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August 27, 2015




Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487



Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707




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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. 



Friday Fish Fry in the Parks
Date: Every Friday through Labor Day Weekend from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Description: Enjoy your Friday evening with a fish fry at one of Milwaukee's beautiful county parks. This summer you can play 9 holes and eat delicious baked or fried Cod for $30. There are kid's portions available. For location and reservation information, CLICK HERE.

Local Food & Wellness Fair: Optimize good health with local food and natural wellness
Date: Saturday, September 12,
11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Fresh food is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. We need movement and body awareness to complete our physical self-care. That's why this year's annual Local Food Open House is expanded to include resources for natural wellness activities. Enjoy workshops, presentations and visit vendors as you learn about resources for eating locally and living well.

This event is presented in partnership with Green Square Center for the Healing Arts, Outpost Natural Food Co-op, and Slow Food WiSE.

Riverside Park

1500 E. Park Pl.
Milwaukee, WI 53211


Bike Maintenance Workshop
Date: Sunday, August 30,
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Learn basic bike maintenance skills while also helping keep our fleet of program bikes rolling by attending one of our bike fixing workdays! Bringing together both experienced and aspiring mechanics, you will learn a specific skill such as replacing brake cables or truing a tire, then practice by fixing our program bikes. Come and get your hands greasy for a good cause!

Riverside Park

1500 E. Park Pl.
Milwaukee, WI 53211


Jazz in the Park
Date: September 3, 2015, 5 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Jazz in the park is one of Milwaukee's favorite free events, outdoors, summer music series. They feature a lineup of Jazz, big band, funk, R & B, reggae, blues and more. Performers come from across town or across the country!

Cathedral Square Park


520 E. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Thank You Thursday
Date: September 3, 2015, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Milwaukee Country residents receive free general admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum on the first Thursday of every month through the Thank You Thursday program. Adults must bring a photo ID showing their residency to receive free admission and children must be accompanied by an adult showing proof of residency. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Public Museum


800 W. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Meijer Free First Thursday
September 3, 2015, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Admission to the Milwaukee Art Museum is free for individuals and families (excluding groups) on the first Thursday of the month, thank you to Meijer. CLICK here fore more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum


700 N. Art Museum Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Milwaukee Coffee Festival
Date: Saturday, September 19,
10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Come enjoy a day of tasting, experiencing and learning about sustainably grown and locally sold coffee from the leaders in the field. Coffee sampling, presentations, door prizes and more. CLICK HERE fore more information.

Urban Ecology Center � Riverside Park

1500 E Park Place Milwaukee WI



Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,


Sadly, the summer is coming to a close, and many of our smallest neighbors are gearing up for the new school year. Even my son starts his very first day of K3 next week. As such, this is a perfect time to take a look at the state of education in Wisconsin -- from K-12 to higher education -- what's happening and what we could be doing better.

Additionally, we are celebrating Labor Day next weekend. I often get questions about events in our community during this time, therefore, I have some listed below if you're looking to celebrate Wisconsin's history of workers' rights.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and I look forward to seeing you in the neighborhood!


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



GOP Looks to Kill Education Institutions

For the past several weeks, we have heard rumors about Legislative Republicans putting together a strictly partisan group -- five Republican representatives -- to "study" a possible forced merger of the UW and technical college systems in Wisconsin. These meetings will likely happen behind closed doors, and the process will probably involve little or no public input.

This is the process we have seen over and over during the past four and a half years: Republicans secretly discuss legislation to further their Tea Party ideology or a corporate special interest, hold a sham public hearing, and ram the bill through the Legislature, while the rest of us are left to deal with the consequences of what becomes a damaging state law.

UW Colleges, Tech Schools Have Crucially Different Missions

One of the problems with this shortsighted idea is that the mission statements of the two systems are vastly different. UW Colleges offer broad liberal arts education, while the mission of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) is to provide comprehensive technical training and adult education.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, UW Colleges and Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen discussed the threat of a merger of the two systems in an interview last week with Wisconsin Eye. She explained that students with a goal of earning a bachelor's degree will transfer to a four-year university after attending a UW College. Students seeking vocational education, on the other hand, often go to technical colleges. "I do think that those two, separate, defined missions are better for our students," Sandeen said.

The idea of merging the systems has come up several times in the past, in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. However, each time the issue was studied it was found that the missions and services of the colleges and technical schools are too different and that each institution runs so efficiently that little to no savings would be gained by merging the two institutions.


Notably, no one from the UW System, Colleges, or WTCS has been invited to participate in the closed-door discussions concerning the proposed merger.

Critical Questions Unanswered

It is important to note that this proposed merger comes just after $250 million was gutted from the UW System in the 2015-17 state budget. Therefore, funding is another major question that needs to be addressed. The UW Colleges are funded by a variety of sources, such as state aid, grants, and research dollars. While WTCS receives some state aid, they have traditionally relied on their community and local taxes for much of their funding. If Republicans strip our local technical schools of their ability to obtain funding through local taxes, where would the funding come from instead?


At the end of last session, a Joint Legislative Council Study Committee on the Review of Wisconsin Technical College System Funding and Governance was conducted. The committee looked at removing property taxes as a form of technical college investment. While the committee ended before coming to any substantial conclusions or recommendations, several experts from the technical college system gave input to the committee on why their current funding model works. For instance, if the funding source was changed, it could force the technical schools to compete for funding in the state budget. This leads to problems as state revenue is volatile and times of economic downturn is precisely when many seek additional training through technical schools. Additionally, technical schools build relationships with businesses in the community, who drive training and educational outcomes based on the community's unique needs. What's more, this funding method keeps our technical schools transparent as they are accountable to the community taxpayers.   


These funding concerns would need to be addressed by the informal group of Republicans looking at this issue. Unfortunately, there is speculation that, should a merger occur, it would result in another cut to the UW System's overall state aid in the next budget.

While no concrete actions have yet come out of this secretive, partisan study group yet, I will keep an eye on this issue and keep you updated. If Republicans decide to act and rush this through it could just be a continuation of their attack on our world-class education system in Wisconsin. In the end, their Tea Party agenda will have disastrous consequences for the state and our children's education.



Heading Back to School
Over the next couple of weeks our kids are heading back to school. This is an exciting time for children and parents alike, and it is also an opportune time to reflect on state of education in Wisconsin. There is no doubt that our teachers, principals, and other educational support staff will do an amazing job educating our children, even though they have been given less and less in terms of resources and investment from the state, while still expecting the highest quality of service possible. Their dedication to educating Wisconsin's future leaders is something we should all appreciate -- don't forget to give a big "thank you" to your child's teacher on the first day of school for all they do.

Unfair Funding Formula Disserves our Students

Although costs have risen over the past five years due to inflation and other factors, such as the rise in poverty, cost of food, and transportation, the amount of investment the state puts into schools has not kept pace. In fact, we are nearly five years behind at 2010 funding levels. Additionally, the state is in a race to the bottom in areas beyond general per student investment as well. In the 1970s, we used to reimburse schools up to 79% of the cost of educating children with special needs or disabilities. Today, we are at an all time low, covering about 27% of the costs. What's more, the state has a growing population of English Language Learners (ESL).  School districts used to receive up to about 40% to help those students learn English, but today the reimbursement rate is an embarrassing 8%.

Of the state's 424 school districts, over half are estimated to receive less general aid in 2015-16 than the previous school year. Unfortunately, because of our broken funding formula there is also a vast difference in the way we value our children's education. Around the state some kid's are worth more and some less, even though they are in the same grade and/or similar school districts. For instance, on average we spend $8,876 per year to educate a child in the Richfield School District, but in North Lakeland School District we spend an average of $30,686 per to educate a child. This is a broken, unfair system that doesn't treat all of our kids equally. A student in a district that receives less money may not have access to critical hands on learning opportunities, like taking a field trip to an area business or even visiting our state Capitol, that a student in a district receiving more money does. 

Schools Lacking Qualified Teachers

Another problem facing our neighborhood schools as they prepare for the upcoming school year is that there continues to be a growing shortage of qualified teachers available to teach in schools. School districts around the state are having a hard time finding and retaining qualified teachers. Republicans in Wisconsin over the past four years have continually degraded and attacked the profession of teaching, and at the same time, have done nothing to lower student debt. It is not surprising that it is hard to attract students to the education profession when they know it has been under attack.

Our children and our teachers deserve better. Teachers are responsible for educating our children and creating a well-informed citizenry. It is time we start reinvesting in education in Wisconsin. This means not only providing our local schools with the tools and resources they need, but also investing in policies that attract highly qualified and motivated teachers back into the profession of teaching.

Wisconsin Education Pushed in the Wrong Direction

As I have mentioned in a previous Larson Report, 35 school principals from southern Wisconsin recently shared their professional experiences and observations with the governor and the Legislature, and expressed their opposition to the direction they have taken public education.

You can read the letter they sent, here.

Unfortunately, the most-recent state budget continues to push our state backwards by:

  • Not adequately investing in our schools. The education budget does not even begin to alleviate the historic funding cuts to Wisconsin schools over the past several years.
  • Diverting over $48 million in state funding from our traditional neighborhood schools to expand the unaccountable, for-profit school voucher program, even though there is evidence to suggest that these schools perform worse than their public school counterparts.
  • Removing the cap on private voucher enrollment, opening up the program to more families who can already afford private school tuition, which will also divert more money directly from our traditional neighborhood schools.
  • Allowing for a takeover of targeted Milwaukee Public Schools and turning them over to an un-elected "commissioner" who has the ability to turn over our schools to less accountable and potentially for-profit charter school authorizers, or unaccountable private voucher schools.

I have been vocal about the negative impacts the draconian cuts to our neighborhood schools and expansion of the separate -- but not equal -- for-profit voucher schools, therefore, I will continue to push for adequate investment in our shared values so that the 98% of students in our state that attend traditional Wisconsin schools have access to a quality education. In the future, I hope the state Legislature and governor will reinvest in our kids, our schools, and those who help educate our kids.

This is not meant to be a bleak assessment of the current state of education, rather a reminder that we should show a tremendous amount of appreciation to those who enter into the teaching profession. We owe them our gratitude and support. Please keep that in mind as we enter the first weeks of the new school year.



Ask Chris

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: You had an article about the growing concern of faith leaders over the negative impact of climate change on our environment and people. Are there any new developments?

A: Thank you for the question, when Pope Francis released his second encyclical, "Laudato Si," highlighting the urgent need to address climate change, he joined a rapidly growing list of faith leaders sounding the alarm bell on climate change.

Just last week, I was excited to see that the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium produced a strong statement that is being echoed and affirmed by Islamic faith leaders around the globe.

You can see their declaration here.

I was particularly impressed with the declaration's phrase, "Human activity is putting such a strain on the natural functions of the earth that the ability of the planet�s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."

The sentiment -- that studied inaction or turning a willfully blind eye to the increasing damage and danger of climate change is no longer acceptable -- is echoed by scientists and faith leaders alike.

In our state there are energetic faith leaders working through a multi-state organization called Interfaith Power & Light. This group is a religious response to climate change.

More information on them here.

Despite the ground swell of scientists and faith leaders working to turn back climate change, Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans continue their policies that have politically paralyzed Wisconsin by reversing pollution safeguards and stifling renewable energy investment.

Our neighbors, friends and family are not free if the air we breathe is poisoned, the water we drink is toxic, or if a polluted environment makes us sick. Controlling pollution is patriotic and a matter of protecting our hard-won freedoms.

Inspired by the recent surge of faith leaders calling for action to reverse climate change, I will be authoring a resolution calling upon the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly to meet the moral obligation and scientific need to enact policies to slow and reverse climate change. I hope to circulate this Joint Resolution next week, asking my legislative colleagues to join me in introducing it to the Legislature. I'll update you on its introduction and support in a future newsletter.

It is clear from leading scientists and faith leaders, we must take action to reduce carbon pollution and climate change, starting by doing our part right here in Wisconsin. In the words of the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium, "�to chase after unlimited economic growth in a planet that is finite and already overloaded is not viable. Growth must be pursued wisely and in moderation; placing a priority on increasing the resilience of all, and especially the most vulnerable, to the climate change impacts already underway and expected to continue for many years to come." I hope you join me in believing Wisconsin can and should lead the way.


Celebrating Women's Equality Day
On August 26, we celebrate Women's Equality Day. On that day in 1920, the 19th amendment officially became part of the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing the right to vote for women. This courageous fight for equality,
which spanned 72 years, was carried out by tens
of thousands of persistent women and men. They circulated countless petitions and gave speeches in churches, convention halls, and on street corners. Newspapers, pamphlets, and magazines were published to spread awareness. Supporters of the movement were frequently harassed and sometimes attacked. Some women were even thrown in jail.

They did not give up and in January 1918, women won the right to vote in the House and then the Senate in 1919. Wisconsin was among the first states to ratify the amendment and on August 18, 1920, it was ratified by its 36th state -- Tennessee. It arrived in Washington, D.C. the morning of August 26, 1920. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby promptly certified the amendment, which simply stated: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied of abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."

Years later, in 1971, U.S. Representative Bella Abzug sponsored a joint resolution of Congress requesting that the anniversary of the amendment's certification be observed as Women's Equality Day. It was also set up to "call attention to women's continuing efforts toward full equality."

Today, equality continues to elude many women in our own communities across the nation and state. It is clear our work towards equality is not done. We must continue to fight for fairness by passing policies that will improve the lives of women and girls in Wisconsin. Particularly, women in Wisconsin face barriers in attaining economic freedom and security. For instance, women make an average of almost $10,000 less per year than their male counterparts. With almost 60% of households with children depending on the income of both parents, fixing this pay gap could pay for a family of four's rent and utilities for the year. We can achieve greater equality by passing simple policies, such as:

  • Restoring the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Wisconsin women make an average of 77 cents to every dollar a man doing the same job makes. For women of color, the gap is much larger. Nationally, African American women are paid 64 cents and Latina women are paid just 54 cents for every dollar made by a white man.
  • Paid sick leave. Many workers who do not have access to paid sick time are those in low-wage jobs and the majority of low-wage workers are women. Creating a standard for paid sick days in Wisconsin would meet the health and financial needs of families, while also boosting worker productivity. Workers with paid sick days are less likely to leave their job, which saves businesses money by reducing turnover. This is a win-win policy for both families and employers.
  • Paid time off to care for a loved one or a new child. While the Family Medical Leave Act provides women and families the ability to take unpaid time off without the risk of losing their job, many cannot afford to take unpaid leave. A 2012 survey found 64% of employees who needed but did not take leave in the past 12 months were women. There are obvious benefits of paid time off for families, but like paid sick leave, paid time off benefits our economy by increasing worker retention and creating a more stable workforce.
  • Affordable child care. As shown by a recent Washington Post poll, parents struggle with balancing child care and work due to a lack in affordable options. Nearly three-quarters of mothers in the U.S. indicated they have passed up job opportunities, switched jobs, or quit entirely in order to care for their young kids. 
  • Ensuring a living wage. Over half of minimum wage workers in Wisconsin are women. I am a co-sponsor of legislation that would increase the state's minimum, gradually, to $15 an hour.  A higher wage allows workers to make ends meet and increases their purchasing power. This is yet another policy that would have a positive effect on our economy -- benefiting us all.

These are just a handful of policies that are steps toward closing the gender gap in economic fairness. For 95 years, we have celebrated one huge step forward by ensuring women have access to the ballot. Looking ahead, we must acknowledge inequality in our state and nation and work towards changing the status quo.


Labor Day Celebrations in the Community
As we celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 7, we should take time to remember Wisconsin's deep labor history and the generations of workers and reformers who have made significant contributions to building a strong middle class across our state.

Our Community Fights for Worker's Rights

Our community played a pivotal role in Wisconsin's labor movement, which began over a century ago. Wisconsin's first unions were formed in Milwaukee--the bricklayers in 1847 and the carpenters in 1848. In the 1880s, as the eight-hour work day became a central concern across the country, laborers in Milwaukee formed the Milwaukee Labor Reform Association (later the Eight-Hour League) to advocate for the eight-hour day. Milwaukee workers fought for the eight-hour day with a five-day sweeping industrial work stoppage, halting production in factories throughout the city.

During the 20th century, Wisconsin's workforce continued to seek fair treatment and safe working conditions for all under Robert La Follette's progressive movement. In 1911, the State Legislature passed the first workman's compensation law. Then in 1932, our first unemployment compensation laws were enacted. Wisconsin continued to support its workers by passing the Wisconsin Employment Relations Act in 1937, which provided workers with the right to organize.

The labor movement was vital to growing a strong American economy and a solid middle class. The ability to organize, receive fair treatment, and work in safe conditions are fundamental values that built our state and our country.

Celebrate Labor Day in Our Community
Annually, we celebrate our hard-working Wisconsinites and the Labor Day holiday with family-friendly neighborhood festivals. Join me in our community this Labor Day weekend as we celebrate Wisconsin's current workforce, as well as those that came before us and fought for better workplace rights for all. See a list of local Labor Day events below:

Labor Fest
Monday, September 7
This family-orientated festival is the largest Labor Day event in southeastern Wisconsin. Enjoy this free event, which starts with a parade at 11 a.m. and then continues on to the Summerfest grounds where a children's area, classic car show, live music, and union industry displays will be featured. There will also be and plenty of food available for festival goers to purchase.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Click here for more information.

St. Francis Days
Thursday, September 3 through Sunday, September 6
This annual four-day music festival is free and open to the public. Visitors should expect to see live musical entertainment, a movie showing, helicopter rides, chicken and rib dinners, and a parade.

Milton Vretenar Municipal Park (MAP)
4230 S. Kirkwood Avenue
St. Francis, WI 53235

Click here for more information.

St. Martins Fair
Sunday, September 6 through Monday, September 7
Vendors at this fair sell an assortment of merchandise including clothing, shoes, hardware and household items, paper products, pet supplies, cleaning supplies, sporting equipment, gift items, dried flowers and arrangements, furniture, antiques, shrubs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, prepared food, and other miscellaneous merchandise. Special music groups also entertain the crowd throughout the Labor Day weekend event. This event takes place on St. Martins Road from the intersection of W. Forest Home Avenue to W. Church Street.

Click here for more information about this event.


Intern at the Capitol
A legislative internship at the Capitol is an excellent way to gain valuable real life experience about everyday operations of the Wisconsin State Legislature and the state's legislative process. This internship is a wonderful opportunity open to both students and recent graduates.

Intern responsibilities vary, but include policy research, summarizing proposed legislation, and responding to constituent inquires. All interns also assist with general office operations, including answering the phone. In addition, there may be opportunities for interns to attend session days, sit in on committee meetings, and participate in in-district events.

Applicants must be able to work during normal business hours, and dedicate a minimum of 10-12 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid and are based in Madison.

To apply for an internship, please submit the internship application, a cover letter, and a resume electronically to or mail them to Wisconsin State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707. Please specify which office you are interested in working at when you submit your application materials. Do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions about this internship opportunity.

Click here for more information about this opportunity and to access the intern application.


Share your Thoughts on State and Community Issues!
With the 2015-2017 state budget process now concluded, the Legislature will be taking a brief break until Fall. The damaging effects of the state budget will be long-lasting, and I will continue to update you throughout the summer on the implications of the budget.

In the meantime, I want to hear from you! Therefore, I created a 2015-2016 Neighborhood Survey asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for session to resume in the coming months.

My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door-to-door as possible during the next couple months. Additionally, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you




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