Larson Report 

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope you are having a great week. I had a great time catching up with you at the Bay View Bash last weekend!

Last week, the Legislature moved forward with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. On top of that, the GOP pushed through the biggest spending state budget in our state's history. 

Democrats fought hard to make sure that our shared values were debated. We tried to add common sense restraints on out-of-control spending and make sure that our neighbors' concerns were heard. Keep reading for details on what happened in the state Capitol last week. 

In Service, 


Fighting for Wisconsin's Shared Values in the State Budget

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Each of us deserves to live in a safe community, where everyone plays by the same set of rules. We all should have the opportunity to achieve the American Dream of prosperity. These were the core values that Democrats fought for as we took up the Trump/Walker/Foxconn scheme as well as the biggest state budget in Wisconsin's history. 

We all are deeply concerned about our communities and our children’s future. Wisconsin families, friends, and neighbors are being left behind by Walker and state Republicans. Whereas my Democratic colleagues and I proposed ideas to strengthen our communities, reward hard work, and invest in our kids’ future, Republicans in the Senate sold Wisconsin out to the highest bidder and tipped the scales in order to benefit their wealthy friends. Overall, the state budget is a $76 billion betrayal of our values and is a further slide away from where the great state of Wisconsin once was.

Democrats put forward several ideas that would support Wisconsin working families by restoring the desperately needed funds that have been slashed from our kids’ schools the last few years, protecting our tax dollars by holding voucher schools accountable, and creating common sense paths to economic security.

In addition, our budget amendments would have protected our Wisconsin children from being poisoned by lead by investing in solutions to replace lead pipes in Wisconsin. We also would have provided greater health care security for our neighbors at no cost to the state through our BadgerCare buy-in amendment.

Another amendment would have protected our neighbors’ personal data, by letting them keep it private from internet providers that can currently sell it without consumers knowing about it. Another amendment would have helped families struggling with opioid addiction and hold companies accountable for not acting to prevent addiction. Another amendment would have restored integrity in our elections, a Wisconsin tradition that has crumbled under Walker and the GOP majority. 

Not only did each of these common sense amendments get rejected by the Republican majority, they largely refused to even defend their votes. Of the 20 Republicans in the Senate less than a third spoke to defend their positions. Below, you'll find a summary of these amendments and why Democrats fought for them.

Fixing the 'Values Deficit' in our Classrooms 

How we choose to invest in our children is one of the most critical parts of our state budget. I strongly believe one of the core pillars of what makes Wisconsin a great state is our dedication to a high-quality education system, where every child has access to a quality education. It's such a part of who we are that it's actually in our state Constitution. Wisconsin must renew this value of supporting our local public schools, as it is crucial to strengthening our communities and state. 

The budget, crafted by the Republican majority, continues to shortchange our children. After nearly $1 billion in historic cuts to the K-12 system, the Republican majority has chosen to continue their attack on our public schools by failing to make them whole.  At $76 billion, the overall budget is the largest in state history. The anemic amount that went to the K-12 budget continues to shortchange the future of our kids and grandkids.

The negative effects shown by this continued ‘values deficit’ in education go counter to Wisconsin’s proud heritage. For the first time in modern history, Wisconsin has dropped below the national average for per-child funding. Rejecting our responsibility and constitutional commitment as a state to adequately fund our local schools is a dangerous betrayal of a generational promise that has brought prosperity to our state in the past. 

Our schools must be a priority and be adequately and fairly funded, and that is what Democrats proposed through an amendment that, specifically, would have:

  • Strengthened our Investment in Education
    Under our amendment, every single one of our Wisconsin school districts would have seen a stronger investment, allowing them to ensure our kids reach their full potential and have a shot at the American Dream. Not only would the Dem plan have put an additional $514 million in the general aid formula and more equally invest in districts, but it would have also saved local taxpayers $25 million by increasing state support of local roads. 

  • Supported Students with Special Needs 
    The end of the 2017-19 budget will mark the tenth consecutive year that special education aid will be held flat. Costs associated with educating students with disabilities have increased over time, resulting in an overall decrease in the average reimbursement rate the state provides to school districts. The first year this reimbursement rate was established was in 1980, at 66.1%. In the 1999-2000 school year, reimbursement rates were 34.3%. For the 2014-15 school year, the rate fell to just 26.8% of costs. The amendment proposed by Senate Democrats would have put almost $90 million into special education to ensure all students receive a quality education. 

  • Put more Money into Actually Teaching our Kids 
    Parents and concerned community members want to know that money being spent on education is actually going toward ensuring our kids are getting a well-rounded education. Our amendment would have restored $500 million in local revenue authority so districts can actually use increased state investments for actual classroom instruction. It would have also repealed the 'Cereal Box' License created in the state budget that paves the way for an online licensing program with extremely low standards. 

View my Senate floor comments about investing in our kids, here. 

Holding Voucher Schools Accountable

Each and every one of our kids deserves a school that is fully able to meet their needs and that will provide them with a quality education. During the budget process, when fewer people have a chance to see or weigh in on details, Republicans again increased the income eligibility for the statewide voucher program. This means less money going to our neighborhood schools as even more cash is funneled away to private, unaccountable institutions for people who can afford it without a state subsidy.

The Democratic Voucher Accountability amendment sought to:

  • Keep our Kids Safe 
    Our amendment would have ensured the same level of teacher transparency and accountability that we expect from public schools. It would have done this by requiring all instructional staff of private schools participating in a choice program hold a license or permit issued by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) as well as by administering a stronger background check process for teachers and other staff and volunteers. The amendment would have also offered due process for expelled students, banned corporal punishment, and ensured schools met building safety standards.  

  • Help All Kids to Achieve their Best 
    Democrats believe that each of our kids deserve a right to personalized instruction and the chance to achieve their personal best. Our amendment would have provided access to crucial resources for our kids, such as assessing reading readiness to students in 4-year-old kindergarten through 2nd grade and creating similar graduation requirements for voucher students as public school students. 

  • Protect our Tax Dollars 
    Amendments offered by Senate Democrats would have provided communities the opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to allow for private voucher schools in their neighborhood through a referendum. Additionally, our amendments would have capped enrollment so that private voucher schools would only be able to have 49% of their students receiving vouchers and specify that the total number of pupils residing in a district who can participate in the statewide choice program would be limited to no more than 2% of the district's prior year membership in 2017-18 and thereafter.

View my Senate floor comments about real voucher school accountability, here. 

Keeping our Kids from Being Lead Poisoned 

Each of us deserves to live in a healthy, safe community. Over the past few decades, there has been significant research into how harmful lead exposure is for both children and adults. Lead pipes are a poison quietly devastating Wisconsin neighborhoods. Wisconsin should prioritize preventing lead poisoning in our children. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), our state would save $7 billion if the threat of lead poisoning was eliminated. This includes savings in medical care, special education, and even crime reduction among adults and youth. It is embarrassing that this Governor and legislature have not already taken swift action to meaningfully tackle this threat, which is why Senate Democrats again fought to address this critical issue in the state budget. 

Our Lead Abatement Amendment would have invested lifesaving resources to fund lead abatement through the Department of Natural Resources as well as:

  • Offer Financial Incentives to Fix Lead Pipes 
    Our amendment would have created a non-refundable state income tax credit of up to $200 annually for up to 10 years for private homeowner costs related to a municipally mandated replacement of their lead service line.

  • Incentivize Water Utility Revenue to Help Pay for Abatement 
    Under the Democratic amendment, water utility rate revenue would have been allowed to pay for the replacement of the privately owned portion of lead service lines, water filters and other public health measures.

  • Give Flexibility to Local Governments 
    The Lead Abatement Amendment would have allowed a municipality to create a municipal fee for lead abatement and exempt the proceeds of that fee from expenditure restraint and levy limits.

View my Senate floor comments on fixing the lead pipe crisis in Wisconsin, here. 

Providing Health Care Security for our Neighbors

Our family, friends, and neighbors want more access to health care and financial security, not less. Unfortunately, over and over our neighbors have been betrayed and ignored, at their expense. Our neighbors deserve to be able to go to the doctor when they get sick and to be able to afford the care they receive. For too long, we've been subject to an overpriced, unfair health care system.

Democrats offered simple amendments to be able to strengthen our health care system and offer more health care security for our neighbors by:

  • Opening up more Coverage Options for Wisconsinites 
    This amendment would have directed the Department of Health Services (DHS) to submit a waiver to allow individuals and small businesses to purchase BadgerCare coverage, regardless of income. With this federal approval, our state’s BadgerCare program would be opened up to everyone. This 'public option' for Wisconsinites would allow people of any income level to purchase reliable, basic health care coverage. 

  • Making sure Health Care is Affordable 
    Our amendment would have also required DHS to request a waiver to allow those receiving coverage through the BadgerCare buy-in to have access to the same premiums supports that are available through the Marketplace to ensure our neighbors are getting the best deal for their health and wallets. 

  • Being Responsible with your Hard-earned Tax Dollars 
    According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, this type of program would not cost the state anything. BadgerCare is a popular, successful, and cost-effective program that allows the state to use its buying power to negotiate lower prescription drug prices and services. This means dramatically lower out-of-pocket costs and premiums. Further, creating this public option for BadgerCare would not come at an additional cost to the state. More quality, affordable health care choices for our families is a win-win for Wisconsin.

Ensuring your Personal Information is Safe

Everyone deserves the security of knowing their private information is not being captured and sold without their knowledge. Given the sudden federal rollback on our online privacy protections by the Trump administration, this is an issue that many of our neighbors are growing increasingly concerned about. Currently, an internet provider could sell your personal information, data you entered on a website, as well as your entire private browsing history without your permission or knowledge. 

Democrats proposed amendments to increase access to broadband throughout the state, while also ensuring that our personal information remains personal by: 

  • Giving Consumers Rights to their Information 
    This amendment would have prohibited an internet service provider from using, disclosing, or permitting access to a customer’s proprietary information unless the customer approves it.

  • Holding Internet Service Providers Accountable 
    The Internet Privacy Amendment would have required providers to take reasonable security measures to protect proprietary customer information from unauthorized use, disclosure, or access. 

  • Protecting your Personal Data 
    Offering stronger protections for sensitive personal information, such as financial or health information or information pertaining to a child. For non-sensitive information, the customer must object to the provider’s request to use, disclose, or permit access to that information.

I have also introduced a bill to protect your personal information. You can view this bill -- Senate Bill 233 -- by clicking here. 

Fighting Opioid Addiction 

Too many of our loved ones are falling prey to opioid abuse while others are losing their battle with opioid and heroin addiction. We have a moral obligation to do more to fight this deadly crisis.

Wisconsin needs to invest in resources that support recovery over incarceration; not only in major cities but also in our smaller communities. Senate Democrats offered a crucial budget amendment that would call on Wisconsin's Attorney General, Brad Schimel, to take action in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers who have over-marketed opioids and helped create this public health crisis.

This would allow Wisconsin to join other states already taking this legal action. Under the amendment, use of all funds recovered by the lawsuit would be directed to county and municipal health departments for addiction prevention, recovery services, and intervention services.

Faced with the prospect of saving lives, legislative Republicans chose profits and politics over people by rejecting this amendment.

Instead of taking this common sense approach, the Republican Attorney General has opted to sign onto a do-nothing letter pleading with insurers to review their coverage and payment policies for opioid prescriptions.

Finding alternatives and reducing the amount opioids prescribed is a life-or-death, nonpartisan issue.

The current Republican plan fails to make our families, friends, and communities safer and healthier.

Wisconsin deserves better.

Restoring our Campaign Finance Integrity
It is our right as citizens to have a strong voice in a healthy democracy and not to be silenced and buried by the bags of corporate special interest money being dumped into Wisconsin campaigns. As shown by the 105 communities across the state voting in favor of referendums across Wisconsin in recent years, Wisconsinites from Caledonia to Monona agree that 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 politicians and our political system as a whole.

Despite broad public concern and advocacy regarding this issue, the party in control has done the opposite and greedily passed legislation that weakened campaign disclosure laws, increased campaign contribution limits, and even allowed candidates to coordinate with special interest groups that keep their donors secret.

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 Amendment would have restored our neighbors' faith in our democracy and promoted fairness in our campaign finance rules. It was hastily rejected by the Senate GOP.

You can read more about the Campaign Integrity package of bills I have introduced in a previous Larson Report newsletter by clicking here. 

Moving Forward for our Future  
The Republican majority may think they can continue to betray our shared values and pick profits over the safety, security, and prosperity of our communities, but Democrats are committed to making sure our neighbors are heard. Some of our budget amendments have already been introduced as separate legislation and others will be soon. I will keep you updated on these critical topics and let you know ways you can continue to be involved! 


Take Action! Stop the Trumpcare Scheme

The Trumpcare scheme is back from the dead, and we need to be vigilant in stopping this attack on our health and financial security.

While our neighbors around the country are dealing with hurricanes and other tragedies, federal Republicans are using this time as an opportunity to revive their unpopular scheme to strip away health care from our neighbors. In fact, the U.S. Senate may vote on a Trumpcare proposal as early as next week. 

This bill is even being sponsored by Wisconsin's Ron Johnson and is known as the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill.  

Call Senator Ron Johnson at (202) 224-5323 and Senator Tammy Baldwin at (202) 224-5653 to say:
Access to affordable health care is a right. We cannot go back to a system that puts profit-motivated insurance companies in charge of who gets life-saving care and medicine. Keep the Affordable Care Act! 

In Case You Missed It

Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. 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.

  • Trump/Walker/Foxconn Scheme Signed into Law 
    Our shared Wisconsin values clearly define us as a state that looks to partner with companies that will respect our state’s shared lands and waters, pay our neighbors a living wage, and treat them fairly. Wisconsinites want to ensure companies we invest in have a long-term commitment to our state, so we know they won’t abandon Wisconsin as soon as a new enticement is dangled before them from somewhere else.

    From listening to my neighbors, it is abundantly clear that this proposal is, unfortunately, a bad deal for Wisconsin and betrays the values that we hold dear.

    My Democratic colleagues and I offered common sense protections for our neighbors through amendments that would maintain environmental safeguards and ensure the health and safety of our waters and lands. We also offered an amendment that would have protected Wisconsin workers and taxpayers from being victims of a Foxconn automation ‘bait and switch.’

    At the end of the day, Senate Republicans rejected our common sense protections and were not able to guarantee that our neighbors would not be on the hook for the $3 billion handout included in the Walker/Trump/Foxconn proposal. 

    For these reasons, I stood with Wisconsin families and voted against the largest state taxpayer giveaway to a foreign corporation in U.S. history. Click here for a video of my comments on this proposal on the Senate floor.

  • Wisconsin's 'Prove-it-first' Mining Law at Stake
    A dangerous bill (Senate Bill 395) is moving through the Legislature that would ban Wisconsin's 'prove-it-first' approach to mining, which requires companies interested in mining to actually show, not just say, that sulfide mining for metals and minerals can be done safely. Click here to see a video that details what's at stack is this safeguard is repealed. 

  • Remembering the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks
    I was honored to join local veterans and local elected officials in a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate 9/11 at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center. You can view photos from this remembrance ceremony, here.

  • Dangerous 'Permitless Carry' Bill Voted out of Committee 
    A GOP-led State Senate Committee passed the 'Permitless Carry' bill (Senate Bill 169). The bill would allow just about anyone age 18 or up to carry a hidden, loaded gun with no permit, no background check and no training, even in schools, police stations, and mental health facilities. Click here to see Mayor Barrett's statement on this proposed law. 

  • The State of Education 
    This week, the Superintendent of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Tony Evers, reminded all of Wisconsin of the importance our public schools have in our communities. This annual address comes just days after the passage of the largest budget in our state’s history. Despite spending a record of $76 billion, our kids were not a priority.

    Superintendent Evers reminded us that budget after budget, Republicans in control of our state have failed our children and put their future in jeopardy by intentionally denying them adequate and equitable funding for their education.

    Under Walker and the GOP, our state’s commitment to our neighborhood schools has plummeted. The state budget signed by the governor today marks the second-lowest percentage of state general spending on education of the last 12 state budgets. With the passage of the 2017-2019 state budget Wisconsin has dropped below the national average in per-child funding.

    In his speech, Superintendent Evers recognized the vital role our schools play in ensuring access to the most basic needs: food, reliable transportation, health care, and a supportive environment. If Wisconsin finally accepted our share of the Medicaid expansion, our community schools would be able to offer our children critical services to reduce roadblocks to learning. I applaud his leadership and offer my full support to the effort to provide safe, supportive learning environments for our kids.

    As noted by Superintendent Evers, Wisconsin has a long way to go to restore our schools to the pre-Walker era; however, the citizens of our great state have stepped up along the way.
    Faced with years of budget cuts to our local schools, over a million of our neighbors have voted through referendums to invest more in their local neighborhood schools to offer their children, community, and state the brightest possible future. We are truly stronger together. It is time those in power hear the call of the people and finally realize there is nothing more important than our children. See excerpts of the State of Education speech, here. 
Events in the Community
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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.

DACA & Citizenship Legal Clinic  
Saturday, September 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Come to renew your DACA or apply for US Citizenship if you are a Lawful Permanent Resident. Free and open to the public. Financial help available to pay the $495 DACA renewal fee. Information: 414-491-5483. Remember, DACA recipients whose work permits expire before March 5th, 2018 have until October 5th to apply for DACA renewal. 

Soberalski Immigration Law, LLC
1126 S 70th St
West Allis, WI

Oak Creek Shred Day and Electronics Recycling Event
Saturday, September 23 from 9 a.m. to Noon
Shred Day:
Protect yourself from identity theft! Bring your sensitive and private documents and paper for secure document destruction provided by Shred-It, who will have a self-contained truck that will shred your documents on-site. Limit of six boxes per vehicle, please!

Click here for a complete listing of acceptable and restricted materials. 

Electronics Recycling:
Responsibly dispose of your outdated electronic equipment during this one-day event -- most free of charge. (All Televisions -- any size or type -- require payment of a $20 recycling fee. Cash ONLY! No checks or credit cards.)

Maker Faire Milwaukee
Saturday, September 23 and Sunday, September 24
Maker Faire has grown from its first fair in 2006 in San Francisco to our very own city of Milwaukee. Maker Faire is a family-friendly event that welcomes makers—tech enthusiasts, inventors, crafters, educators, and hobbyists—to share their work and knowledge with the community. From robots to plush toys, Maker Faire sheds light on our creative residents we have here in Wisconsin.

State Fair Park’s Wisconsin Exposition Center
8200 W Greenfield Ave
West Allis, WI 53214.

South Milwaukee Downtown Market
Every Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. until October 12
The city of South Milwaukee is having their Farmer’s Market every Thursday until October. At the market, you can find locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, flowers, and art. With the winter months coming up, be sure to grab some fresh, local produce while you can! The Farmer’s Market is held at the intersection of Milwaukee and 11th Avenues each Thursday.

Doors Open Milwaukee

Saturday, September 23 and Sunday, September 24
Celebrate Milwaukee’s history with behind the scenes tours of more than 150 buildings downtown Milwaukee and surrounding areas. Experience the rich culture, architecture, and history of sites like gardens, breweries, galleries, commercial and residential spaces, and more. 

Milwaukee Film Festival
Thursday, September 28 through Saturday, October 21
Join Milwaukee Film for a 15-day film festival aimed to entertain, educate, and engage the Milwaukee community through film. 

Oriental Theatre
2230 N Farwell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202