Larson Report 
With Change Comes a New Opportunity for Wisconsin

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to continue to serve in the State Senate. I am very grateful to have won re-election and I look forward to serving each of my constituents whether you voted for me or not. I am humbled by your faith in me as your State Senator and I will continue to fight for us in the State Legislature. I know that when we work together as neighbors, we create a community and state where we look out for each other.
I hope you and your family are doing well and enjoying our beautiful Wisconsin fall!
As you know, at the beginning of the summer I had to suspend the Larson Report due to laws governing the campaign season. I am thrilled that we can now again resume regular publication as the long, and sometimes contentious, campaign season has finally come to an end. 
Thanks to the strength of our ideas and the power of our proposals, change has come to Wisconsin. I am very excited that we will be working with Governor-elect Tony Evers in the next legislative session to bring balance back to Wisconsin. Though I would've liked to have seen a change in the State Senate as well, I am hopeful that with Governor-elect Evers we will see less extreme laws written and a more balanced approach to governing. Below I will lay out some of my priorities for the coming legislative session and I believe that we will see real compromise and equity in the legislature. I believe we can find common-ground when it comes to changing the culture of drinking and driving in Wisconsin, providing more opportunities for disabled workers, finding solutions for public education funding, and finally fixing our local roads. It will now be the job of the Republican majority in the State Senate and Assembly to come to the table and work on bipartisan bills that will make Wisconsin a more fair place for all residents. 
Despite Tony Evers, Josh Kaul, and Tammy Baldwin sweeping the top of ticket the big winner in Wisconsin continues to be our incredibly gerrymandered legislative districts. It is impossible to ignore the harmful effect that these maps have had on our democracy; damage that we can now begin to undo. A perfect illustration of the effectiveness of this gerrymander is the fact that Tammy Baldwin won her state-wide election with 55.4% of the vote, Tony Evers won with 49.6%, and Josh Kaul won with 49.4%, yet, Democrats only hold 42% of the State Senate and 36% of the State Assembly. In fact, one court has already ruled that Wisconsin's legislative maps are unconstitutional. This is why we must prioritize non-partisan redistricting reform as one of the first pieces of legislation taken up next session.

 

In Service, 

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Chris Larson 
State Senator
7th District

 Priorities for the Coming Legislative Session


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Making Public Education a Top Priority Again

Over the past eight years, $1 billion has been cut from our neighborhood public schools and $183 million still remains unrestored. This deficit represents giving up smaller class sizes for more focused education, cutting special education programs that kids desperately need, and an increased burden on the local tax-base when they are called on to fill the gaps. During the campaign Governor-elect Tony Evers made the case for increasing public school funding by $1.4 billion. This would return Wisconsin to its reputation as a "best in the nation" state when it comes to public education.   I look forward to working with Governor-elect Evers to ensure that this gap is filled and that our public schools are made whole again.

By not adequately funding our schools, over the past eight years Walker-Republicans have forced local school boards to go, hat-in-hand, to the local tax base and beg for funding through budget referendums to make up the difference. We must commit ourselves to adequately funding each of our school districts based on their needs. It is an abdication of our duty to allow our schools to go underfunded and our children to go under served.

An unsustainable model: While over $1 billion has been cut from public schools over the last eight years, Wisconsin taxpayers have been required to spend $1.31 billion on private voucher school funding. The fact is, the unaccountable voucher system has grown year-after-year at the urging of special interest lobbyists while at the same time funds get pulled away from rural and urban public school kids.Voucher schools perform no better than public schools but instead divide scarce resources. We need to address this fundamental inequity. A strong public school is the foundation for many neighborhood communities and they deserve to have the peace of mind of secure and sustained funding.

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Talking with students about the importance of government

In the last legislative session Democrats put forward many bills that would improve the quality of public education in Wisconsin. 

I authored a bill that would provide community-school start up grants (SB 282). These community schools would be public schools that focus on improving student learning, strengthening families, and developing healthier communities by working with community partners to provide wrap-around support services to pupils, their families, and the community. This bill was never even allowed a public hearing in the Committee on Education.

Senate Bill 329 was a bipartisan bill that would've created grants for character training for teachers, principals, and school district administrators. This training would teach our educators how to instill a "do the right thing" ethic in students. This training is designed to help with graduation rates, student test scores, attendance rates, and a reduction in violence in our schools. This bill did actually pass through the Committee on Education but was never brought up for a full vote in front of the senate.    

Senate Bill 211 was another great bill offered by Democrats to help our public schools. This bill would have increased state aid to public schools for special education. Our public schools take all students and some of those students require a more specialized education. This bill would have provided our public schools with the resources they need to continue providing a high level of specialized services. This bill was also never granted a public hearing in the Committee on Education and died at the end of session.

All of these proposals were blocked from passage in the last session. It is my hope that when we come back for our next regular legislative session, we will be able find common ground and pass many of these proposals. It is clear that Wisconsin voters have asked us to work together and find compromise and I am excited to work with Governor-elect Evers on education policy.          

 Protecting Our Shared Environment

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   Peninsula State Park, Door County Wisconsin      

We must again restore Wisconsin's reputation as a conservation leader for the nation. It is time to take a serious look at restoring the dangerous environmental rollbacks enacted over the last eight years. First, we must take steps to demand that Foxconn meet basic environmental protection guidelines should they operate in Wisconsin. We can not afford to continue down the path of recklessly damaging our shared environment in the name of corporate greed. I look forward to working with Governor-elect Evers to make sure that Foxconn is a responsible steward of Lake Michigan and that their environmental impact to our land and air is as minimal as possible.

We must restore Wisconsin's "Prove it first" Law. During the last legislative session Republicans repealed Wisconsin's commonsense "prove it first" law that required sulfide mining applicants to prove a mine can operate for 10 years and be closed for 10 years without polluting the local water and land before the applicant is allowed to start mining. When Republicans repealed this law they left our valuable natural resources vulnerable to toxic pollution. We must reinstate this protection before it is too late. So far, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has revived no inquiries from mining companies looking to expand into Wisconsin.

During the election on Tuesday, November 6th, residents of Oneida County in northern Wisconsin voted on a referendum asking whether the county should allow leasing of county land in the Town of Lynne for mining after conducting due diligence. A staggering 62% were opposed to this idea.

Enacting Commonsense Gun Reform

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Empty shoes at the Capitol representing gun deaths in Wisconsin  

No mother or father should have to wonder if their child will come home again when they send them to school. Again, this year we saw story after horrible story of the plague of gun violence in America. You may be shocked to learn that no laws or rules have changed federally or statewide to stem gun violence. The inaction by the state and federal governments to do anything to prevent these shootings is truly heartbreaking. I know that we can not continue to simply offer hollow thoughts and prayer when what is needed is action and solutions.

Individuals recently convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors must be prevented from purchasing and possessing firearms. We know that violence tends to escalate and when domestic abusers are allowed to buy and possess firearms there can be tragic results. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation, increases the chance of homicide by 500%. We can no longer allow dangerously violent people to purchase and own deadly firearms. This is just commonsense. If you have committed a domestic violence crime you should not be able to posses a gun regardless if that crime was a felony or misdemeanor. 

Require universal background checks for all gun purchases. Most of our neighbors are shocked to find out this isn’t already the law. Background checks keep guns out of the hands of those who legally can't own them. We need to finally close the "Gun-Show Loophole" that allows for dangerous people to circumvent background checks in Wisconsin. This loophole allows a person who would never pass a background check at a licensed gun dealer to purchase a gun from a "private seller," like at a gun show. This would be like allowing a person under the age of 21, to buy hard alcohol at a garage sale or through Craigslist. It makes no sense and defies logic.

Reinstating the 48 hour waiting period for handgun purchases would help prevent tragedy. This cooling off period would reduce both homicides and suicides. Republicans eliminated the waiting period choosing to curry favor with gun manufacturers and the NRA rather than protect our neighbors. We can reinstate this waiting period and help to save lives in Wisconsin.

Drunk Driving Culture in Wisconsin

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Press conference announcing a bill to require interlock devices for all drunk drivers  

The use of ignition interlock devices (IIDs) has shown to be successful in changing offenders’ behavior. Wisconsin has the most lax drunken driving laws in the nation and consequently we have some of the worst drunken driving rates in the nation. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving the average person drives drunk 80 times before their first arrest and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignition interlock devices reduce drunk driving recidivism by 67% when they are installed on vehicles of offenders. These devices help separate drinking from driving and are proven effective in stopping drunk driving. I will again support legislation that would require interlock devices for all drunk driving offenses including the first offense. This legislation’s purpose is to increase the accountability of offenders in order to change the culture and behavior of drinking and driving in Wisconsin. Most families in Wisconsin have been hurt by drunken driving and it is time for a serious change to ensure no more lives are lost unnecessarily.

Getting Money out of Our Politics

Government should not work for the highest bidder. We must lessen the influence of money in our politics. Like you, I was amazed at the amount of money spent in this last election. We had the "battle of the billionaires" in the GOP US Senate primary race and millions spent on the governors race. Between "dark money, " Political Action Committees (PAC), and ultra wealthy donors, the average Wisconsinite is being priced out of having a say in their own government. The latest estimates have $50 million being spent by outside groups on the U.S Senate and Gubernatorial races in Wisconsin alone. And that's not counting the money the campaigns spent themselves.

We can reinstate reasonable restrictions on political contributions and once again require an honest measure of transparency. At the very least, people in Wisconsin deserve to know exactly who is trying to buy their government. 

  1. We should limit contributions to PACs, legislative campaign committees, and political parties to $10,000 per entity.
  2. Close the PAC Loophole in the legal definition of a PAC that groups use to bypass donation limits. 
  3. Require any committee that receives campaign finance contributions of more than $100 cumulatively from an individual to report that individual’s place of employment and occupation. Current Wisconsin law does not require the disclosure of a donor’s place of employment, and it only requires the reporting of the donor’s occupation at the $200-and-up level.

 

          

Beware the lame duck! 
Between now and January 7th, the Republicans and Governor Walker have a last-ditch opportunity to pass legislation while they still hold all state government without the scrutiny of the voters. This is commonly known as a "lame duck" session. 
As Republicans failed to pass their corporate giveaway to Kimberly-Clark last session, and then failed to pass it again over the summer, they promised to pass it during a Lame Duck session when they could no longer be held accountable by voters. With the election of Governor-elect Evers, Republicans should abandon the foolish plan to giveaway vast amounts of tax dollars to a profitable corporation
What we are seeing here is the Foxconn chickens coming home to roost. When Governor Walker, and legislative Republicans showed their willingness to spend unprecedented billions of taxpayer dollars on the bad Foxconn deal, they opened the door for any other corporation to demand the same, unprecedented giveaway of public cash and resources. Legislative Republicans should respect the will of the people and nix this corporate payoff now.

It is also possible for the Republicans in control now to make it harder for Governor-elect Evers to do the job he was elected to do. We have seen reports that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos wants to move to limit the power of the Governor's office during the lame duck session as a way to usurp the will of the voters this election. Now is not the time for partisan trickery and gamesmanship. We must take this opportunity to come together and find compromise. We should not be starting out on the wrong foot going into the next legislative session. I would urge Speaker Vos to walk back this kind of rhetoric, listen to what the voters of Wisconsin have told us, and work with Governor-elect Evers.  

 
Take Action

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The election may be over, but there are still actions you can take to remain civically engaged leading into the next legislative session. After an election it is still important to fight for the issues that are important to you.

What issue is most important you? Regardless of your opinion on the results of the election, make sure that your legislators are working for you in Madison. If I am not your State Senator, I urge you to contact either your newly elected legislators or the ones you’ve known for years and ask them to represent your values in Wisconsin, including affordable health care for all, commonsense gun laws, environmental protections, and quality public education. Find out who represents you HEREJust type your address in the search bar at the top of the screen. Make your voice heard!

Events in the 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. 

It's the most dazzling time of year downtown - The Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival is returning for its 20th year! Kick off the season on Thursday, November 15 at Pere Marquette Park with a holiday variety show and the city's largest switch-flipping ceremony. November 15 – January 1st.

 

The Milwaukee Winter Farmers Market (MWFM) brings together about 50 weekly vendors in the Greenhouse Annex at the Mitchell Park Domes. There, agricultural vendors offer high quality fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Local food vendors also bring a wide variety of freshly baked goods, jams, cider, honey, maple syrup, sauces and soups, as well as delicious global cuisine. Saturdays 8am to noon. November 3 – March 30th Click Here for more info.

 

 

Travel Around the World at the 75th Annual Holiday Folk Fair International. Holiday Folk Fair International, America’s premier multicultural festival and a program of the International Institute of Wisconsin, celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin. You can explore the ways music, food, dance, and art weave together a message of welcome. November 16th – November 18th at State Fair Park