, and organizations that provide education regarding the new voting restrictions.

 

For more information about the event, please contact the Assistant Director of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging Jonette Arms by phone at (414) 289-6073.

 

Italian Conference Center
631 East Chicago Street

Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

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 Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov or mail them to Wisconsin State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707.

 

 

 

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 going into the new year. 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, SenatorChrisLarson.com.

 

Click here to view the same PDF in Spanish.

 

 

 

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