Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might
Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707
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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.
Genocide and its Global Consequences
April 23 at 6 p.m.
Genocide has profound and far-reaching consequences. This forum will
take on the challenge of investigating some of those consequences by
exploring the effects on individuals, communities, and the global world.
Forum participants, led by our panelists, will explore immigration and
relocation due to genocide; cultural memory and cultural trauma; the
social, genetic, and political consequences of diminished population
diversity; and how we can connect meaningfully with our neighbors and
our community through a deeper understanding of these issues.
To register for the Global Consequences forum, CLICK HERE.
3400 S. 43rd St.
Milwaukee, WI 53234
19th Annual Beer Tasting
and Live Auction Event
April 23 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sample exciting and
inventive beers from Wisconsin's many craft breweries. The event will
feature dinner and a live auction. All proceeds will provide enrichment
programs for families and seniors and supply the Bay View Community
Center's food pantry. Tickets are required and are $35 through March 31,
$40 after April 1, and $40 at the door.
Call 414-482-1000 for tickets or
The South Shore Yacht
2300 E Nock Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Disney in Concert: A Tale as Old as Time
Date: April 24, 3 p.m.
Description: Experience the magic of Disney with four leading
vocalists like never before! See scenes from your favorite Disney movies
-- including Frozen, Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The
Little Mermaid, Tangled, The Lion King, and more. Your favorite Disney
stories come to life through Disney visuals and memorable melodies
performed live by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. For ore information
CLICK HERE or call 414-273-7206
Marcus Center for the
929 N. Water St.,
Milwaukee, WI 53202
City of Cudahy 2015 Arbor Day Celebration
Date: Saturday, April 25, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 pm
Location: Sheridan Park, Cudahy, WI (meet at Cudahy High School�s
Description: In a combined celebration of Arbor Day and Earth
Day, come help in a clean-up of Sheridan Park by picking up litter and
planting trees at Cudahy High School! Every little bit of effort to keep
our community safe and clean is appreciated.
Cudahy High School
4950 S Lake Drive
Cudahy, WI 53110
An Irish Night at the Museum
Date: April 25-26, 6:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Description: Milwaukee Irish Fest is proud to host An Irish Night
at the Museum to celebrate its 35th Anniversary. The event being held at
the Milwaukee Public Museum, will have a silent auction, dynamic food
stations, a hosted bar with free beer, wine and soda, and entertainment
from Tallymoore and Socks in the Frying Pan! This event is limited to
guests 21 and older.
CLICK HERE for more information or call 414-278-2702
800 W. Wells St.,
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Bullying: Making Friends, Not Enemies
Date: Monday, April 27, 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
Description: Light it up Blue and Healthiest Cudahy Collaboration
presents this event featuring LeRoy Butler, to help shine a light on
Autism and Child Development. The event is FREE, but tickets are
required. Tickets are available at Cudahy Health Department at 5050 S.
Lake Drive, Cudahy, WI 53110 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through
Cudahy High School
4950 S Lake Drive
Cudahy, WI 53110
Free Transit Rides
Date: April 28
Location: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties
Description: Public transportation across four counties will be
free for an entire day as the Greater Milwaukee Foundation presents its
next centennial Gift to the Community. Transit systems throughout
Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties will offer rides at
no cost on Tuesday, April 28, during their respective operating hours.
CLICK HERE, for more information.
Annual Bay View Tragedy Commemoration
May 3 at 3 p.m.Location: Bay View
The event pays tribute to those lost in the tragedy of May 5, 1886, when
the State Militia shot into a crowd of some 1,500 workers marching in an
eight-hour-day rally, killing seven in front of the old Bay View Rolling
Mills, then Milwaukee's largest manufacturing plant. The Bay View
Tragedy played a significant role in Wisconsin's labor movement and the
struggle of Wisconsin's workers to fight for their rights and improve
their employment conditions.
Bay View Rolling Mills State Historical Marker Site (MAP)
Northeast Corner of South Superior and East Russell
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Date: Sunday, May 3, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Description: Come celebrate the fourth year of the Milwaukee
Museum Mile's Annual Event. On this day, all five locations will offer
free or reduced admission. Each museum will offer free tours and light
refreshments -- including champagne at several locations. There are a
number of free activities that will be available for children including
the Milwaukee Museum Mile scavenger hunt. A shuttle bus will be made
available for transportation between locations and no cost.
For more information, including location information, visit CLICK HERE
or call (414) 278-8295.
The Milwaukee Ballet Presents: Cinderella
Date: May 14 through May 17
Description: The classic journey from servant to princess takes
on added luster through the creative lens of Michael Pink. Delight in
fairy godmothers, glass slippers and a pumpkin carriage that all
conspire to deliver Cinderella to an unforgettable world of fantasy,
love and beauty. All of this is punctuated by dancers from the Milwaukee
Ballet School and Sergei Prokofiev's magical score performed by the
Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra.
For more information call 414-273-7206
Marcus Center for the
929 N. Water St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
As the ranking Democratic member of
the Senate Committee on Education, providing our children with a quality
education is one of my top priorities. Our schools are struggling after
being hit with massive cuts to funding over the past several years. In
an effort to help our local schools with forward-thinking ideas, Rep.
Mandela Barnes and I coauthored a bill that, if passed, will help our
children get the education they deserve via the creation of "Community
Schools." Read on for more on this bill.
On Tuesday, the Senate was in session.
One of the bills that was taken up and passed was the repeal of the
48-hour cooling-off period when purchasing handguns. I was disappointed
that this bill passed, and explain the negative implications of this
bill in further detail below.
On a positive note, just in time for
Earth Day, the Joint Finance Committee removed one of the bad
environmental provisions in the 2015-17 state budget, a victory for
conservation advocates. I also have details on proposals that could
criminalize errors on some government forms. This, and more, is
discussed this week in the Larson Report.
State Senator, District 7
This week, State Representative
Mandela Barnes and I unveiled legislation that would facilitate the
creation of "Community Schools" in our local public school districts.
Community schools take a wraparound approach, which allows for more
comprehensive, individualized services for students.
Access to quality public education is a right that every child deserves
and is enshrined in our state constitution. This forward-thinking
legislation will help guarantee that our children as well as future
generations have the necessary support to succeed year round. Wisconsin
Republicans made historic, catastrophic cuts to our public schools and
handed over a billion taxpayer dollars to unaccountable, voucher schools
for the last 25 years without the promised results to show for it. It's
a failed experiment and it's time we try something new. Our legislation
creates innovative pathways for students, parents, teachers, other
school staff, and members of the broader community to help make all the
stakeholders in our neighborhoods succeed together.
In the state of Wisconsin, the concept of community schools is a largely
unexplored approach to increasing educational opportunity and access for
children. The establishment of community schools is a holistic,
innovative strategy that aims to improve educational outcomes of
students in underperforming schools while concurrently increasing access
to essential services for students and community members alike. After
all, children's academic performance and the health and vitality of the
communities in which they reside are inextricably linked.
How do we create a "community school"?
First, our bill requires the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to
create a community school start−up grant program, under which DPI awards
competitive grants to school boards to plan and implement community
schools. The bill requires that under the community school start−up
grant program DPI will allocate portions of the program funding to
establish community schools in both rural and high-poverty school
districts, as well as transform low−performing schools into community
schools. The bill defines a community school as a public school other
than a charter school that focuses on improving student learning,
strengthening families, and developing healthier communities, working
with community partners to provide additional services to the
surrounding community and providing wraparound support services to
students and their families.
In order to receive a start-up grant from DPI, the grant applicant must
demonstrate that it has secured matching funds for the grant from a
community partner -- which could be a local business, community group,
or an organization -- and identify a school resource coordinator who
will work collaboratively with the school to provide services and
programs that meet school and community needs. The school must also put
together a "School Leadership Team" to serve as an advisory board for
the school. Members would include the principal, community partners,
parents, teachers, and/or classified employees, community members, and
students (if a high school).
What services will community schools provide?
The applicant for a community school start−up grant must also describe
the types of programming the school will provide to improve student
learning, strengthen families, and develop a healthier community.
Services could include:
- Providing high−quality child
care or early childhood education programming
- Academic support and
enrichment activities, including expanded learning time and summer
or afterschool enrichment and learning experiences
- Home visitation services by
teachers or other professionals
- Programs that promote parental
involvement and family literacy, including parent leadership
development activities and parenting education activities
- Job training, internship
opportunities, career counseling services, and community service and
- Health services, including
primary health, services by a school nurse, dental care, mental
health counseling, and nutrition services
- Adult education, such as
English as a Second Language
- Juvenile crime prevention and
- Homeless prevention services
Finally, we require that
community schools provide professional development for school
administrators, teachers, and educational support professionals in
culturally responsive teaching and practices that promote enhanced
understanding, respect, and relationships among staff, pupils,
families, and the community.
Republicans in power have spent a great deal of time, energy, and
taxpayer dollars coming up with ways to sanction, punish, or
privatize public schools who are trying to improve the quality of
education they provide our children. This has not helped while those
schools also have to deal with historic funding cuts, drastic
reductions in resources, and loss of quality staff and teachers.
That is why I and other progressives are finding innovative ways to
help schools succeed in a sustainable way that will improve the
educational outcomes of our children and also improve the overall
quality of life in the community.
Rather than focusing solely on the
"symptoms" of public schools facing significant challenges, the
community school model proactively addresses the complex range of
factors that lead to underachievement, while strengthening local
communities in the process.
Successful examples of community schools can presently be found in
cities such as Oakland, CA, Cincinnati, OH, and Chicago, IL, and
smaller-scale initiatives have already been implemented here in
Wisconsin. Now we would like to take this approach statewide.
We, as a state, need to come up with innovative ways to ensure every
child has an equal and fair opportunity at a high quality education.
Our bill not only provides schools the resources to allow kid's to
succeed academically, but will also allow our community schools to
address factors we know impact a student's ability to thrive in
school. Instead of punishing our public schools, we should invest in
them and give them the tools they need to succeed. That is the
Wisconsin tradition we have historically known and what our bill
will help our state return to.
To learn more about the Community Schools movement nationwide,
click here to visit the Center for Popular Democracy's website.
To see a copy of our legislation, click here.
Earlier this week, Republicans made
the decision to ignore the will of the public and side with special
interest groups by repealing Wisconsin's 48-hour cooling-off period on
The bill allows firearm dealers to sell handguns immediately to buyers
following a background check. The 48-hour waiting period was created as
cooling-off period to reduce emotionally related, violent gun crimes.
Eliminating this provision -- which was passed into law in the 1970s and
is commonly known as the "cooling-off" period -- removes a crucial
window of time for people to reconsider committing gun-related violent
acts against others and/or themselves. This waiting period is essential
to ensuring public safety.
The Republican actions come as a slap in the face to citizens desperate
for solutions to increasing gun violence. Instead of focusing on ways to
make our communities safer and implementing background checks for all
types of firearm sales -- which polling has shown a vast majority of the
public and even 74% of National Rifle Association members support
--Republicans took a completely irresponsible step backwards by ignoring
the public safety and mental health needs of our community. We must do
more to protect families against gun violence, not cave to the influence
and pressure of gun manufacturers and lobbyists.
On the floor of the Senate, Democrats proposed several amendments to the
bill, including one to create universal background checks for all gun
purchases, another would increase penalties for people who purchase
firearms with the intent to give it to a felon (known as
straw-purchases), and an amendment to keep the 48-hour waiting period on
background checks that show a person has a pending domestic abuse
charge. All of these sensible amendments, aimed at increasing public
safety, were rejected.
Unfortunately, what we saw was another clear example of Republicans in
the state putting special interest groups before people and sound public
policy. Republicans passing this bill today is like eliminating
stoplights, and pretending there won't be more accidents.
Following recent tragedies involving gun violence in our community and
across our nation, I have heard from many neighbors with concerns about
community safety. Our own neighborhood has experienced the devastation
of gun violence first-hand, at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Azana Salon
& Spa in Brookfield, and countless other tragedies. We must do more to
protect families against gun violence, not cave to the influence and
pressure of gun manufacturers and lobbyists.
Republicans in the Legislature need to put aside their blind support for
Governor Walker's ambitions, and stop passing bills to bolster his
rhetoric while he tries to leave Wisconsin behind. Instead, they should
join us in focusing on improving the quality of life of our neighbors
here in Wisconsin. We'd be much better off as a state if leaders instead
promoted our state's shared values, such as investing in our kids'
schools, improving access to basic health care services, and creating
family-supporting jobs that will help us grow the economy.
A little over a month ago, Governor
Walker signed so-called "Right to Work" legislation into law despite
broad public disapproval. In addition to attacking Wisconsin workers,
Governor Walker and his cronies are also scheming to attack and
criminalize Wisconsin's job seekers.
Because of the continued lack of focus
on creating quality jobs in Wisconsin by state leaders, Wisconsin
workers have unfortunately struggled to find better work or, in other
cases, those who find themselves unemployed can't find work because
there aren't quality jobs available. So, instead of addressing this
mounting problem head-on, Walker and Republican leaders are instead
blaming the workers and scapegoating the unemployed.
Similar to Governor Walker's past
political witch hunts, Republicans are ignoring the corruption and loss
of millions of dollars by Walker appointees, while instead targeting job
seekers who make mistakes on complex forms.
Some of the more egregious changes
proposed by Governor Walker have already captured a lot of attention and
debate, such as requiring drug tests in order to receive some benefits.
However, other changes haven't been covered by the media but and could
potentially result in our friends, family, and neighbors who are seeking
work and need a little assistance to instead face hefty penalties
putting them into debt -- or even jail.
In his 2015-2017 state budget
proposal, Governor Walker increases penalties for individuals who commit
unemployment insurance (UI) fraud and broadens the definition of what
"fraud" means. Currently, individuals who are determined to have
obtained UI benefits fraudulently must pay back the amount they received
plus a 15% surcharge. They could also face a fine of up to $500 and 90
days in jail. Under the governor's budget, the penalties are increased
to a 40% surcharge and a fine of up to $25,000 and/or 10 years in
Another proposal, by the Department
of Workforce Development (DWD), would dramatically increase the negative
impacts of the governor's proposed penalty changes. DWD is requesting a
change to the definition of UI fraud, which is referred to as
"concealment." The requested new definition would remove the requirement
that DWD prove that the fraud is the result of the claimant's intent,
("intent" being the cornerstone element of any type of fraud). This
change in the rules would open the door to a range of problems and
unfair practices. For instance, while it is currently the responsibility
of the DWD to prove that an individual is knowingly trying to obtain
benefits that they should not receive, under the proposed new
definition, a person who is being accused of fraud would have to prove
they did not mislead the state in order to get benefits. This shift in
the burden of proof would be very difficult for most claimants, since
they would likely need to be able to pay for legal representation.
Essentially, this rejects the foundation of American freedom and our
tradition of justice, judging people guilty until proven innocent.
In addition, according to the Wisconsin Unemployment blog by Madison UI
attorney Victor Forsberger, not only would this be nearly impossible for
individuals to try and prove, but there are specific things that would
not be allowed to be used to prove the person had made a justifiable
mistake, such as having a learning disability -- unless they have
informed the Department of the disability previously.
Read more about this on the Wisconsin Unemployment blog by clicking
Notably, an audit conducted by the
nonpartisan Wisconsin Audit Bureau reviewed UI overpayments and found
that almost 90% of all erroneous UI benefits paid by DWD (called
"overpayments") were caused by unintentional mistakes in the claims
process by the claimant, not by intentional fraud (concealment).
It should also be noted that our
current laws already guarantee all overpayments be repaid to the state,
whether they are the result of fraud (intentional) or even if they are
caused by a claimant's unintentional mistake, meaning claimants do not
get to keep erroneous payments in any scenario. Further, many
individuals catch their mistakes and self-report them to the Department
of Workforce Development, in which case they still have to pay the
benefits even if erroneous payments were the result of DWD's error.
Another component of this issue is the recent change in questioning that
claimant's must answer when they file. Legal Action of Wisconsin noted,
in a recent memo to the Joint Committee on Finance, the problems with
the questions, which changed in October 2012. For instance, prior to the
change the following question was asked: "Did you work and earn wages
during the week?" Now, this same question is asked in the following way:
"During the week did you work or did you receive or will you receive
sick pay, bonus pay, or commission?" As Legal Action noted, allegations
of fraud usually arise because of the way a claimant answers the
required questions when they file for UI benefits. Therefore, it is
crucial that the questions are clear, concise, and understandable.
The change from simple questions to
confusing, compound questions has been repeatedly criticized by the
state agency that reviews DWD UI decisions, known as the Labor and
Industry Review Commission (LIRC). According to Legal Action, the
questions have undoubtedly been a contributing factor to mistakes that
result in an overpayment. Further, in a report on how to reduce
overpayments, the U.S. Department of Labor also stressed the importance
of clear questioning, and yet DWD has not corrected the problem.
What does all of this mean for
Wisconsin's job seekers who are receiving unemployment benefits? For
starters, if the definition of concealment is changed to remove the
element of "intent", it would mean that instead of (as the
aforementioned audit concluded) 90% of overpayments resulting from
unintentional mistakes, 100% of the overpayments would be labeled fraud.
This could result in a 40% civil penalty, a fine of up to $25,000, and
up to 10 years in jail when a claimant simply got confused by the
questions or otherwise made an innocent mistake.
According to the Legislative Fiscal, increasing the concealment
surcharge from 15% to 40% will result in more revenue for the state:
$470,000 in 2015-16 and $980,000 in 2016-17. The governor and
Republicans have done little to create jobs or improve the lives of our
Wisconsin neighbors, and now they are asking individuals who are
struggling to find work under their failed policies to pay for their
self-inflicted budget deficit.
The proposed changes are wrong for
Wisconsin and show a dangerous disregard for justice, compassion, and
community. I will fight against them as they do nothing to increase
prosperity or opportunity in Wisconsin.
LIRC recently drafted a memo that discusses some of the legal "red
flags" with changing the definition of concealment, click here to
read the memo.
I often have neighbors contact me
looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very
much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion
of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open
dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
Q: I am a neighbor who is concerned about the state budget provisions
that will harm our environment. Has the Joint Finance Committee made any
changes to these provisions?
A: Democrats, with the help of the outdoor enthusiasts and
environmental advocates across Wisconsin, have convinced Republican
Legislative leaders to reluctantly begin abandoning some of the damaging
policies in Governor Walker's anti-conservation budget. Recently, the
Joint Finance Committee voted to remove Walker's effort to strip
authority from Wisconsin's Natural Resources Board. The success of our
efforts will keep citizen involvement as a vital part of our
conservation tradition. Further it will protect Wisconsin state public
lands and parks from the possibility of being sold at the whim of the
governor and his politically appointed DNR Secretary. It's important to
remember that when Governor Walker had the opportunity to appoint the
DNR Secretary, a person supposedly in charge of managing and
safeguarding our shared lands and waters, he chose a person whose
business was development.
Our success illustrates that Governor Walker and his corporate special
interest allies have an agenda reflected in his anti-conservation
budget, which even his Republican legislative allies cannot defend.
Further, joining legislative Democrats in rejecting the Governor's
anti-conservation budget are hikers, bikers, anglers, boaters, hunters,
campers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all political persuasions.
While having this provision removed from the budget is a success, we
have more work to do to protect our conservation tradition and better
safeguard our lands and waters. The legislative Joint Finance Committee
still needs to remove the other dangerous provisions from Governor
Walker's budget, including:
Gutting the Stewardship Fund
Eliminating state scientist and
environmental expert positions
Defunding state parks while
increasing recreation fees
Eliminating the Environmental
For details on these damaging, anti-conservation provisions, please
click here to read a Larson report that focused on some of them.
Join me, and the majority of the citizens of Wisconsin, in sending a
clear message to the both the governor and the Republicans in charge of
the Legislature that we value our state's history, and this budget is
simply wrong for Wisconsin.
Click here to add your name to the list of people who oppose
Governor Walker's budget.
New Conservation Threat: Key
conservation state officials and staff are now banned from working on,
studying, or even talking about climate change and how it will affect
our state lands.
Traditionally, here in the Badger state, we have tackled challenges as a
community, with grit, determination, sacrifice, and innovation. But now
with Governor Walker and his allies gripping absolute power, they are
discarding the values and principles that our forefathers employed to
bring prosperity to our state.
One of the keys to our past successes was clearly identifying the
challenges we face -- it's a step that is crucial. But recently,
Republicans who make up the majority of the Board of Commissioners of
Public Lands voted to silence and gag the Board's staff by forbidding
them from considering the gravest ecological threat to our land and
water -- climate change. Given they are responsible for managing
77,000 acres of public land, this is a deeply concerning and dangerous
Climate change is real, it is happening, and our actions are
significantly contributing to it. It is affecting our health, land,
water, plants, and wildlife. That's what the overwhelming evidence
confirms. In fact, President Obama said in 2014 "This is not some
distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting
Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater
vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires -- all these things are
having an impact on Americans as we speak."
If we allow a blind pursuit of
corporate profit or an extreme political ideology to deny science, bury
the truth, and hide danger signs, our generation and those to come will
all pay the price.
On Earth Day, President Obama visited Florida, a state whose economic
livelihood and environment will be greatly damaged by climate change.
Despite the clear danger, Republican control there has also lead to
state workers being banned from talking about climate change.
President Obama's words rang true when he said, "This is not a problem
for another generation -- this is a problem now."
For more information about climate change, visit the White House
website by clicking here.