LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER

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March 29, 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
Date:
Every Saturday Now through April 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee
Description: 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. through 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
 


Art in Bloom: A Tribute to Art and Flowers
Date: Thurs., March 29 to Sun., April 1

Location: Milwaukee
Description: 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 or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

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

 

 

Lighthouse Egg Hunt
Date: Sat., March 31 from 10 a.m. to Noon
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Over 500 treat-filled eggs will be hidden throughout the Historic North Point Lighthouse grounds. Children will also enjoy decorating their own basket for the egg hunt.  Children will be divided into two age groups (3-6 and 7-11 years old). Pre-registration is strongly recommended given the high demand for this event. Tickets are $10 for children and $5 for adults. Refreshments will also be provided. The Easter Bunny will award the four prize winners special gift baskets. A coffee station will be hosted by the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood and a guided tour of the 1888 lighthouse is included in the admission price. CLICK HERE or call (414) 332-6754 for additional information.

North Point Lighthouse (MAP)
2650 N. Wahl Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211
 

 

Easter at the Library
Date: Sat., March 31 at 1:30 p.m.
Location: St. Francis

Description: Join neighbors at the St. Francis Public Library for this fun-filled event. There will be spring themed arts and crafts, Bunny Bingo, and a special visit from the Easter Bunny. The event is free to the public. CLICK HERE or call (414) 481-7323 for additional information.

St. Francis Public Library (MAP)
4230 S. Nicholson Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235

 

 

Used Book Sale at UWM
Date: Tues., April 3 and Wed., April 4

Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Friends of the Golda Meir Library's Spring Used Book Sale will be open to the public on April 3 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and April 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Over 6,000 books in a wide variety of genres including history, contemporary fiction, foreign languages,  literature, and poetry will be offered. There will also be 3000 CDs of mostly classical music available. The sale is open to the public and will be held on the fourth floor Conference Center of the UWM Golda Meir Library. Prices of most items range from $0.25 to $3. On Wednesday, April 4, a bag of books or CDs will cost just $3. Proceeds benefit UWM Libraries. CLICK HERE or call (414) 229-4786 for more information.

 

Golda Meir Library (MAP)

2311 E. Hartford Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

South Shore Half Marathon

Date: Sat., April 7 at 8:30 a.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Whether you are an avid runner or new to the world of half marathons, feel free to participate in the annual South Shore Half Marathon. Not interested in running, stop by anyways to cheer on our family, friends, and neighbors. The race is 13.1 miles and starts and ends at South Shore Park in Bay View. Cost is $12 per person for those that pre-register or $20 per person on race day. Pre-registration ends on March 30. Race time is 8:30 a.m., with registration starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 8:10 a.m. CLICK HERE for more information or to register online.

 

South Shore Park (MAP)
2900 South Shore Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207
 

 

Murray Hill Spring Eggstravaganza

Date: Sat., April 7 at 9 a.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Mark your calendar for the 8th Annual Eggstravaganza. This family-friendly event will be held in the children's play area of Riverside Park. Several thousand eggs will be hidden for the hunt, including traditional colored eggs, plastic eggs filled with candy, and special ceramic and paper mache eggs  made by local artists. All are welcome to join the fun. Be sure to bring your baskets and cameras. This event is sponsored by the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, Murray Hill Pottery Works, and the Upper East Side Business Improvement District. Help from neighbors is also needed before the big event. Stop by Murray Hill Pottery (2456 N. Murray Avenue) by noon on Friday March 30th to pick up eggs and assist with coloring them. Eggs will be in the entry way with a sign-out sheet. The dyed eggs are needed back for hiding by Friday, April 6 at 8 p.m. Not available to help color the eggs, but still want to help out? Show up at 8 a.m. on Saturday, April 7 to help hide the eggs. CLICK HERE to view the flyer for this event or call Cynthia Sommer at (414) 962-7076 for more information.

 

Riverside Park (MAP)

1500 E. Riverside Place

Milwaukee, WI 53211
 

 

West Side Story
Date: Tues., April 10 through Sun., April 15

Location: Milwaukee
Description: Known as one of the most memorable musicals and greatest love stories of all time, West Side Story explores the rivalry between the Jets and the Sharks, two teenage street gangs in New York City during the 1950s. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-7206 for additional information.

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

 


Family Free Day at Zoo
Date: Sat., April 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee
Description: Home to more than 2,275 animals with more than 330 species represented, the Milwaukee County Zoo is one of Milwaukee’s finest attractions. All visitors receive free admission to the Milwaukee County Zoo on this day, although the parking fee remains in effect. CLICK HERE or call (414) 256-5466 for more information on this event or the Milwaukee County Zoo.

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

 

 

Family Night at South Milwaukee Library

Date: Tues., April 17 from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Join South Milwaukee Public Library in celebrating National Library Week. The night includes an ice cream social and a performance from Magician Rick Allen.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 768-8195 for additional information.


South Milwaukee Public Library (MAP)
1907 10th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

This week we review the events of the recently concluded 2011-2012 Legislative Session. Also, please remember to exercise your right to vote on Tuesday, April 3.

 

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

 

 

 

Larson Report Update

The Legislature has concluded it 2011-2012 session. In anticipation of fewer legislative obligations in the Capitol, Representatives and Senators will be spending more time in their local community and less time in their Madison offices.

 

Because of these changes, I will be altering the distribution of the Larson Report. Beginning this week, the Larson Report will be sent out every other week, rather than every Thursday. These biweekly reports will continue to keep you apprised of local events, provide timely news updates, answer some of the most frequent questions asked by neighbors, and include interesting information about our community and state.

 

In addition to providing you with a newsletter every other week, I will periodically send out email updates when important issue arise. The normal weekly distribution will resume when legislative activities pick up again in November.

 

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions about these temporary changes.

 

 

 

Legislative Session Sends Wisconsin, Our Community Backwards

The 2011-2012 Legislative Session will go down in our state history books as the most divisive and dishonest legislative session ever. Rather than focusing on job creation and economic growth, those in control used their power to push a backwards, ideological agenda that neglects the needs of our family, friends, and neighbors.

 

Below we will take an in-depth look at just how our community and state have been harmed by the Walker administration's radical policies and devastating cuts in the areas of jobs, education, health care, public transit, the environment, accountability and transparency, and taxes and investment in our communities.

 

JOBS & ECONOMY

Although Governor Walker and Republican legislators promised to focus on jobs this session, they utterly failed to follow through. 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 fell 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 to view the report and a chart showing the state-by-state breakdown.

Despite the pleas of people across Wisconsin who are in desperate need of jobs, Governor Walker and Republican legislators put partisanship above progress right away by rejecting federal job creation money that then went to other states, helping their economies. Continuing this painful partisanship, Governor Walker and Republican legislators left Democratic employee training and jobs proposals untouched. Below is a list of just some of these proposals that Republicans refused to act on to get Wisconsin moving on job creation:

  • Expand the Workforce Advancement Training Program and create grants to assist local businesses with expanding and diversifying (SB 316/AB 431)

  • Create grants for technical colleges to provide additional training in advanced manufacturing skills (SB 40/AB 97)

  • Direct the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to develop, implement, and fund a program to link businesses that need more qualified workers with Wisconsin's technical colleges so they can provide the necessary training for those businesses to grow (AB 575)

  • Give the Wisconsin Economic Development the authority to award grants to Wisconsinites trying to qualify for income and franchise tax credits to improve or expand their business (AB 90)

  • Increase the amount of tax credits available for dairies to continue modernizing facilities and employ workers for these projects (SB 120/AB 186)

Unfortunately, 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 by choosing:

  • To provide big corporations with $2.3 billion in tax giveaways, Governor Walker cut $1.6 billion from neighborhood schools that educate our children

  • To create a $196 million slush fund with little oversight, Governor Walker made over $1 billion in cuts to our health safety net being used by children, displaced workers, and the elderly

  • 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 need to get Wisconsin moving in the right direction with the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the job-killing policies implemented by Governor Walker and Republican legislators this legislative session will do nothing to help our state out of this crisis.

 

EDUCATION

Support for our children's education was put on the back burner during this legislative session as funding from our neighborhood schools was slashed in order to give away these taxpayer dollars to special interests and corporations. Under the Republican budget approximately $1.6 billion was stripped from education statewide. These decimating cuts hit some communities harder than others and have been especially detrimental to children in Milwaukee and the surrounding area. To see how much our children's education and the funding for neighborhood schools were cut in the budget, according to the Department of Public Instruction and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, please see the chart below:
 

Municipality Cuts Per Pupil Cuts Per District
Cudahy $1,086 $4,949,481
Milwaukee $1,012 $161,659,072
Oak Creek $978 $10,854,467
Saint Francis $1,022 $1,754,714
South Milwaukee $1,006 $5,799,512


Click here to view the Fiscal Bureau Paper that examines revenue changes for school districts based on the governor and Legislature's 2011-2013 budgets.

Click here to see how much was cut per pupil in the 2011-2013 budget according to the Department of Public Instruction.

The effect of Governor Walker's cuts to education and his continued favoritism of private and religious schools over our neighborhood schools can already be seen across the state. Below are results from the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrator's annual survey:

  • Wisconsin lost 4,000 educational jobs, leaving our schools understaffed and our children underserved

  • 2/3 of responding school districts expect to make the same or greater cuts next year as a result of no longer receiving one-time federal dollars
    4 in 10 students attend a district with larger class sizes in grades K-6

  • 40% of students are in districts that eliminated sections or increased class size for the core subjects of English, Math, Science and Social Studies

  • Districts are offering fewer art, music, physical education, Advanced Placement and foreign language classes

  • Roughly 3 in 4 students attend school at a district that reduced at least one essential support program

  • The biggest cuts were to special education programs, which are followed by library and media center staff, reading coordinators, programs for at-risk youth, and drug and alcohol abuse programs

  • Cuts to education far out weighed the savings from increased pension and insurance contributions

Similar results can also be seen right here in our own community. Here is how Milwaukee County's 18 school districts have been negatively impacted by Governor Walker's sweeping education cuts:

  • Milwaukee County is struggling with 1,719 fewer teachers, aides and administrators this year compared to 2010

  • Most Milwaukee County school districts expect to make the same or deeper cuts to balance their budgets for the next school year, with only one of the 18 reporting that they expect to make fewer cuts next year compared to this year

  • 1/2 of Milwaukee County school districts reported increased class sizes and higher student-to-teacher ratios

  • Cuts to support services, such as special education, were made in five of our 18 Milwaukee County School districts

Click here to view this annual Wisconsin Association of School District Administrator's survey and analysis by the Department of Public Instruction.
 

Legislation passed this session also expanded the voucher program in Milwaukee to allow private schools outside Milwaukee to participate, while removing all enrollment caps on the program and raising the income limits on participants. Under these changes, Milwaukee Public Schools will be forced to funnel 22.6% of its tax levy into the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, leaving City of Milwaukee taxpayers on the hook for $55.4 million. In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students.

 

There were additional giveaways to the voucher lobbyists this session, as they convinced 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. 

Governor Walker’s misplaced priorities have left our children and educators struggling to get out of an impossible situation. His actions have also jeopardized the future economic success of our state and limited opportunities for our children. Educating our children is not like riding a bike. If you fall off you cannot just get back up again and ride. Our children only have one shot at early education and developing the skills they need to succeed.
 

HEALTH CARE

Currently, about one out of five Wisconsin residents rely on Medicaid programs, for their health care needs. The number of individuals enrolled in the state's Medicaid programs has been steadily increasing in recent years due to the ongoing recession and increased health care costs, making it one of the worst times to consider chopping away at our health safety net.

Unfortunately, Governor Walker did just that this year, beginning with his budget proposal. Nearly $500 million was cut from Medicaid programs, which is hurting families in every community throughout Wisconsin. Notable health care cuts are listed below:

  • Only extends SeniorCare through 2012, bringing uncertainty to the long-term availability of the program, which is a cheaper option to Medicare Part D for our seniors and taxpayers.

  • Places a cap on the FamilyCare program, which provides access to vital health services for frail seniors and individuals with disabilities. There are currently 2,000 people on the FamilyCare waiting list in Milwaukee County alone.

  • Substantially restricts women's access to preventative health care, including: cancer screenings, pap tests, birth control and medical exams.

  • Reduces the eligibility and services for BadgerCare, which provides services to working families and had a wait-list of 50,000 Wisconsinites in June 2010.

The Governor continued his extreme agenda announcing an additional $554 million in cuts this past October. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has estimated that almost 23,000 Wisconsinites will lose their current BadgerCare health care coverage. A group that will be disproportionately affected by these additional Medicaid cuts are people suffering from chronic illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease. Chronic and life-threatening illnesses often leave individuals unable to work, causing them to exhaust their lifesavings and unable to cover their medical expenses without the use of Medicaid.

Wisconsin's vital health care programs ensure that our families and neighbors are able to receive quality, affordable health care to prevent costly emergency room visits. These programs also help keep loved ones out of nursing homes and in-patient facilities, saving taxpayers money.

Walker's Republican legislators also launched an ideological attack this session on the health of Wisconsin's women and children. One related bill was Senate Bill 237, legislation to repeal current comprehensive sex education standards. According to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, approximately 87% of Wisconsin voters support requiring comprehensive sex education instruction that includes information about both abstinence and contraception.

The positive impact of comprehensive sex education on Wisconsin's young adults can also be seen right here in our neighborhood. According to the Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee's teen birthrate has dropped dramatically for the second year in a row, from 46.73 births per 1,000 teens in 2008 to 35.68 births per 1,000 teens in 2010.

 

This legislative session also sent our state backwards on the issue of gender equality by curtailing the rights of women, particularly regarding their reproductive health. Such initiatives included 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.
 

PUBLIC TRANSIT

Massive highway expansion projects were highly prioritized this session over repairing our local roads and investing in our public transit infrastructure. This assault began with the rejection of $800 million in federal funds to create jobs and a high speed rail option connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and additional communities.

 

The attack continued with the elimination of the new Regional Transit Authorities and extensive cuts to public transit in Governor Walker's budget. According to a recent study by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, Wisconsin taxpayers are footing roughly $2 billion to fund questionable and unnecessary transportation projects in the budget rather than putting those funds towards local roads and public transit. In addition to a loss of $77 million in shared revenue, the following communities saw cuts to state transportation funds in the amounts listed below:

Cudahy = $98,181
Milwaukee = $2,546,188
Oak Creek = $164,524
Saint Francis = $65,933
South Milwaukee = $90,118

 

As a result, local governments have been forced to shift funding, raise fares, change or eliminate routes, and reduce vital services. Many of these changes were seen by riders in our own community. On January 1 of this year, the Milwaukee County Transit System was forced to increase fares for TransitPlus users by 75 cents, raising the cost of each bus ticket to $4. The system also had to eliminate some bus services.

During the legislative session, I worked to remedy this dire situation for our neighbors by supporting a number of public transit initiatives. Once such proposal was the Workforce Mobility Act, legislation I authored with Senator Jessica King. The Workforce Mobility Act seeks to prevent further cuts by reinvesting in our state’s public transit infrastructure to ensure that our family, friends and neighbors are able to commute to and from work. According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, a recent re-estimate of the transportation fund indicates that an additional $32.9 million remains available for use. This bill would have used $9.6 million of this funding to restore the cuts to our mass transit systems ensuring that our workforce can get to their jobs each day. Unfortunately, progress on this was rejected by Governor Walker, his administration, and Republican legislators.

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

ENVIRONMENT

The goal as a steward of the environment is to leave a place cleaner than when you arrived. Unfortunately, this legislative session did nothing to improve or protect our environment. This year, Governor Walker and Republican legislators pushed an agenda that has left our state's natural resources vulnerable. Many of these changes were instituted under the most recent budget, including:

  • Cutting funding for recycling programs by 40%. According to Recycle More Wisconsin, recycling programs keep 1.69 million tons of materials out of Wisconsin's landfills, supports 97,000 jobs and contributes $5.4 billion to our state's economy.
    Eliminating $26 million in Stewardship program funding used to safeguard Wisconsin's precious lands and valuable natural resources for today and tomorrow.

  • Reducing funding for the Focus on Energy program that promotes in-state economic development, helps Wisconsin residents and businesses manage rising energy costs, and protects our environment. In the past 10 years, more than 91,000 businesses and more than 1.7 million residents used the program and saved $2.20 for every $1 spent on average.

  • Eliminating the Office of Energy Independence, which provides long-term planning and development of fuels, technologies and business practices in Wisconsin to reduce our state's dependence on foreign energy resources.

  • Eliminating the Renewable Grants and Loan Program and the Green to Gold Program. The former provides incentives for Wisconsin businesses to develop renewable technologies including biofuels, while the latter helps Wisconsin's industries lower their energy costs and encourages job creation and growth.

  • Repealing water quality standards that require communities to reduce the total amount of suspended solids in local water supplies. Without such regulations to protect our water quality, sewerage waste, toxic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides could make their way into our drinking water and lakes, and significantly harm the health of our families and communities.

  • Holding up wind siting rules forcing alternative energy investors to send jobs elsewhere.

This agenda to place polluters over people continued with the passage of Senate Bill 326, legislation that undoes important environmental protections that keep our air clean and our water safe for drinking and recreation. The following concerns can be found in this environmentally harmful legislation that threatens our natural resources and families by:

  • Tying the hands of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by not allowing follow-up requests for information from permit applicants

  • Encouraging DNR permit applicants to submit incomplete or false information since DNR is restricted in follow-ups

  • Giving DNR the authority to issue permits without a public hearing

  • Removing air quality protections, such as requiring industries to model their expected air quality impact to ensure the health of neighbors is not adversely impacted by pollutants they produce

There is an undeniable link between a healthy environment and sustainable economic growth. Therefore, we should not allow polluters to bully us into making a false choice between conservation and economic growth.

 

ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY

One common theme during this legislative session was a call by Wisconsinites for a more open and transparent government as a result of the secrecy tactics employed by Governor Walker and Republican legislators. This session our neighbors saw public hearings on controversial bills abruptly halted before citizens were able to speak, Open Meetings Laws violated, the public and legislators locked out of the Capitol, rights to free speech and assembly restricted, secrecy pacts signed by Republican legislators, unconstitutional maps signed into law, and an on-going John Doe investigation that involves a growing number of Governor Walker's friends and staff.

 

As a result of these troubling events, I remained dedicated this session to reversing this trend and return our state back to its tradition of good government. I authored and supported a number of legislative initiatives aimed at increasing accountability and transparency. Below is a list of just a few of these that would have helped get Wisconsin moving in the right direction:

  • Transparency for Taxpayers Act (SB 565)--Tracks all state agency operation expenditures exceeding $100 on a public, searchable Internet Web site by July 1, 2012

  • Audits of Large State Agencies (SB 506)--Ensures proactive agency review by having a nonpartisan audit of large state agencies every five years

  • ALEC Accountability Act (AB 621)--Decreases the influence of organizations that draft and advocate model legislation by having such groups follow the same guidelines as other lobby groups

  • Independent Redistricting Commission (SJR 68)--Changes the Wisconsin Constitution to remove the responsibility of redistricting from the Legislature and reassigning it to an independent redistricting commission

  • Protect Open Meetings Law (AJR 52)--Guarantees that the Wisconsin State Legislature complies with existing open meetings laws by altering the Constitution

  • Strengthen Campaign Finance Laws (SB 446)--Aims to bring transparency for all expenditures within 60 days of an election through constitutional reporting requirements

  • Comprehensive Court Reforms (Multiple Bills)--Combats undue influence in the court system by increasing judicial disqualification and discipline, and enhancing transparency in campaign contributions to judges

Unfortunately, these efforts were rejected by Governor Walker and Republicans who spent the legislative session attacking our existing common sense open government protections. The first round of blows came from a special session allowing them to fast-track damaging 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:

  • Preventing 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 SB 1)

  • Creating 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 SB 3)

  • Giving $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 SB 4)

  • Replacing 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 SB 6)

  • Requiring 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 rejected this amendment that would have eliminated the potential for conflicts of interest and maintained integrity in the rule process. (Special Session SB 8)

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 $196 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

  • Enabled the Walker Administration to sell state assets without bidding for the best deal for taxpayers if they chose to do so

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. No matter which party is in control, we need more accountability and transparency, not less.

 

TAXES & SPENDING

During this legislative session, promises were broken yet again by Governor Walker and Republican legislators who increased taxes and spending on Wisconsin's middle-class families in order to fund favors to CEOs and special interests. The Republican budget included the following fiscally irresponsible provisions:

  • Increased spending by over $1 billion compared to the last budget

  • Raised taxes and fees by over $180 million

  • Raided $411 million from segregated funds

These provisions were added to the budget as Governor Walker chose special interests over people by creating a $196 million corporate slush fund and providing $2.3 billion in tax giveaways for special interests.


Click here to view information from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau about the budget.

Click here for a budget impact summary provided by city officials for more information specific to the City of Milwaukee.

 

 

 

Remember to Vote on Tuesday

Wisconsin's Spring Primary Election is this Tuesday, April 3. The polls are open from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Wisconsin residents may register on Election Day at their polling location. Given the recent injunction on Wisconsin's law requiring voters to present a valid photo ID, you should not be expected to present an ID at the polls.

 

Click here for additional information on registration and voting procedures in Wisconsin.

A study done by George Mason University examining voter turnout, ranked Wisconsin among the top five states with the highest voter turnout. It is important that we continue this proud tradition and participate in the electoral process.
 

 

 

WisconsinEye Now Available Through Time Warner

Earlier this week, WisconsinEye announced that its programming will be made available to digital customers of Time Warner Cable on Channel 363 at no additional cost. WisconsinEye has already been made available to Charter Communications cable customers on digital Channel 995.

 

WisconsinEye provides the public with unfiltered access to committee meetings, public hearings, session days, and other government activities allowing the public to view legislative debate and policy-making without editing, commentary or analysis.
 

Click here to learn more about WisconsinEye and view videos from the most recent legislative session.



 

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: Why don't you talk about the recall elections in your Email newsletter?

 

A: Questions about a specific campaign or a particular candidate need to be addressed outside of my official duties as Senator. State laws and Senate policies are pretty clear that something like my E-newsletter, which is sent from my state office, needs to steer clear of electoral politics. On the other hand, if you have questions about voting procedures or campaign laws in Wisconsin, these questions can be handled through my Capitol office.

 

If you have any questions regarding Wisconsin statutes and ethics guidelines that require the separation of political activity and state business, please do not hesitate to contact me. Additional information about this issue has also been made available by the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. Their contact information is provided below:

 

Wisconsin Government Accountability Board

General Phone: (608) 266-8005

Toll-free Phone: 1-866-VOTE-WIS

Mailing Address: Government Accountability Board
                          P.O. Box 7984
                          Madison, Wisconsin 53707-7984

Email Address: gab@wi.gov

Fax: (608) 267-0500


Click here to visit the Government Accountability Board's Web site.

 

 

 

Did You Know...

Did you know that Wisconsin's name is of Native American origin? According to documents at the Wisconsin Historical Society, our state is said to have derived its name from its largest river, "Wees-kon-san," which means "gathering of the water."


 

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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