LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

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July 12, 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. 
 

 

Bastille Days
Date: Thurs., July 12 at 10 a.m. through Sun., July 15 at 9 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Milwaukee’s popular French festival, and one of the nation’s largest French-themed celebrations, returns to the downtown area. The free, 4-day bash attracts over 250,000 visitors who can enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, a 5k run, and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows. The event is known for the impromptu street performers, roaming minstrels, and a variety of interactive and musical entertainment. CLICK HERE or call (414) 271-1416 for more information.

 

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)

520 E. Wells Street Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

South Shore Frolic

Date: Fri., July 13 through Sun., July 15

Location: Bay View

Description: Stop by the 63rd annual South Shore Frolic. This 3-day festival will feature a Friday fish fry, music all three days, a car show, an arts and crafts show, free games for the kids on Saturday and Sunday, a Saturday rib dinner, lots of other food choices, and fireworks every night. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

South Shore Park (MAP)
2900 South Shore Drive

Milwaukee, WI 53207

 


Taste of Egypt
Date: Fri., July 13 through Sun., July 15

Location: Oak Creek

Description: The annual Taste of Egypt festival features a variety of authentic Egyptian foods and entertainment including games, free cooking demonstrations, and cultural music throughout the weekend. You can also participate in the all new "Stomp Out Hunger" run/walk. CLICK HERE or call (414) 764-5944 for additional information.

St. Mary & St. Antonious Coptic Church (MAP)
1521 W. Drexel Avenue
Oak Creek , WI 53154

 


Festa Italiana
Date: Thurs., July 19 through Sun., July 22
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Attend Milwaukee's longest-running lakefront ethnic festival. This event boasts Italian cuisine, a parade, a cinema tent, gondola rides, concerts, traditional dancers, and Sunday mass followed by a procession and fireworks. Festa is open from 5 p.m. to Midnight on Thursday, 11 a.m. to Midnight on Friday, and 11:30 a.m. to Midnight on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 in advance or $13 at the gate. CLICK HERE or call
(414) 223-2808 or (414) 273-2670 for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

Milwaukee Firkin Craft Beer Festival
Date: Sat., July 21 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join in celebrating Milwaukee's brewing heritage this summer. This Milwaukee beer festival will exclusively showcase the craft brews and breweries that continue to make Milwaukee famous. Samples of over 50 Milwaukee craft beers, including many special brews not regularly offered by the breweries, will be available. CLICK HERE for a list of participating breweries and more information.

 

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)

520 E. Wells Street Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Croatian Fest 2012

Date: Sat., July 21 through Sun., July 22

Location: Franklin

Description: Join neighbors at this annual cultural event located at Croatian Park. This festival features food from the grill, live entertainment, a raffle, and vendors with items for sale. Stop by between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday or between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. on Sunday. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Croatian Park (MAP)

9100 S. 76th Street

Franklin, WI 53132

 

 

South Milwaukee Heritage Days
Date: Mon., July 23 through Sunday, July 29

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Attend South Milwaukee's annual week-long community festival that features fun events for the entire family. Neighbors can enjoy great food, outdoor activities, concerts and even a parade. Featured events during Heritage Days includes an ice cream social at St. Luke's, a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse, an evening on the avenue, and dinners with the local Lions Club. CLICK HERE for more information about these events.

 

 

Run for the Parks

Date: Tues., July 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Lace up your shoes and support your local parks by running in the 3rd annual Run for the Parks. Registration can be done in advance online for $25 or in person at the Humboldt Park Pavilion on the day of the run for $35. Event participants are also invited to enjoy the weekly "Chill on the Hill" concert in an exclusive VIP area with free refreshments following the race. CLICK HERE for more information or to register for the event.

Humboldt Park (MAP)

3000 S. Howell Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53207


 

GermanFest

Date: Thurs., July 26 through Sun., July 29

Location: Milwaukee

Description: GermanFest features an extensive variety of traditional music, authentic food, a cultural village, children's activities, wiener dog races, and much more. The festival even boasts nightly fireworks. GermanFest will be open for visitors from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Thursday, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday, Noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday, and Noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $10 in advance or $13 at the door for adults, $7 for seniors over 60 and students with a valid ID, and free for children 12 and under. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-3378 for additional GermanFest information.


Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 
 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

A lot of changes are going on in the state and across the country. This week's newsletter will examine the efforts being done to improve the overall health and vitality of our state to build a better Wisconsin.

 

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

 

 

 

Improving the Health of Our Economy

This past Tuesday, realizing that he lost the election and given the certainty of losing a frivolous lawsuit, former Senator Wanggaard acknowledged the will of the people by finally conceding to John Lehman. With this turn of events, one more hurdle to getting Wisconsin moving forward on job creation has been removed.

 

Tuesday, July 17 the Senate will meet to complete the transition of power. Also during this ceremonial session day, Senator Fred Risser will be made Senate President while Senator Tim Carpenter will be named Senate President Pro Tempore. In the meantime, I have been working with my democratic colleagues on restructuring the existing Senate committees. It is likely that committee assignments will be announced by Wednesday, July 18 at the latest. I look forward to holding public hearings and working with other legislators once the committees are announced to get Wisconsin moving forward on job creation and improving the health of our economy.

 

 

 

Affordable Care Act Upheld by Courts

With the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012, our country is one step closer to ensuring all Americans have access to basic, affordable health care coverage. The Supreme Court's decision is expected to benefit our neighbors with low- to middle-class incomes who are not offered health care benefits through an employer, people with pre-existing medical conditions, and businesses that struggle to offer health benefits to their workers. Below is a list of just some of the changes our family, friends, and neighbors should expect to see as this legislation is implemented:

  • Eliminating lifetime caps on health insurance benefits and preventing denials of coverage for a pre-existing condition

  • Limiting insurance companies from charging higher rates due to heath status, gender, or other factors

  • Allowing children to remain on a parent's health plan until age 26

  • Guaranteeing that health insurers clearly explain a health plan's benefit to consumers

  • Discounting branded medications for seniors who hit a donut hole in coverage for their Medicare prescription drug benefits

  • Providing yearly wellness exams with no co-pays or deductibles for neighbors with Medicare

  • Putting greater emphasis on primary care

  • Giving states the opportunity to offer more affordable home and community based services to individuals with disabilities through Medicaid rather than institutional care in nursing homes

Most states are beginning to move forward with state-based reforms to better tailor the Affordable Care Act to meet their needs. Many of these changes will have to be solidified by states in November 2012. While Governor Walker has publicly stated that he does not plan to move forward in implementing the Affordable Care Act, Wisconsin's Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has verified that our state will need to follow the timeline set forth in the Affordable Care Act.

 

Click here for more information about the timeline for provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

 

This positive and necessary step forward on health care coverage could not have come at a better time as health care costs continue to rise exponentially and families are negatively impacted by the stagnant economy. I will continue to keep you apprised of any updates on this important issue.

 

 

 

Replacing Failed Education Policies

Wisconsin received good news this past Friday on the education front when it was alerted that its request for waivers from certain provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act had been approved by the U.S. Department of Education. This recently approved waiver is an ambitious education reform package that will set higher expectations for students, educators, and schools with a clear focus on our graduates being college- and career-ready. It aims to do this by:

  • Changing academic standards, instructional practices, and assessments

  • More accurately and meaningfully assessing and reporting how our neighborhood schools are doing

  • Recognizing schools that are doing well and providing support for those that need to do better

  • Implementing a fair, performance-based evaluation system to ensure students have effective teachers

The waiver was developed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction with the help and input of educators, parents, and elected officials. Additional feedback was also obtained by the Department when they posted a draft waiver proposal, prior to submission to the federal government, in order to receive comments from the public. Below is a list of just some of the specific provisions and goals included in the waiver:

  • Raising math and science credit requirements for graduation

  • Ensuring art, music, world language, and technical courses can be a part of every student's experience by requiring 6.5 elective credits to graduate

  • Increasing accessibility to the ACT suite to school districts across the state

  • Increasing comprehensive statewide accountability of all public schools and rating their performance annually

Click here to view a copy of the waiver.

 

Click here to view the executive summary for the waiver request.

 

Implementing the provisions discussed in this waiver, rather than continuing to follow the failed No Child Left Behind policies, will be a positive step forward for our children and schools. However, there is one measure that many of us could not help but notice was missing--language to increase accountability and transparency for all schools that receive taxpayer dollars, including public, charter, and voucher schools.

 

Governor Walker and Republican legislators played lip service to this idea many times this session when they promised to hold all schools, whether they are public schools or private schools that accept voucher funds, to the same standards. But in the end, voucher special interest lobbyists managed to change the course of Wisconsin's schools and obtain additional giveaways by convincing Republican legislators to create greater accountability and transparency measures in our public schools, while excluding voucher schools from those very same requirements.

 

One example of this was the passage of Senate Bill 461. This legislation was supposed to increase our children's reading test scores, forge more effective educators, and enhance school accountability. However, when everything was said and done, voucher schools were exempted from following the provisions recommended by the School Accountability Task Force. Additionally, after the passage of Senate Bill 461, Republican legislators said that such accountability and transparency measures would simply be placed in the No Child Left Behind Waiver. As we can see, this provision was once again conveniently forgotten and will now require legislative approval in order to be implemented. Wisconsin's children, parents, and taxpayers cannot afford to wait any longer for our state to hold all taxpayer-funded schools to the same standards.
 

 

 

The Role of Our Environment on Our Economy

Global climate change is happening. The overwhelming scientific evidence simply cannot be ignored. This past week our community joined others across the country that were struck by a massive heat wave.

According to the National Weather Service, the Milwaukee area's triple- digit temperatures have earned this heat wave the title of one of the four hottest periods ever recorded for southern Wisconsin. High temperatures were present throughout the 4th of July holiday as thermometers in Milwaukee reached 102 degrees, shattering previous records for that day. Additionally, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the period from January through June was the warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States. During this time, the average temperature was 52.9 degrees Fahrenheit, or 4.5 degrees above average.
 

The extreme heat led cities across the state, including those in the Milwaukee area, to open cooling centers available to neighbors that did not have access to air conditioning. These cooling centers undoubtedly helped hundreds escape the brutal temperatures, while preventing many heat-related health issues. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of local communities and countless warnings, there were still 46 immediate heat-related deaths across the country, with deaths in Illinois, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The heat wave also sent dozens of others to the hospital with heat-related illnesses, including heat stroke. Upon further examination, this number will likely increase. In addition to the human toll, the heat may have also negatively impacted Wisconsin's wildlife as the temperature in the southern portion of Lake Michigan reached 80 degrees, which has only happened six times in the past 31 years and never this early in the year.

 

This recent heat wave is not the only time abnormally warm temperatures have had devastating consequences on our state. An overly warm winter this year caused many trees and vines to flower early, but frost conditions in April killed many fruit buds. Agriculture officials estimate statewide losses could be as high as 80%, especially for Wisconsin's apple, cherry, and maple syrup crops. As a result, Wisconsin has requested federal aid for disaster relief. The requests, if successful, could help Wisconsin farmers qualify for federal assistance to help them overcome this crippling financial hit.

 

These usual heat waves have given us a grim reminder as to the tremendous impact severe climate change can have on our state’s economy, our environment, and our neighbors. The drastic consequences of this heat wave should encourage all of us to do what we can to promote environmentally friendly initiatives and policies that aim to protect and nurture our natural resources. As Wisconsin recovers from this extreme weather, it is important that we learn from the lessons provided by nature and move forward.

 

To work towards this goal, I co-hosted an information session today that called for scientists and legislators to take action to reduce the risk of climate change, heat waves, and drought. I look forward to participating in more of these events in the future as we look for solutions to this looming problem.

 

Click here to watch this meeting courtesy of WisconsinEye.
 

 

 

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've heard that Governor Walker is planning to completely change the Wisconsin Retirement System. Is this true?

 

A: Rumors have been floating around since Governor Walker was elected that he intends to do a complete overhaul of the Wisconsin Retirement System. However, it seems that if the governor had been planning to convert Wisconsin's Retirement System to a 401(k) style plan, he will hopefully switch course in light of results of a recent study.

 

A report released on July 2, 2012, confirmed what my colleagues and I have been saying all along--Wisconsin's pension system consistently ranks as one of the best in the country for both taxpayers and retirees. The report, authored by the Department of Employee Trust Funds and the Department of Administration, was mandated in the most recent state budget at the request of Governor Walker and Joint Finance Co-Chairs Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Robin Vos. The departments charged with conducting the report were required to review whether it should allow employees to opt into a defined contribution plan instead of participating in the existing defined benefit plan. It was also required to look at whether employees should be allowed to opt out of paying their share toward the pension and rely only on the amount taxpayers put into it on their behalf. The report recommended against both ideas, saying doing either would weaken the overall fund costing retirees and taxpayers money.

 

Click here to view a full copy of this recent report on the Wisconsin Retirement System.

 

The Wisconsin Retirement System has several key features that have enabled it to fare better than the 401(k) options in other states. First, it is a defined benefit plan, which helps to protect employees from losing all their hard-earned retirement funds if there is a collapse in the financial markets. Additionally, something unique to Wisconsin's Retirement System is that if the fund does well, payments to retirees can go up, but when investments suffer losses, payments to retirees can decline. This protection helps to keep the Wisconsin Retirement System self-funded.

 

This report on the Wisconsin Retirement System supports other recent studies about retirement systems in states across the country. The Pew Center on the States, for example, released a study last month finding that only Wisconsin out of the 50 states has enough money set aside to meet its existing obligations to pay the pensions that are owed to public employees. Other states will likely be forced to ask for more money from taxpayers or increase their state deficit. Wisconsin got these high marks for its pension funding for fiscal year 2010 before Walker and Republican lawmakers required public employees to contribute more for their pension and work longer hours and more years to qualify.


 

 

Did You Know...?

Many of us are aware that Wisconsin is known as the "Dairy State." Our state's license plate even says "America's Dairyland" on it. But did you know that in 1987, Wisconsin also adopted milk as the state beverage to further codify that Wisconsin is the leading milk-producing state and this calcium-rich beverage plays a vital role in our state's economy?


 

 

Poll Workers Needed in Milwaukee

The City of Milwaukee Election commission is seeking the help of hardworking neighbors with a dedication to democracy who are interested in serving as chief inspectors and poll workers. Bilingual workers are especially in demand. Having more trained and experience workers at the polls will help ensure that our elections run smoothly.

 

Click here for more information about how you can help.

 

 

 

Olympics Games Coming Soon

Every two years, the world comes together to for the Olympic Games where nation's compete to determine which athletes are the best of the best. The Games also aim to promote its three core values of friendship, excellence, and respect between nations. London, England is set to host the next Olympic Games which will boast 205 nations from all over the world taking part in 300 different athletic events. This highly-anticipated event will open on July 27 and run for two weeks.

 

This year, the Olympics have also adopted a new goal of hosting the world’s first truly sustainable Olympic Games. Working in partnership with BioRegional and the World Wildlife Fund, London has developed "Towards a One Planet 2012" a sustainable Games guided by the principle that the world should live within its means. All of the planning and building in preparation for the Games has taken place with this idea in mind. The venues, transportation, food, and waste disposal services have all been designed to maximize sustainability. With over 4 billion people watching and over 200 countries participating, the Olympic Games offer a tremendous opportunity to spread awareness and serve as a mechanism change.

 

Click here for more information about the "Towards a One Planet" concept.
 

Our country has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympic Games, except the 1980 Summer Olympics, which it boycotted. Thomas Burke was the first athlete to represent the United States at the Olympics. He took first place in both the 100 meters and the 400 meters of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The United States has a historically strong showing at the Summer Olympics, having won more gold and overall medals than any other country in the Summer Games. Several athletes with Wisconsin ties are set to represent us in the 2012 Summer Games, so be sure to cheer on pay close attention to these individuals:

  • Matt Tegenkamp: A former Badger that graduated in 2005, Tegenkamp will be competing in the 10,000 meter Track & Field event. He is a veteran Olympian, having previously competed for Team USA in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in the 5,000 meter event.

  • Grant and Ross James: These twins graduated from UW-Madison in 2009 after rowing as Badgers. They will be competing in the men's eight event.

  • Kristin Hedstorm: A former Badger and rower who graduated in 2008, Hedstorm will take part in the lightweight women's double sculls.

  • Gwen Jorgensen: This 2009 UW-Madison graduate will be representing Team USA in the triathlon. Jorgensen recently placed second in the World Championship Series triathlon in London in 2011.

  • Staff Sergeant Michael McPhail: A Darlington, Wisconsin native, McPhail is competing in shooting. He also won the Bronze medal at the 2012 World Cup London this past April.

Despite the many physical, spiritual, and cultural differences of the participating nations, the Olympics bring all of us together through our shared appreciation of competition and sportsmanship. Further the excitement of the Olympic Games are seemingly able to capture the attention of the entire world. Hopefully, this year's London Games will be no different.

 

Click here for more information about the 2012 Summer Olympics, including schedule and event information.
 

 

 

Summer Activities in Our Community

Our community offers a wide variety of summer activities for families, children, and adults alike. Below are just a few activities that you can take part in this summer.


Visit Our Neighborhood Pools
Get some relief from the heat this summer by visiting our local neighborhood pools. Many of the pools in our community offer swimming lessons or open swims. Additionally, due to excessive heat, some pools have even extended their hours to accommodate our neighbors looking for a cool retreat.

 

Click here for a list of neighborhood pools, hours of operation, and pricing information.

 

Milwaukee County Free Days
Many of the museums right here in our neighborhood offer days when Milwaukee residents can visit free of charge. Below is a list of participating museums:

Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)
800 W. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 278-2702
*Free every Monday (additional charges apply for the Humphrey IMAX Dome, Daniel M. Soref Planetarium & special exhibitions)

 

Click here for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 224-3200
*Free every first Thursday of the month (includes all special exhibits)

 

Click here for more information.

Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (MAP)
524 S. Layton Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53215
(414) 257-5611
*Free every Monday from 9 a.m. until Noon (excludes major holidays)

 

Click here for more information.
 

 

 

Update on IDs for Voters

In March 2012, 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 was ruled unconstitutional and two separate Circuit Court judges ordered government officials to halt requiring voters to present a valid photo ID when casting their vote. It was stated in the ruling that 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 carried a severe risk of disenfranchising voters and was suspended based on the vital public interest at stake in allowing full participation in elections.

This controversial legislation also contains several provisions not related to presenting valid photo identification while voting, including changes to Wisconsin’s laws regarding residency and absentee voting. These provisions are still in effect. While the merits of this law are being examined, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will continue to provide free state ID cards to Wisconsinites.

This court ruling remains in the appeals process, meaning that current procedures may change based upon whether the courts irrefutably determine 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 to be constitutional or unconstitutional. I will keep you updated on any changes regarding implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23.

 

Click here for more information from the Government Accountability Board's Web site.

 


 

Neighborhood Survey Available

I created a survey asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly appreciated.

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.

 

Click here to save a stamp and take the survey online.

 

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!

 

 

 

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