LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

 

 

March 22, 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. 
 


Spring Chef Series
Every Saturday Now through April 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Develop your culinary skills with the talented executive chefs of Marcus Restaurants. In these classes you will learn how to prepare a variety of amazing seasonal dishes just in time for spring. Classes will be held every Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning March 24 until April 28. The cost is $29 per person or $49 per couple. For reservations please call (414) 935-5942. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Pfister (MAP)
424 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Milwaukee Meatball Challenge
Sat., March 24 from Noon to 4 p.m.
Stop by the Milwaukee County Historical Society's first ever Meatball Challenge. Milwaukee area restaurants and caterers, are invited to compete against one another with their signature meatball recipes to see who will take home the honor of having Milwaukee’s best meatball. Using specific culinary criteria, a panel of judges will choose the grand prize winner who will receive two round-trip tickets to Rome. Prizes for second and third place will also be awarded, and Milwaukeeans will get their say by casting votes to decide a winner in the People’s Choice category. All sponsorship and event proceeds support Historical Society programs and exhibits that help and enrich people’s lives through the power of history. Public admission to the event is $8, which includes four meatball tickets. CLICK HERE for additional information.

Milwaukee County Historical Society (MAP)
910 N. Old World Third Street
Milwaukee, WI 53203
(414) 273-8288

 

 

Eighth Annual Bay View Wine Fest
Sat., March 24 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.

This annual Bay View event offers a sampling of superb wines and food from area establishments, live music, an aviation art auction, and more. Tickets are $25 and include all samples, reserved seating, and free parking. Proceeds from this event support The Milwaukee Air & Water Show and the Wisconsin Adopt-A-Golden Retriever Dog Rescue Group. CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase tickets. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door based on availability. Please call (414) 482-2069 with any additional questions.
 

Marian Center for Non-Profits (MAP)

3195 S. Superior Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

 

Spring Weather Watch
Sun., March 25 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Join the Weather Watch 12 team and learn all about spring weather in Wisconsin. Spring weather can be mild, blustery, stormy, and dangerous. This seminar will help you understand and appreciate Wisconsin's climate. People of all ages will find this fascinating. The seminar is included in the $12 general admission fee to Discovery World. CLICK HERE for more information.

Discovery World (MAP)
500 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 765-9966

 


Milwaukee Health Fair
Thurs., March 29 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
 
Come to the 12th Annual Spring Into Wellness Health Fair. All services are free and open to the public. Services include: blood pressure checks, diabetes testing, eye exams, cholesterol pre-screening, and massages. Door prizes, raffle prizes, and goodie bags will also be available.

 

Milwaukee Catholic Home (MAP)

2462 N. Prospect Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 


Art in Bloom: A Tribute to Art and Flowers
Thurs., March 29 to Sun., April 1
Enjoy exquisite floral creations by Milwaukee’s top floral designers inspired by the Museum’s Collection masterworks.
Art in Bloom is a perfect way to welcome spring. You can also expand and enrich your own floral and gardening knowledge by taking part in lectures and presentations focused on landscaping. Museum admission (free for members) is required for all events. Exhibit hours vary. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202
(414) 224-3200

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

Check out my floor speech from the final day of session. You can also continue reading for updates on redistricting maps, our health safety net, and the new member composition of the State Senate.

 

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

 

 

 

Using Power for All the Wrong Reasons

During this legislative session, Republicans controlled all branches of Wisconsin's government. They held a majority in both houses of the Legislature, maintained power in the Office of the Governor, and had a 4-3 advantage in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, rather than choosing to use their newfound power to better our state through job creation and economic development to get Wisconsin moving in the right direction, Republicans instead wasted this opportunity by opting to pursue an extreme ideological agenda.

The numbers do not lie. While the nation has added jobs every month for 17 straight months and neighboring states all posted job gains this past year, Wisconsin has fallen tragically behind under Governor Walker's leadership. A new nationwide report released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows Wisconsin lost 12,500 jobs from January 2011 to January 2012, more than any other state over the past year. In fact, Wisconsin is one of only six states to lose jobs in the past year, and our job losses are more than three times higher than the next state on that unfortunate list.

 

Click here or on the video below to watch my floor speech from the final day of session.

 


This session has also been about picking winners and losers. In order to help the big corporations and special interests further their backwards agenda, Governor Walker and Republican legislators have sacrificed Wisconsin’s jobless, children, and women. To provide big corporations with $2.3 billion in tax giveaways, Governor Walker cut $1.6 billion from neighborhood schools that educate our children. Governor Walker also chose to create a $196 million slush fund with little oversight, while making over $1 billion in cuts to our health safety net being used by children, displaced workers, and the elderly. Then, to make up for increasing spending by over $1 billion in his budget compared to the previous one, Governor Walker cut funding for basic women's health care, shared revenue for local governments, public transit, and recycling and stewardship programs.

 

We will examine the effect of the 2011-2012 Legislative Session on our state and local community in more detail next week.

 

 

Courts Rule Republican Redistricting Maps Violate Voting Rights Act

Earlier today, a three judge panel confirmed that Republicans crafted unconstitutional legislative maps. According to the judges, the maps for Assembly Districts 8 and 9 violate the federal Voting Rights Act because of how they minimized the voice of minority voters. The Legislature has been ordered to quickly redraw the maps as elections are fast approaching. My Democratic colleagues and I stand ready and willing to work to fix the maps so voters are not disenfranchised.

 

Click here to view a copy of the judges' decision.

 

The redistricting process employed to develop these illegal maps illustrate why Wisconsin should look into changing its current redistricting model. In the most recent redistricting process, Republican legislators spared no expense to hire attorneys with $400,000 in taxpayer money to craft a secret plan to protect their jobs and create a one-party monopoly in Wisconsin for at least the next decade. Shortly after passage of the redistricting maps, a legal challenge was filed.


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 legal 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."

It is unfortunate that Republicans let the power get to their head and ultimately created a bill to disenfranchise those they have sworn to serve. I will continue to keep you updated on the details of this issue as they unfold.

 

 

 

Open Government Policies Needed

A recent report by Public Radio International and Center for Public Integrity found that most states do not do enough to guard against corruption and ensure greater accountability. The study found that all but five U.S. States received a "C" rating or lower on their efforts to decrease corruption and increase accountability. Wisconsin unfortunately did not get high marks.

 

Our state also received a "D-minus" grade in the annual report on transparency of government spending issued by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group. The study found Wisconsin is the 10th-worst state in the nation for providing information about where and how state money is spent.

 

As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, the budget contained a provision to have the Department of Administration track all state agency operation expenditures exceeding $100 on a public, searchable Internet Web site. Unfortunately, Governor Walker once again chose secrecy over an open door policy by vetoing the deadline to have the Web site fully functional for public use by July 1, 2013, so this Web site has yet to be created. In contrast, many other states, including Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, provide checkbook-level data, so anyone can look at expenditures, tax credits and subsidies like a checkbook.

 

Such scores illustrate why the adoption of more open government policies are so crucial to Wisconsin. To try and improve Wisconsin's low scores, I co-sponsored several legislative initiatives this session to start moving Wisconsin in the right direction by bringing greater transparency to our state court system.

 

Since the decision in the 2010 United States Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was handed down, spending on political campaigns has exploded. In states with an elected judiciary, including Wisconsin, largely unregulated campaign contributions have been creating serious problems and jeopardizing the integrity of our own Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Currently when parties enter into a lawsuit before a judge, they do not know whether the judge has received campaign contributions from others involved in litigation. Knowing whether a judge can be fair and free of bias in a particular judgment is the foundation of our justice system. Additionally, even if campaign contributions are known to both sides, a judge may continue over a case if they feel they can be fair. Once a judge decides on their own that they may be fair, the decision is not reviewable by higher courts.

Our courts should be able to make their decisions based on law and not the power and influence of a few contributors. Unfortunately, our current campaign contribution rules make this admirable goal a nearly impossible task for Wisconsin's current and future judges. Therefore, it is time that that we promote an independent judiciary that our constitution aims to ensure so that justice can be appropriately administered.

In order to combat undue influence in the court system, I supported a number of legislative proposals that would have increased judicial disqualification and discipline. Further, this legislation would have enhanced transparency in campaign contributions to our judges. These proposals would have been a positive step forward in helping make our current justice system more transparent, accountable, and fair by:

  • Requiring a judge to recuse himself/herself if in the past four years a party to a case contributed $1,000 or more directly to the judge’s campaign or to a fund advocating for the judge’s election

  • Creating an objective standard of impartiality for evaluating judicial recusal requests. An objective standard is consistent with federal recusal rules and the recusal rules of 48 other states. An objective standard will allow for the review of recusal decisions by an independent body

  • Ensuring that if a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice denies a motion to disqualify himself/herself that decision would be reviewable

  • Increasing the ability of judges to more effectively and openly address any potential biases by requiring them to articulate the reasons for which he or she has not disqualified themselves

  • Having any donor, who is also an interested party in a case, to notify all parties, including the judge or justice, of the contribution in writing. This disclosure would provide valuable information both to the judge and other parties over whether the judge’s impartiality may be questioned

I also supported Constitutional Amendments that would have helped improve the perception of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to Wisconsinites by requiring that these justices submit to the same rules and sanctions of lower court judges. Under the first Constitutional Amendment, a justice would be subject to discipline by a panel of three senior Court of Appeals judges instead of their own peers. This would provide an independent body for review and make disciplinary sanction a more professional process. The second Constitutional Amendment would allow a senior member of the Court of Appeals to sit on the Wisconsin Supreme Court on a temporary basis for the purposes of sitting in for a justice on the Supreme Court that has disqualified himself or herself, or has been disqualified. The Court of Appeals judge would serve to make sure there is still an odd number of votes and therefore a majority decision may still be reached despite the absence of a Supreme Court Justice.

Throughout our history the courts have been the guardians of equality and fairness. It is imperative to help safeguard this pillar of justice and ensure access to our court system will not be based on money and influence, but instead continues to be based only on the merits of our laws. I hope to see these bills and Constitutional Amendments reintroduced when the next legislative session begins in January to help get Wisconsin moving in the right direction.

 

 

 

Law to Remove FamilyCare Cap Signed

As you may know, Governor Walker’s 2011-2013 Biennial Budget forced a cap on the FamilyCare program. This past December, the federal government stepped in, ordering Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature to pass legislation immediately in order to lift the caps on FamilyCare or risk forfeiting the $1.75 billion it receives in matching federal funds.

 

After receiving pressure from Democratic lawmakers, advocacy groups, and neighbors across Wisconsin that depend on vital health safety net programs, the Senate and Assembly passed Senate Bill 380, legislation to lift the cap. This past Monday, Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 380 into law to lift the cap he created.

FamilyCare is a bipartisan community-based, long-term care program that plays a crucial role in Wisconsin’s health safety net. The program serves our state’s most vulnerable neighbors, including the elderly and individuals with disabilities, to enhance their health and quality of life.

 

Click here to view a copy of this new law.

 

 

 

Greater Equality for Individuals with Disabilities

Two bills were signed into law this past Monday to benefit our family, friends and neighbors that have a disability. One of these bills, Assembly Bill 322 (now 2011 Wisconsin Act 124) will empower students with disabilities by ensuring they have the same opportunity to succeed in their academic pursuits as their classmates. The other bill, Senate Bill 377 (now 2011 Wisconsin Act 126) aims to treat individuals with disabilities with respect and dignity by removing terms such as “mental retardation” and “mentally retarded” from our state laws. As a proud co-sponsor of both of these legislative proposals, I was happy to see them succeed in the most recent legislative session. Continue reading for more information on these new laws.

 

Equal Access to Instructional Materials for Students

2011 Wisconsin Act 124 will make instructional materials available to all students attending our universities, colleges or technical schools. Currently many students enrolled in Wisconsin's higher education institutions who are blind, visually impaired, or have a learning or reading disability do not have access to the textbooks and written materials needed to complete their coursework. This places many of these students at a disadvantage to their classmates.

This new law will enable schools within the UW or Technical College System to request that a publisher provide textbooks and other materials in electronic format at no additional cost to the school or student. These digital texts can then be converted into a variety of additional formats, such as Braille, large print texts, audio recordings, digital texts, or any other format needed to meet the needs of our students. This service is in place for K-12 students and would simply be expanded to include continuing education students.

 

Click here to view a copy of 2011 Wisconsin Act 124.

 

People's First Law

2011 Wisconsin Act 126 will alter current health policies and state laws by substituting the term "intellectual disability" for "mental retardation" and "mentally retarded" in the statutes. This law mirrors the alteration that occurred in 2010 with all federal legislation. The term "intellectual disability" would apply to the same population previously diagnosed with “mental retardation." Additionally, this law will not alter any citizens' rights or their eligibility for services and will not affect any compliances pertaining to federal funding.

Terms like "mentally retarded" are often used in current-day culture to demean and diminish. In Wisconsin, approximately 9,453 children qualify for special education services with a cognitive disability diagnosis. Therefore, it was important that we worked together to pass this legislation that will bring Wisconsin state laws and respective terminology up-to-speed with the daily contributions of these citizens within our communities.
 

Click here to view a copy of 2011 Wisconsin Act 126.
 

 

 

War on Women Shows Long Road Ahead for Gender Equality

This March is the 25th Annual National Women’s History Month. As we take a moment to reflect on the role of women in our nation's history, it is important to celebrate past progress as well as recognize the continued challenges women face in realizing equal rights and opportunities.

Wisconsin has a proud and progressive history on women's rights, as our state was the first to ratify the 19th Amendment and passed the nation's first equal rights bill. Wisconsin also has many prominent examples of noteworthy women that have helped move our state forward. One such woman is Ho-poe-kaw, the last known Ho-Chunk female chief and first woman mentioned in Wisconsin's recorded history. Wisconsin was also home to Theodora Winton Youmans, a prominent women's rights activist and suffragette who served as the first president of the Wisconsin League of Women Voters (founded by Wisconsin native Carrie Chapman Catt). Another well-known Wisconsin woman is Meta Schlichting Berger, wife of Milwaukee politician Victor Berger, who was also a teacher and reformer dedicated to advocating progressive education policies for students and teachers.

 

War on Women Declared This Session

This legislative session sent our state backwards on the issue of gender equality by curtailing the rights of women, particularly regarding their reproductive health. Instead of focusing on job creation, Scott Walker and Republican legislators instead turned their attention to waging an unprecedented ideologically-driven attack on women across Wisconsin. Such initiatives included ending comprehensive sex education, interfering with doctor-patient relationships, obstructing access to contraception created under the Affordable Care Act, and eliminating funding for comprehensive women's health centers that provide vital services, including pap smears and mammograms.

Republican legislators also passed Senate Bill 202, legislation to roll back equal protection laws for women working in Wisconsin. This bill has since been delivered to the governor for his signature. According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make nationally. In Wisconsin, however, women earn even less as they take home only 75 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive. This means that families across the state are losing out on more than $4,000 per year due to unequal pay.

 

This affront to women threatens the rights of our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. We owe it to them to stand tall and speak up about these recent injustices. It is time that we show the women in our lives how much we value them and move our state forward instead of heading backward by passing regressive 19th Century policies.

 

 

 

Senate House Evenly Split

This past Friday, State Senator Pam Galloway resigned from her position representing the 29th Senate District. Her departure means that there is now an even split of 16 Democratic Senators and 16 Republican Senators.

 

This equal split in the Legislature also triggered several changes in the Senate. All Senate committees will now have equal members of Republicans and Democrats, but Republican chairs will still preside over their previously assigned committees. Additionally, the Senate President position will still be maintained by Republican Senator Mike Ellis. These changes will be instituted for the next few months, but should change after recall elections take place in May and June.

 

A split house is actually a more common occurrence in the Senate than one might initially think. In fact, the Senate has been evenly split four times just since 1993-- twice during the 1993-1994 session, once during the 1995-1996 session, and once during the 1997-1998 session.


 

Federal Budget Process Has Begun

The arduous and often contentious federal budgeting process has begun. A few weeks ago, President Obama submitted his budget proposal. His budget has since been processed by the Congressional Budget Office and an accurate analysis of the proposed budget, including cuts and increases in spending, has been created.

 

Click here to view this analysis.

Both the House and Senate Budget Committees have started their annual consideration of the President’s budget proposal. Given that Republicans control Congress and Democrats the Senate, it is likely that each will craft their own proposals.
Once their respective proposals pass, the Representatives and Senators will schedule a conference report to rectify any differences between the respective budgets. After these negotiations, the President will sign the budget resolution ideally in time for the fiscal year, which begins in October.

As the federal budget is often a source of contention and debate, I encourage you to contact your federally elected representatives to share your thoughts, opinions, and concerns regarding your funding priorities.

 

Click here to find your Representative to Congress for the United States House of Representatives.

 

Additionally, if you would like to contact Wisconsin State Senators Herb Kohl and Ron Johnson about this issue, please see their contact information listed below:

 

Senator Herb Kohl
Washington D.C. Office
506 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-5653

 

Milwaukee Office

310 W. Wisconsin Avenue

Suite 950

Milwaukee, WI 53203

Phone: (414) 297-4451
 

Click here to visit Sen. Kohl's Web site.

Senator Ron Johnson
Washington D.C. Office

2 Russell Courtyard

Washington, D.C. 20510

Phone: (202) 224-5323

 

Milwaukee Office
517 E. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: (414) 276-7282

 

Click here to visit Sen. Johnson's Web site.

 

 

IDs for Voting Temporarily on Hold

The Dane County Circuit Court issued an injunction against 2011 Wisconsin Act 23, a newly implemented law requiring voters to show a valid ID for voting purposes. As a result, this law will temporarily be suspended and voters will not be required to show and ID when voting for the time being, including in the upcoming April elections. This ruling, however, is subject to change based on pending challenges to Judge Flanagan’s ruling in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.

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. A determination on the constitutionality of the bill has yet to be made. As this ruling is not final, I will be careful to keep you updated on any changes regarding implementation of 2011 Wisconsin Act 23.

 

 

 

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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