A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope you are having a great week and are looking forward to Summerfest.


I wanted to make sure you saw an important package of legislation that I have recently circulated for co-sponsorship with some of my colleagues.

Many of our neighbors are concerned with the influence that shadowy, big-money groups have on our local elections. In this edition of the Larson Report, we will discuss the views of our neighbors and what we can do to stop the avalanche of money flowing into campaigns.


Don't forget to take a look at the 'In Case You Missed It' section for a recap of other major happenings from the last couple of weeks.


As always, please let me know if there are issues important to you that you'd like to see discussed in the newsletter.


In Service,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7


Campaign Integrity Bill Package Would Protect your Vote and Voice

Wisconsin was once a state admired for tough campaign finance laws that protected both our public voice and the integrity of our political process. Those laws have since been eroded by the Wisconsin GOP and are no longer effective. This can clearly be seen by the Wisconsin campaign spending increase from $16,930,606 in 2014 to $28,086,673 in 2016.

It is our right as citizens to have a strong voice in a healthy democracy. We should not be buried by the bags of corporate cash that are now free to be dumped into Wisconsin campaigns. For this reason, I have introduced a Campaign Integrity package that would rectify some of the betrayals on our democracy enacted by Walker and legislative Republicans in 2015.

Before we discuss the details of the package, here's a brief history of campaign finance and its critical importance to our democracy:

Many people today feel that "big money" has too much influence in politics, and that our system of democratic equality is being jeopardized. This perspective was cemented in the minds of people across the United States after our nation began to see the effects of the controversial Citizens United court decision. This ruling stated that government cannot limit independent political spending by corporations or other organizations because they have the same rights as people. This court decision has impacted the United States' political landscape in significant ways. In general, it has made it possible for politics to be a pay-to-play game, as outside spending can, unfortunately, significantly influence local elections and lawmaking. In his dissenting opinion in the Citizens United case, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote, "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold."

Additionally, as shown by referendums that have passed overwhelmingly across Wisconsin in recent years, Wisconsinites agree that individual the current system is not respecting citizens' rights and votes. Changes need to be made to reduce the influence of millionaires and big, corporate spenders on our politicians and political system as a whole. In fact, as of November 2016, 96 communities across the state voted in favor of referendums pertaining to this issue.

Despite broad public concern regarding this issue, Walker and legislative Republicans responded by doing the opposite and passed legislation that weakened campaign disclosure laws, increased campaign contributions limits, and allowed candidates to coordinate with special interest groups that keep their donors secret. This defies the concerns and opinions of our neighbors. As stated by Ken from Milwaukee, "Wisconsin's historic commitment to honest state government should not be destroyed by those who have been bought by moneyed special interests."

Campaign Integrity Package Unveiled
Given the attacks on our democracy and the rapid moves to legalize corruption by Walker and legislative Republicans, my colleagues and I held a press conference to unveil a 'Campaign Integrity' package that promotes open and transparent government. The Campaign Integrity package is a series of eight clean campaign bills that would put Wisconsin back on the right side of history.

See a video of the press conference, here.

These bills are backed by advocates for clean and transparent government, including the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and Common Cause in Wisconsin. These nonpartisan watchdog groups were among the first to sound the alarm over the danger of the Republican gutting of our Chapter 11 campaign finance laws. In fact, the Campaign Integrity package reflects some of the most egregious problems with our campaign finance laws that these groups have identified.

Continuing to let powerful special interest groups and wealthy corporations have a financial stranglehold on Wisconsin elections is a betrayal of our shared values, and jeopardizes our democracy. The Campaign Integrity package will restore our neighbors' faith in our democracy and promote fairness in our campaign finance rules.

Here's a summary of the proposals included in the Campaign Integrity package:

  • LRB-1290 -- "The Sensible Limits Act"
    This proposal limits contributions to PACs, legislative campaign committees, and political parties to no more than $10,000, with the exception of a candidate contributing his or her personal funds to his or her own candidate committee. The proposal also prohibits political parties and legislative campaign committees from establishing a segregated fund to use for general purposes, which eliminates the segregated fund shell game that has allowed these groups to avoid donation limits.
  • LRB-1291 -- "10K Limit Act"
    This proposal will decrease the individual and candidate committee contribution limit from $20,000 to $10,000 for statewide candidates.
  • LRB-1292 -- "Limiting Special Interest Influence Act"
    This proposal reduces the donation limits on political action committee contributions to candidates by half. The limits under the proposal are generally the same as those that applied to political action committee contributions before the 2015 legislation that radically increased the financial influence of special interest groups and their political action committees.
  • LRB-1293 -- "Closing the PAC Loophole Act"
    This proposal closes a loophole in the legal definition of a PAC that groups use to bypass donation limits. Currently, a political action committee is defined a person (other than an individual) whose major purpose is express advocacy or who spends more than 50% of their total spending in a 12-month period on supporting or defeating a referendum or contributing to a candidate committee, legislative campaign committee, or political party. This proposal defines a political action committee, for campaign finance purposes, as a committee that includes a person (other than an individual) who spends more than $1,000 in a 12-month period on expenditures for express advocacy or any other aforementioned purposes.
  • LRB-1294 -- "Issue Ad Reporting Act"
    Senator Erpenbach has been a campaign finance reform champion and no reform package would be complete without his proposal to require transparency in political communications. Last session this bill was Senate Bill 201 and Senator Erpenbach has successfully passed this measure once through the Senate already.
  • LRB-1295 -- "Coordination Control Act"
    This proposal places the same financial limits on coordinated expenditures between candidates and groups as are currently in place for direct contributions. Allowing unchecked coordinated campaign expenditures circumvents campaign donation limits, inviting corruption and immense special interest influence.
  • LRB-1296 -- "No Corporate Campaign Bribes Act"
    This proposal amends Wisconsin State Statutes to prohibit a corporation, cooperative association, labor organization, or federally recognized American Indian Tribe from making contributions to segregated funds established and administered by a political party or legislative campaign committee. This closes the segregated fund shell game loophole used to funnel additional money to committees.
  • LRB-1297 -- "Transparency for Campaign Contributions Act"
    This proposal requires any committee that receives campaign finance contributions of more than $100 cumulatively from an individual to report that individualís place of employment and occupation, if any. Current Wisconsin law does not require the disclosure of any donor's place of employment, and only requires the reporting of the donor's occupation at the '$200 and up' level.

Strong Campaign Finance Laws have History of Bipartisan Support in Wisconsin
For years, legislators from both sides of the aisle have publicly stated their profound support for open and transparent spending in our local elections.

In fact, in 1997, then-State Representative Scott Walker released a statement detailing his intentions to introduce legislation to require out-of-state political action committees to file reports with the state in order to show the source of funds in Wisconsin campaigns.

Here's a telling section of the statement, "In 1996, we saw one of the most elaborate money laundering schemes in history," said Walker, "Wisconsin voters have a right to know the source of all the money being poured into the state from Washington, D.C.. and beyond."

Fast-forward to 2013, and you'll find another bipartisan push for increased campaign finance disclosure. Former Republican Senator Mike Ellis and Democratic campaign finance champion Jon Erpenbach introduced a bill to require disclosure of any communication within 60 days of an election that mentions a candidate (Issue Ad Reporting Act).

As noted by a Cap Times news article, several Republicans lawmakers, including Sheila Harsdorf, former Senator Dale Schultz, Luther Olsen, Rob Cowles, and Alberta Darling have supported similar bills in the past.

With neighbors in communities around the state voicing their concern that big money is influencing our local elections, it is clear that individuals across the political spectrum want their elected officials to act on this issue. Given the bipartisan support it has garnered, ranging from the governor to senior Republican senators to freshmen Democratic legislators, this package of common sense reforms should find its way through the legislative process.


Take Action:

As noted above, both the public and those elected to serve agree on the issue of fair, transparent elections. That said, it is critical that we make sure the Republican-controlled Legislature knows the Campaign Integrity package is a priority. Recently, Neil Heinen, the editorial director for WISC-TV and Madison Magazine, highlighted the importance of citizen action for this package of bills to move in a video, which you can see here.

Here's how you can get involved:

If you live outside of the 7th Senate District, call your senator and representative at (800) 362-9472: Help put Wisconsin back on the right side of history by ensuring our local elections are open and transparent. Contact Senator Chris Larson at (608) 266-7505 by 5 p.m. June 21 to let him know you want to sign on as a co-sponsor to the Campaign Integrity package.

If you are in the 7th Senate District, please feel free to call or email me and share why ensuring integrity in our elections is important to you. You can call my office at (608) 266-7505 or email me at Sen.Larson@Legis.WI.Gov. 


In Case You Missed It
Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
  • Senate GOP Okays Putting Health and Safety of Public at Risk
    On Wednesday, the State Senate passed legislation that undermines important consumer health and safety standards and jeopardizes business and economic development. Senate Bills 108 and 109 put our neighbors at risk of exposure to contagious diseases, parasites, and blood-borne pathogens.

    Further, these bills eliminate the basic requirement of continuing education for these professionals and remove the requirement that instructors of cosmetology are even licensed to teach in their field. By passing these irresponsible bills, we are putting our family, friends, and neighbors in harmís way due to the potential spread of bad practices and the health risks that this brings.

    As elected officials, we have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of those we represent. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans betrayed this sacred trust by passing Senate Bill 108 and Senate Bill 109.
  • Rushed Voucher Bill Passes GOP-led Senate
    Last week, the Senate Committee on Education rushed through a bill regarding unaccountable voucher schools (Senate Bill 293). Even though the hearing on the bill was scheduled with barely 24 hours' notice, the committee also scheduled a vote on the bill the same day. Less than a week later, this bill was rapidly jammed through the full Senate.

    It's like we are arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as we continue to vote on minor technical changes to a program that, for over 25 years, has failed to achieve what it initially promised. At the end of the day, Senate Bill 293 is about making life easier for for-profit voucher schools, rather than ensuring that all of our children receive a quality education.

    As the ranking Democratic member on the Senate Education Committee, I appreciate that those in control of the State Legislature have finally listened to Democrats and concerned community members by implementing background checks. However, this legislation still does not go far enough to protect the over $500 million in tax money that is being poured into these businesses that continue to skirt accountability.

    In an effort to increase transparency within the voucher program, I offered an amendment that would have ensured our neighbors know exactly how much of their hard-earned tax dollars are going to the unaccountable voucher program, as well as an amendment to stop the irresponsible, rapid expansion of this failed program.

    I am disappointed that the GOP-controlled Senate rejected common sense and rushed through another bill that
    fails to do enough to ensure true accountability within a growing, unaccountable system. See a video with more information on this topic, here.

  • Democrats Call on Walker to Join Bipartisan U.S. Climate Alliance
    Trump was Wisconsin this week. With his visit, our neighbors are reminded of the president's recent, irresponsible decision to reject facts, science, and the Paris Climate Agreement.

    Climate change is real, it is happening, and we must participate in, if not lead the worldwide efforts to combat it.

    That's why 35 State Representatives and 11 State Senators sent a letter yesterday calling on Governor Walker to have Wisconsin to join the bipartisan United States Climate Alliance and recommit our state to our tradition of conservation by developing and implementing a state-based plan to fight climate change.

    Understanding that the U.S. must continue to play a significant role in addressing climate change; state and local governments across our nation are pledging to honor the Paris accord and promising to continue taking the lead in mitigating climate change.

    Wisconsin should not fall behind the rest of the world due to an erratic and shortsighted decision by a president desperate to distract from the growing cloud of illegitimacy surrounding him.

    Further, given the recent reports on Wisconsin's dismal slump in job creation, we cannot afford to reject both the economic opportunity that green jobs would bring to Wisconsin and the moral obligation of taking a stand to address climate change. Read the letter sent to Governor Walker, here.
  • Wearing Orange Day June 2
    On June 2, I wore orange for Gun Violence Awareness Day, and also spoke with other elected officials and neighbors at a local legislative update meeting. One of our neighbors brought up the importance of common sense gun legislation.

    One topic that came up was the epidemic of gun violence in Wisconsin. Across our state, Republican legislators continue to face public anger and outrage as they make excuses for pushing the dangerous Permitless Concealed Carry bill that recently had a public hearing in a Senate Committee.

    Some Republican legislators are finding themselves on the wrong side of public opinion. In fact, in a poll conducted by Everytown and Moms Demand Action -- Wisconsin found that 91% of our neighbors favor current, minimal training requirements for those wishing to carry a concealed gun. How can they be so against public safety? Sadly, it's not hard to connect the dots. Gun manufacturers and gun advocacy groups like the NRA have a death grip on Republican politics in our state. Their puppeteer influence is troubling. Take a look at this article by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Democracy Campaign titled, "NRA Behind GOP Bill on Guns with No Permits"

    The article states, "In Wisconsin, the NRA has spent about $3.6 million since January 2008 on outside electioneering activities to support GOP and conservative legislative and statewide candidates, including about $23,400 on the legislative elections last fall. Nearly all of the NRA's electioneering spending, about $3.5 million, was to support Walker's 2010 general, 2012 recall and 2014 general elections for governor."

    Sadly this is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

    It's past time state leaders take a stand against the bully tactics of the gun manufacturers and their lobby groups. At the very foundation of the Constitution, we are all guaranteed the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Each of our neighbors deserves to live in safe, prosperous communities free of the fear of gun violence.

    Instead of diminishing public safety, we must enact common-sense proposals like universal background checks and gun locks sold with handguns to prevent accidental child deaths.
  • Assembly GOP Anti-Education Scheme 
    Republican representatives recently released final details of an education budget scheme that continues a dangerous pattern of shortchanging our kids.

    After historic cuts and years of intentional underfunding, the GOP is again pushing a K-12 budget that dismally fails to address the crippling lack of resources for our neighborhood schools. In fact, this latest proposal cuts $70 million from Walker's already watered down funding plan. It even infringes on the right of our local communities to make up for the lack of state investments by forcing more regulations on how school districts can raise local funds through referendums. Our kids deserve better than this.

    Don't be fooled by the false claims and slick advertising of the anti-education GOP. We can invest more in education, keep a low revenue limit, and keep taxes down for our neighbors. The governor and GOP lawmakers are so busy believing their false narrative that they are completely ineffective. Their failure to govern is a clear indication that they should step aside and let others lead.

    There are solid alternatives to the GOP's faulty policy like Superintendent Evers' budget request, which fairly invests in our children's future while holding the line on taxes. There are better options for our kids to ensure fair opportunities and strong communities. See the plan in more detail, here.

Events in our Community 

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.


Summer Soulstice Festival and 1st Annual Concert
Saturday, June 17, 2017, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Project 313 will be onstage at 3 p.m. and Rhythm Method will play from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Help Oak Creek kick off summer on Saturday, June 17, at Drexel Town Square because great music, friends, and food are good for the soul! CLICK HERE for more information.

Wednesday, June 21, 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Kids of all ages are welcome to come to the South Milwaukee Public Library to play with LEGOs as part of their summer reading program. Visit the South Milwaukee Public Library website for more activities throughout the summer.


9th Annual Garden Tour
Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Come to the South Milwaukee Historical Society Museum to tour seven gardens and purchase hand-crafted garden items made by local artisans. The tour will be held rain or shine. Advance tickets are $8 or $10 the day of. For more information or to purchase tickets contact Patti Bergeson at 414-768-9549 or or Vicki Maloney at 414-530-6020 or

Art in the Park

Every 2nd Saturday through September, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Every second Saturday from May through September come enjoy over 50 rotating artists, live music, and art workshops for children. Food and refreshments for visitors will be available as they enjoy the spring weather and fine art. This year BVAP will be held in Humboldt Park and will offer free admission, making it a wonderful local event for the whole family! CLICK HERE for more information.

Jazz in the Park

Thursdays June 1 through August 31, 2017
Jazz in the Park is a weekly event featuring a wide array of musicians that takes place in Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park. Concerts will start at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, but people are encouraged to come socialize and enjoy happy hour beginning at 5 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

Cathedral Square Market

Saturdays June 3 through October 7, 2017, 9 a.m. to 1p.m.
The Cathedral Square Market exhibits local vendors of items ranging from baked goods to clothing. Held every Saturday morning, the market is opportune to learn about and soak up the local culture. CLICK HERE for more information.

Chill on the Hill
Tuesdays, June through August from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Bay View is home to Humboldt Park, which features a beautiful band shell specially designed for acoustic excellence. Bay View neighbors gather on the vast hillside above the band shell to enjoy music performed by local musicians. Bay View Neighborhood Association puts on Chill on the Hill in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks. Bring your own food and drink or patronize one of the many excellent food vendors that set up at Chill each week. For more information, including parking info, CLICK HERE.

Hot Summer Milwaukee -- Find fun summer learning for your kids!

Looking for some fun and educational programs for your child this summer? Hot Summer Milwaukee is a collaborative, communitywide effort to expand and promote fun summer learning opportunities for kids in the Milwaukee area. Through, families can be connected with summer schools, community programs, and fun events in their neighborhood that will keep your child engaged throughout the summer months. Sign up for classes or enroll your child in campÖ all in one place!
CLICK HERE for more information.


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

(608) 266 7505
(800) 361-5487

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