Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope you had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed time spend with family dyeing and hunting for eggs and making Easter baskets. Or, celebrating Passover and spending time with loved ones enjoying a special Seder meal over the holiday. It is always fun to get out to one of our beautiful parks over a holiday weekend and enjoy all that our shared community has to offer.
In the two weeks leading up to the holiday weekend, Republicans spent most of their time preparing to thwart Democracy; even going so far as to threaten a special session to change Wisconsin election laws. I found it particularly troubling that, while the Republicans have refused to call a special session on the dark store loophole, gun violence, or safeguarding our elections, they would threaten to call one to deny and disenfranchise voters. This shows just how scared they are of talking about their failed agenda with voters and how desperate they are to hang onto power. Fortunately, Governor Walker was forced by the courts to finally call for a special election in both the 1st Senate District and the 42nd Assembly District, which he has kept vacant since last year.   
In this Larson Report, I will be addressing the depth and breadth of the attempts to ensure that the system stays rigged, the threat to our election laws being just the latest example. I also want to highlight some legislative victories from this past session. I am glad that through strong advocacy by our friends and neighbors, we saw some bad pieces of legislation fail to pass. When we stick together and use our voices, we have the power to stop laws that will hurt our environment, endanger the public, and unfairly empower elected officials.

 

In Service, 

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Chris Larson 
State Senator
7th District

 Desperate to Hold Power: Some Politicians Wanted to Deny Wisconsinites Representation


wi cap building.jpgHaving legislative districts without representation is like having a car without a driver. The 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District are driverless and that is what Republicans hoped they would remain for over a year.

I truly believe that was a point of bipartisan agreement: ensuring every neighbor in Wisconsin has a say in state government and representation for their interests in Madison. The arguments being made by the Governor and those in control have taught me that this was not so. For months, fearing a backlash at the ballot box, Governor Walker simply refused to order special elections for legislative vacancies he himself created. Then, after being ordered to do so by a judge he himself appointed, he defied that court order and moved drastically to change the law he was breaking. It was only after District 2 Court of Appeals Judge Paul Reilly in Waukesha refused Governor Walker’s appeal, and after a threat was made to go all the way to the State Supreme Court, that he finally relented and gave up this foolish crusade.

It is still amazing to me that the Governor and those in power would go through all of this in order to ensure no elections would take place to fill empty districts. What is on display is a political calculation designed to avoid facing the voters and a willingness to do anything to hang on to power. They are acting as if they are above the law.


This Isn't the First Time: Wisconsin Polticos
Acting as if They Are Above the Law.

The Governor's plot to deny voters representation in the Senate and Assembly is unfortunately not that first time that those who are in control have acted as if the law does not apply to them. 

Gutting good government laws - When politicians were being investigated for violating Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws, they also tampered with Wisconsin law. Passing Wisconsin Act 117 rolled back years of laws that kept our elections clean and fair, it lifted the ban on coordinating with issue advocacy groups, it raised contribution limits, and it ripped the reins off dark money political action committees (PACs).

Putting down the elections and ethics guard dogs - Not content with simply legalizing what used to be considered ethics violations, they turned on the State Elections Commission, an agency that had been set up to replace the Government Accountability Board (GAB). Tasked with safeguarding our elections, GAB was non-partisan, comprised of retired judges, and conducted business in a firm, fair and equitable way. But after seeking to uphold the legal and ethical standards in Wisconsin, the GAB was harshly dismantled with Wisconsin Act 118. Instead of selecting non-partisan retired judges, those in charge created a weaker agency controlled by partisan political appointees. But even this short leashed and toothless watchdog proved troubling for those in power in Wisconsin. In fact, when the political appointees gave their backing to well respected, Election Commission Chief Michael Hass, steps were taken to block his confirmation to the commission. Unfortunately, The State Elections Commission is in danger of becoming a paper tiger with no real authority or oversight capabilities.    

Exempting politicians from investigation - There have been a number of revealing “John Doe” investigations into Governor Walker, his questionable campaign coordination, and those working for him. In response to this, the controlling party changed the laws governing John Doe investigations and exempted elected officials from being investigated as part of a John Doe investigation with Wisconsin Act 64. This is not just letting the fox into the hen house, this is letting the fox control the whole farm. Exempting politicians from John Doe investigations was a reckless step down an unaccountable path.  

WEDC: an agency with a checkered history - The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) has given out well over $100 million of our taxpayer funds. WEDC  handed out this cash without proper review and records, failed to properly track job creation and retention, and of course, enabled the Governor’s Foxconn fiasco. Since its inception there have been questions dogging the agency as it has been largely unaccountable and by design can operate in secret. Unfortunately, Wisconsin’s top supposed “job creation agency" has failed in their goal and given vast sums of taxpayer dollars to corporations with little in the way of results.

The people of Wisconsin have long valued open and transparent government. Under the current administration, we have lost significant safeguards that are critical to a healthy democracy.

 

Legislative Victories: Bad Ideas That Failed to Pass

  • Senate Bill 777: This bill was a naked power grab for county executives. This bill would have stripped power away from publicly accountable county board members and concentrated it with county executives. for example, this proposal would've allowed the County Executive to manage all aspects of parking at county parks and lands, including establishing paid parking without County Board consent. Government works best with checks and balances that bring differing parties to the table to negotiate with one another. Many of our neighbors spoke out strongly against this bill. I am glad their voices were heard and that this bill was not voted out of committee.   
  • Senate Bill 169: Showing how some legislators are out-of-touch on the issue of guns, they pushed this proposal to repeal the requirement that individuals get a permit or training to carry concealed weapons. Worse, it would have allowed for carrying in schools and reduced the age to conceal carry to 18. As the nation mourns another mass school shooting and the tragic daily toll of gun violence continues to decimate our communities, public outrage and action are increasing. This is one of the first “more guns is the answer” bills to be stopped cold through the advocacy of a growing majority of our neighbors who are no longer willing to be silent.  
  • Arming Teachers: Discussed as a potential component of the school safety package, there was some interest from the Attorney General to include the arming of teachers as part of the proposal. Fortunately, parents, teachers, and our neighbors spoke up loudly and shut this proposal down before it was added. Unfortunately the “school safety” package was completely devoid of any firearm reforms. During debate on the senate floor, the controlling party even rejected an amendment that sought to include common sense gun reform to the package. Their reason for rejecting? They argued that limiting a dangerously violent person’s access to deadly weapons is not related to school safety.  
  • Senate Bill 459: This bill would have required the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to repeal all state air pollutant testing and monitoring requirements that President Trump’s administration does not require. Our state has long held that clean, safe, breathable air is a right for all who live here. This proposal would have turned a blind eye on pollution and dangerously emboldened polluters. I will be staying very watchful in future sessions to ensure that this bad air idea does not advance.
  • Gutting Wetlands Regulations: On one of the last days of session, in a deceptive political maneuver, Republicans in the State Assembly quietly slipped an extremely partisan special interest amendment into Senate Bill 615: a completely unrelated bill. This stealth amendment would have allowed Meteor Timber, a Georgia corporation, to ignore Wisconsin laws protecting wetlands. Meteor Timber wants to fill these wetlands and barring that, has threatened to clear cut one of Wisconsin’s few remaining pristine timbered wetlands. They want to destroy a wetland known for being an incredible habitat for rare and endangered Wisconsin species. This corporate favor was done as a shady last minute attempt to force passage of this reckless legislation. Fortunately conservation advocates succeeded in drawing public attention to this terrible environmental giveaway to an out-of-state corporation. The public scrutiny helped stop the amended bill from being brought up and passed in the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 54: This bill would have thrown even more people in jail by allowing more to be incarcerated on minor parole violations. Worse, it would have enabled the Department of Corrections (DOC) to borrow $350 million to build another prison. Because of  bad budgeting and misplaced priorities our roads are crumbling, our schools are starving for funding, and we have underfunded community programs and investments that would reduce some of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Now is not the time to use the state credit card to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to build another prison to lock up even more people.
  • Because of the direct actions of our friends and neighbors, these bad bills were killed at the end of session. We must remain vigilant should the legislature be called into a special session or when we return, likely next January, that we do not see any of these bad ideas return.    

 

 

Take Action

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With Earth Day just around the corner, I wanted to highlight clean-up events for this edition's take action section. Earth Day was born here in Wisconsin with the goal to get people involved with cleaning up their neighborhoods and environment. Getting out and helping clean our parks, green spaces, and wild areas makes us all good stewards of our environment and better community members.

Celebrate EARTH DAY by volunteering at your State Parks!

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is holding events around the state leading up to, and including, Earth Day. They are seeking volunteers to help clean up and prepare our beautiful state parks for the season. Volunteers should wear work shoes/boots, long pants, and gloves. They are being asked to bring shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows if they have them. Individual and group efforts are all welcome but children must be accompanied by an adult. Click Here for more information. 

 

The UWM Neighborhood Housing Office is organizing a neighborhood cleanup for their students and neighbors are invited to participate!

The cleanup will be on Friday, 4/6 from 1-4 PM. The volunteers will meet near the Neighborhood Housing Office to get their routes to ensure that as much ground as possible is being covered. They will have some garbage pickers and will be able to provide large trash bags and plastic gloves for those who are interested.

Neighbors are strongly encouraged to bring their own gardening gloves or any materials they may have if they are interested for their own use.

To RSVP Click Here

In Case You Missed It

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. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks.
      
 

  • I was inspired by attending Milwaukee March for Our Lives to end gun violence.

    It was truly amazing to see students, their parents, and our neighbors marching for desperately needed sensible gun reforms. These young people are leading by example and have spoken up in a unified and loud voice. They marched to demand action from legislators on the issue of gun violence. They told us they want stricter background checks, limits on high capacity clips and semi-automatic weapons, and other commonsense gun reforms. They are exercising their right to call for change, marching for their lives and I am honored to stand with them and support their efforts to reduce gun violenceClick Here 

  • Alert! Have you been purged?

     

    Please make sure that you check your voter registration at MyVoteWI. It is being reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that thousands of Milwaukee voters have been quietly eliminated from the rolls, including eligible voters that should not have been. According to the report, “Some 44,000 voters were removed from city rolls after the state started using a new process in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), they said. It's unclear how many of those were dropped in error”

    While this purge of eligible voters may not have been intentional, it joins a growing list of barriers to voting implemented under Governor Walker’s tenure.

    Mayor Barrett and City of Milwaukee election officials have taken steps to inform and protect voters regarding this state purge. If you find that you have been erroneously removed from the voter rolls please let either me or my office know so we can help assist you in correcting the mistake.

  • Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo appeared on CBS' 60 Minutes.

    I love seeing this story out of Milwaukee highlighted by the national press! Giannis Antetokounmpo’s story is an inspiring tale of achievement and perseverance. He shines a very bright and positive light on our shared city. It is a really great thing to have this exceptional young man as an ambassador for the City of Milwaukee. It is also a great thing to have his superstar talents with our Bucks! You can watch the interview in its entirety here.

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. 


Memory Cafes in the South Shore Region:

  • Memory Cafes are places where persons with Mild Cognitive Impairment, early-stage Alzheimer’s, or a related dementia can go with care partners to socialize and have fun with other people going through similar things. First time attendees or people looking for additional details can call the Alzheimer’s Association at 800-272-3900.
  • Memory Cafe at Bay View United Methodist Church (UMC): The Bay View UMC Memory Cafe meets on the third Monday of each month from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm at Bay View UMC (2772 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI). The entrance is through the Brown Archway Doors on Kinnickinnic Avenue. All are welcome to attend! Anodyne Coffee partners with Bay View UMC for this cafe.
  • Memory Cafe at Moose Lodge 49: The Moose Lodge Memory Cafe meets on the second Thursday of each month from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm at Moose Lodge 49 (5476 S. 13th St., Milwaukee, WI). To RSVP or get more information regarding this specific cafe, please call Sandy Raasch at 414-467-9199.
  • Memory Cafe at St. Francis Brewing Company: The St. Francis Brewing Company Memory Cafe meets on the first Thursday of each month from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at St. Francis Brewing Company (3825 S Kinnickinnic Ave, St. Francis, WI)

 

Cryptosporidium 25th anniversary program with former Health Commissioner Paul Nannis

In 1993, Cryptosporidium sickened more than 400,000 people
in the Milwaukee area. Our community ran out of related medications and clean, safe drinking water. Former Health Commissioner Paul Nannis recalls how Milwaukee successfully met the challenge of overcoming the worst waterborne disease outbreak in U.S. public health history.

April 7, 2-3 pm
Centennial Hall, Loos Room, 733 N. Eighth St.

Seating is limited. Registration is required by calling 414.286.3011 or online at www.mpl.org. Street parking is free on Saturday, but time limits apply.

Celebrate 4/14 Day in Milwaukee!

Show your Milwaukee pride on 4/14 even if you have moved or live anywhere else around our great state. Wear your Brewers or Bucks gear with pride! If you are in Milwaukee Here is a list of events.