Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
It was great to see and talk to you at the St. Francis Days and Labor Fest over the weekend. 

This time of year, there are two things that are on many of our minds: the start of school and preparing for the brisker fall days ahead. Having a quality education system and safeguarding our environment both have profound and lasting impacts on our children and grandchildren. As such, this week's Larson Report will provide an update on how our environment and neighborhood schools will fare with the budget finally expected to come to the Senate next week.

For the parents and teachers out there, I hope you enjoy a smooth transition as you begin the new school year! 

In Service, 

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State Budget Update -- How will our Kids Fare?

Labor Fest I heart public schools for LR.pngReady or not, summer is coming to a close and our kids are back to their studies. The new school year brings new challenges. New classrooms to navigate, new subjects to conquer, and new teachers to navigate them through it all. This year brings an additional challenge: due to the delay by the Republican majority on Wisconsin’s state budget, none of our public schools have their resources set.

Two months past the due date, the Joint Finance committee finally took up the education budget and, as feared, they voted to shortchange our kids once again. Instead of fully investing in our children, Republican members of the budget-writing committee rejected the opportunity to strengthen our investment in our community schools, passing a budget proposal that continues their intentional failure to close the values deficit they created with the deepest education cuts in recent state history. Further, the budget delay means school aid payments are delayed until Governor Walker gets around to signing and/or vetoing their final budget.

Our kids deserve better. A Democratic alternative was put forward that promotes quality education regardless of zip code and ensures the continued strength of our local neighborhood schools. By increasing education spending by $729 million over two years and lowering property taxes by $25 million, Democrats proposed a solid step towards ensuring bright futures for our kids. We believe listening to families, employers, and education professionals is necessary to find the common sense solutions that reflect our Wisconsin values and heritage. Under the plan by legislative Democrats, every single one of our Wisconsin school districts would see a stronger investment, allowing them to ensure our kids reach their full potential and have a shot at the American Dream. You can see an interactive map comparing the Democratic proposal to the governor's and Assembly GOP's proposals, here. 

If the current budget moves forward as projected, students will again have to wait to see all the funds restored from the largest cuts to education in state history. This “values deficit” has already had an impact. 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 to allow them to provide a quality education is a dangerous betrayal of a generational promise that has brought the opportunity for prosperity to our state.

Here in Wisconsin, we used to take care of one another and protect our local communities the best we could. Districts should not be forced to go to local referendum on an annual basis, or rely on short-term borrowing, just to fill in the state funding gap. However, since 2011, that’s what’s happened. Over 40% of our school districts have had to go to their neighbors to close the funding gap through a referendum. Wisconsinites value education and our children and so 70% of these referendums to make up the gap have passed -- but this funding Band-Aid will only get us so far.

Compounding the self-created funding crisis (we’re not broke - Walker has raised spending levels to the highest in state history), taxpayers are also being forced to fund the continued expansion of unaccountable private voucher schools. Republicans sitting on the budget-writing committee chose to again increase 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. These transactions are all done under the taxpayer’s nose without transparency or input by local units of government. This is how the unaccountable voucher system has grown year-after-year: through provisions slipped into the budget at the urging of special interest lobbyists at the same time funds get pulled away from rural and urban public school kids.

We can do better. After talking with neighbors, teachers, and parents, it is clear we are in desperate need of common sense solutions that provide each Wisconsin child an opportunity to receive a quality education.

Our neighbors deserve transparency and to know exactly how much of their money is going to fund private vouchers. Our kids with special needs deserve a quality education, making it imperative that special education rates to school districts be reimbursed at 33%. Our teaching professionals and schools need adequate resources to focus on improving student learning, strengthening families, and working with community partners to provide additional services to families. As we look ahead to the budget being taken up next week in the Senate, I will be working with my colleagues to introduce amendments that will accomplish these goals. 

DNR -- in Need of Resuscitation

Labor Day Parade 2017.pngWisconsin has historically had a deep commitment to protecting our shared environment for our children and grandchildren to enjoy for generations to come. We all value the safety and security that comes with clean and protected water to drink and the economic benefits of having pristine parks and other natural areas.

It's no secret that the Walker administration has been toxic to our shared lands and waters. From multiple attempts to slash our popular stewardship program and cutting Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff to scrubbing state websites of references to human-caused climate change, our once highly regarded reputation of being responsible with our natural areas is fading fast.

To make matters worse, this betrayal of our shared stewardship is spreading to the federal level as Walker's DNR Secretary recently resigned in order to take on a position with the Trump administration at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. As noted by the Kansas City Star editorial board this move could be bad for "your air and water."

A Responsible Way for Conservation
While the pattern of destructive environmental practices has many neighbors are concerned with our future, my colleague Sen. Bob Wirch reminded us -- shortly after the news of the DNR Secretary's resignation broke -- that there are better ways to balance protecting our economic climate and our environmental one. With the governor expected to appoint a new secretary in the coming weeks, we have an important opportunity to re-examine how we currently manage and invest in our wildlife, water, and sporting heritage.

For most of our history, the DNR Secretary was appointed by the Natural Resouces Board -- a group comprised of seven citizen members that set policy practices for the DNR. However, in 1995, the head position at the DNR was changed from being selected by citizen members to being appointed by the governor.  

A bill introduced by Sen. Wirch, which I am proud to co-sponsor, would ensure the quality of our children and grandchildren's air and water is not at the mercy of political influence or party politics. The bill would return Wisconsin to the days of having the DNR Secretary appointed by the members of the Natural Resources Board, which is made up of a full spectrum of environmental stakeholders. We all want the air we breathe to be clean, and the lakes our kids swim in to be free of pollution. Removing partisanship from those who lead our state's top environmental protection agency is a vital step needed to help make sure our future generations live in a pollution-free and safe state. 

This crucial bill, Senate Bill 171, was introduced April 13, 2017, and referred to the Senate Committee on Natural Resouces and Energy, but has not received a public hearing. 

Notably, the DNR Secretary is leaving right as the Department is poised to take on a major role in the oversight of the Walker/Trump/Foxconn proposal and as Walker and Republicans have yet to finish a state budget proposal. This opening is a significant opportunity to restore integrity to the DNR, while also reducing the influence of partisan politics. 

 

 

Take Action!
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As discussed, the resignation of DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp provides us an opportunity to keep partisan politics out of the DNR.

Contact Governor Walker at 608-266-1212 today and let him know:
"Our children and grandchildren deserve clean air to breathe and water that is free of pollution. Help make sure our shared lands and waters are protected without political interference or pressure by allowing the state's Natural Resources Board select the next DNR Secretary."


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.
  • Foxconn Coming before the Senate
    The Walker/Trump/Foxconn proposal was recently passed out the of the Joint Finance Committee and will go before the full Senate on Tuesday, September 12.

    I am appalled that Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee chose to circumvent the judicial process by passing an amendment to the Walker/Trump/Foxconn proposal that would allow lawsuits relating to the electronics giant to bypass the Court of Appeals and go directly to the conservative-leaning State Supreme Court. Read more about this amendment, here.

  • Protecting Our Neighbors 
    Recently, dozens of concerned citizens joined with me to promote common sense legislation to protect riders using Uber and Lyft. Watch the press conference regarding the legislation, here. 

  • #PantherProud
    The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was recently named Wisconsin's leading sustainable university by the Sierra Club. Read more on this, here. 

  • Concerns with the Growing Use of Automation
    With the Foxconn proposal in the Legislature, automation is one of the concerns raised by our neighbors. My colleague, Sen. Dave Hansen, recently raised these concerns in an op-ed.

    B
    ut automation is not unique to Foxconn, lawmakers across the country are thinking creatively about this crisis and ways to secure a solid economic future.

    Do you have concerns about the growing use of automation?
    I recently asked for suggestions on ways we can make sure we are taking advantage of technological advances while also protecting jobs and the livelihood of our neighbors in a Facebook post. Weigh in on this issue, here. 

  • Getting Ready for Fall!
    With this past weekend being deemed by many as the unofficial end of summer, many families in our state will be taking the next few weeks as an opportunity to explore Wisconsin, by going to a favorite picnic spot at a park or checking out an attraction they haven't been to before.

    A robust travel and tourism industry allows us great opportunities and is crucial to a strong Wisconsin economy. As such, click here for a list of fall festivals happening around the state.

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.

The United Nations Association of Greater Milwaukee Presents "Diplomacy is the Pathway to Peace in North Korea"
Saturday, September 9 from 10 a.m. to Noon 
Join for an urgent and timely discussion with the some of the best international luminaries in town!  Our speaker will be Professor Nan Kim, Associate Professor of History at UWM and expert on Korea and the effects of the partition on its families. We will also hear from PyungAhn Kim, "Pastor Peace," Associate Pastor of the Whitefish Bay United Methodist Church. He will speak on what the church is doing for nuclear disarmament and for peace on the Korean peninsula.

Redeemer Lutheran Church - Milwaukee
631 N 19th St
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53233

 

Rock the Green- Sustainability Festival 2017
Saturday, September 9 from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Come join Rock the Green this year for a jam-packed day filled with music, food, and fun as they spread the message to the community about sustainability. This non-profit’s mission is to educate and empower the community to take actionable steps to live sustainably and this annual event takes it to the next level! With the festival’s impressive practices to recycle 93% of the waste generated at the event, it’s all the fun and no waste! 

Reed Street Yards
400 Fresh Water Way
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53204

An Evening with John Gurda
Wednesday, September 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Come join your fellow Bay View neighbors in sharing some local food and listening to the history of our town. John Gurda, a Milwaukee-born and raised writer, has been studying our great city since 1972. With twenty-one books under his belt, John has come to learn the ins and outs of our neighborhoods, industries, and the people that make up Milwaukee. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the Bay View Community Center, over the phone, or online. I hope all of you will be able to experience our local beer and food, and enjoy a conversation on the history of our great town.

88 Nine - Radio Milwaukee Community Room
220 E. Pittsburgh Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53204


13th Annual Bay View Bash
Saturday, September 16 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Milwaukee's largest all-volunteer street festival has come to be a fall tradition in Bay View. Enjoy tasty treats, beautiful art, music on several stages, crafts, and community organizations. I will also have a table setup in order to make myself available to neighbors for comments, questions, and conversation. This event will take place on Kinnickinnic Avenue between Potter and Clement. I will have a booth at Bay View Bash from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- hope to see you there! 

 

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 a 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 the month of 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 intersections of Milwaukee and 11th Avenues each Thursday.