LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

February 20, 2014

     
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONTACT ME


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

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

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

 

Web Site:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

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. 

 

 

It's a Major Deal!
Date:
Now through Sat., March 1

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Exciting and refreshing juried works from sophomore and junior students representing all majors from MIAD's dynamic curriculum. This event is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MAP)
273 E. Erie Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Andy Warhol: 10 Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century
Date: Now through Sun., March 30
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Experience these brightly-colored creations, featuring historical figures and renowned luminaries of Jewish culture from various disciplines. This exhibit is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Warhol's large-scale portraits allude to the grandiosity associated with fame while establishing an intimacy between subject and viewer. Bring family and friends to experience the color and 'pop' of this unique suite of works. Guided tours are available throughout the afternoon along with coloring and scavenger activities for families. CLICK HERE or call (414) 390-5730 for more information.

 

Jewish Museum Milwaukee (MAP)
1360 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art

Date: Now through Sun., May 4

Location: This exhibition features an unprecedented selection of American paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, furniture, and decorative arts from the Milwaukee Art Museum's world-class collection of folk and self-taught art. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as American art struggled to find its own voice separate from the classical European style that dominated the art world, an authentically American artistic expression was identified in the work of folk and self-taught artists. CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life
Date: Now through Sun., June 15

Location: Milwaukee

Description: BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life is the latest exhibition from physician and pioneering anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens. At BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life, you will see the body throughout the human life cycle and across the arc of aging. More than 200 real human specimens preserved through Dr. von Hagens' invention reveal the human body in all its stages, across youth, growth, maturity, and advanced age, and in all its conditions, from health to distress to disease. CLICK HERE or call (414) 278-2702 for more information.

Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)
800 W. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 


Snowshoe Run in Sheridan Park 5K/3K

Date: Sat., February 22

Location: Cudahy

Description: This event is planned by the Cudahy Recreation Department with the Sheridan Park Friends. Refreshments will also be available. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.  

 

Sheridan Park (MAP)

4800 S. Lake Drive

Cudahy, WI 53110

 

 

16th Annual Food & Froth Fest
Date: Sat., February 22 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Beer is one of the oldest beverages created by humankind. Some archaeologists even speculate that beer was a key component of early civilization. Beer belongs in a museum. Celebrate beer's history as one of our favorite beverages at the Milwaukee Public Museum's 16th Annual Food & Froth Fest on Saturday, February 22. Sample stout crafted halfway around the world, or pair a lager brewed across town with appetizers from a variety of area restaurants and caterers. You will also get a taste of Milwaukee's great music scene through an exceptional line-up of local bands. Event Tickets costs include a chance to sample more than 200 different beers from Midwest and international breweries, a complimentary commemorative take-home glass, and great food from local Milwaukee vendors. CLICK HERE for more information.

Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)
800 W. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

12th Annual Local Farmer Open House
Date: Sat., March 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Know your farmer, know your food. Whether you are learning about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) or have been a member for years, this is a great opportunity to talk with local farmers, learn about their growing practices and share options, and choose which farm is best for you. Short workshops on issues such as cooking from your CSA, will also be featured. This event is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for more information. 

 

Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park (MAP)

1500 E. Park Place

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

This week, the Legislature missed an opportunity to move job creation and true voucher accountability measures forward. Instead, the Senate passed an anemic voucher bill and all but ignored jobs, preferring instead to pass bills about such things as rubber ducks. Continue reading for more about this and other important issues, such as phosphorous pollution, unemployment claims, and a Marriage Equality Wisconsin Petition update.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Still Waiting on Voucher Accountability

About a month ago, Wisconsinites read about LifeSkills Academy, a private K-8 school participating in the voucher program that closed in the dark of night. This institution proved to be a fraud. While they happily accepted taxpayer dollars and promised to educate our children, in the end, they prematurely closed their doors and kept taxpayers funds they did not earn. It was also noted in a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article that "no students attending LifeSkills were proficient in reading or math in 2012-13, except for a single fourth-grade student, according to the state achievement test score results."

 

While it might be easy to dismiss the LifeSkills Academy case as the exception to the rule in the voucher program, the reality is that stories like this are all too common in the unaccountable voucher system. Further, with the recent statewide expansion of the voucher program, it is likely communities statewide may be hoodwinked in the future by the fly-by-night institutions who care more about money than our children.

 

This week, the Legislature had the opportunity to take up real accountability and transparency reforms for all schools receiving taxpayer dollars, including those participating in the voucher program. Unfortunately, the bill that was ultimately taken up in session this past Tuesday, was an anemic proposal that only focused on one of the many reforms that are needed. Senate Bill 286 will move up the effective date of including voucher schools in the state's report card system. Therefore, I voted in favor of this bill. However, it did not address the other issues still plaguing the voucher system, meaning the Legislature has a lot to fix, but will likely run out of time to pass meaningful reforms in the voucher program.

 

 

Click here or on the video above to watch this week's session debate in the Senate.

 

The following is a list of reforms still needed that were NOT included in Senate Bill 286:

 

  • Administers background checks for teachers, administrators, and staff to keep students safe

  • Hold regular meetings of governing bodies

  • Require licensure for teachers

  • Provide similar access to open records

  • Abide by seclusion and restraint laws

  • Offer due process for expelled students

  • Create similar graduation requirements

  • Administer early reading screenings

  • Halt payments to out-of-state voucher schools

  • Require building inspections for safety purposes

  • Prevent voucher schools from increasing their tuition costs to meet the maximum amount offered by the state for each voucher student

  • Uphold the purpose of the voucher program as an option offered to low-income families rather than those who can already afford private school

  • Ban corporal punishment of voucher students

  • Ensure that private schools participating in the voucher program have only 49% of their students receiving vouchers

 

I will continue doing what I can to increase accountability and transparency measures at all schools receiving taxpayer dollars. Wisconsinites have earned the right to know if their investment in the voucher program is worthy of receiving these funds or if these dollars are simply being wasted.


 

WI #1... for New Unemployment Claims

The U.S. Department of Labor released statistics showing that Wisconsin is in first place...for initial unemployment filing claims. Wisconsin experienced the largest increase--5,041--for initial unemployment filing claims for the week ending on February 1, 2014. Right behind Wisconsin is New York with an increase of 4,830, although New York also has a population that is more than 2.5 million larger than our fair state. A list of the states with the largest increase and the largest decrease in initial unemployment filing claims is provided below. 

 

Largest Increase in Initial Unemployment Claims

1. Wisconsin: +5,041

2. New York: +4,830

3. Pennsylvania: +2,448

4. New Jersey: +1,853

5. Ohio: +1,780

 

Largest Decrease in Initial Unemployment Claims

1. California: -9,631

2. Georgia: -2,558

3. Indiana: -2,444

4. Michigan: -2,411

5. Florida: -1,387

 

Given these recent statistics, as well as our current ranking of 37th nationally in job creation which leaves us trailing the nation and our Midwestern neighbors, Wisconsinites expect the Legislature to prioritize job creation efforts above all else. However, this week's session calendar lacked the needed job creation and economic proposals that would help propel Wisconsin forward. Instead, Senate Republicans opted to take up bills on such meaningless topics as rubber ducks. Given that session is winding down for the 2014 year, it might be a good time to reprioritize. Our neighbors cannot afford to have job creation efforts pushed off for another year. The time to take action is now.

 

 

Marriage Equality Petition Approaching 20,000 Signatures

Last week, my Democratic colleagues and I introduced a proposal that would remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality. The support for this legislation has been overwhelming. After being in circulation for one week, the Marriage Equality Wisconsin Petition has already garnered nearly 20,000 signatures. If you have not yet signed the petition, you still have time to join our Wisconsin neighbors in supporting the proposal to remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality. If you have already signed, please encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do so as well. Continue reading for more information about the details of this marriage equality proposal.

In 2006, Wisconsin adopted a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for all in our state. This amendment has prevented many Wisconsinites from being able to partake in the ultimate expression of love and commitment--Marriage. Further, it has left many couples and their families vulnerable to intolerance and undue hardship.

As Wisconsinites, we share the same core values. We believe in freedom, equality, and justice for all. According to an October 2013 Marquette University Law School Poll, the majority of Wisconsinites (53%) now support the freedom to marry. Further, 17 states and the District of Columbia have already paved the way to fairness by protecting marriage equality. It is time that Wisconsin follows suit.

Senator Tim Carpenter and Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, along with other Wisconsin legislative Democrats, have introduced a proposal that would remove our current constitutional ban on marriage equality. Our gay and lesbian family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends deserve to be treated fairly in comparison to every other Wisconsinite. Let us support them in their goal to spend each and every day married to the person they love.

The current legislative session is slated to end in April. We encourage our Republican colleagues to join us in taking this positive step forward by removing the marriage equality ban before we finish for the year.

Click here if you would like to sign the petition in support of legislation that would remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality.

You can also encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to show their support by printing a petition and circulating it throughout your community or across the state.

Click here to download or print the PDF for the Marriage Equality Wisconsin Petition.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have regarding this marriage equality proposal.

 

Bipartisan Lead Acid Battery Bill Passes

This past Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 512, legislation that updates Wisconsin law regarding battery deposits in order to help Wisconsin's small businesses. Current law requires anyone selling a lead acid battery to a consumer to accept the consumer's used battery and cannot charge the consumer a deposit that is more than $5. However, the mandated cap no longer reflects the prevailing market value of used lead acid batteries. For this reason, large corporations have been ignoring the $5 limit for years opting to instead follow the market rate. In addition to losing out compared to bigger businesses, our small businesses have also been losing money when depositing old lead acid batteries to the nearby recycling center as most of these facilities charge the market rate, which is usually greater than $5.

 

Senate Bill 512 would remedy this problem by updating our outdated laws to require a deposit no less than $5 for all businesses, allowing the market to set the core charge amount. This legislative change will help ensure that our small businesses are no longer at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to the cost of recycling lead acid based batteries.


This legislative idea was brought to my attention by a small business owner in Oak Creek at my very first "Coffee with Chris." Since that time, I received support from other local businesses in our community. I jumped at the opportunity to work with our local businesses to draft a bill that would solve a problem plaguing these small, neighborhood businesses. This will help provide these businesses with additional resources to grow their businesses and create jobs.
 

Through shared innovation amongst the two parties, we can further Wisconsin's long tradition of supporting our small, local businesses. By working together as co-authors in a bipartisan way, Senator Cowles and I were able to move this bill forward through the legislative process bringing us one step closer to positive change in our community.

 

 

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: How will the phosphorous bill taken up in Session on Tuesday affect Wisconsin's water quality?

A: During session this week, the Legislature passed a bill, Senate Bill 547, related to reducing phosphorous pollution of our waters. The bill allows certain corporations and municipalities to delay compliance with the existing Phosphorous Rule. This delay may allow phosphorous buildup to increase, contaminating our waterways. Further, this proposal sets a somewhat dangerous precedent of rewarding those who have done the least to control their phosphorous production over the years. In addition, this legislation could allow polluters to pass off part of their clean-up bill to ratepayers, like you, as the clean-up costs they are responsible for is capped under this proposal.

 

Phosphorus is a growing problem in Wisconsin's waterways. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently proposed adding 192 new lakes, rivers, and streams to the impaired waters list because they fail to meet state water quality standards, most of them for having excessive levels phosphorus. Even small amounts of phosphorous runoff can cause massive algae blooms, which lower oxygen levels and can kill fish. Phosphorus also encourages the spread of invasive species, which damage our ecosystem. In addition to degrading our natural resources, blue-green algae is harmful and even toxic to people, pets, and livestock.

 

Alarming amounts of phosphorous can affect Wisconsin's economy as well. Tourism can be negatively impacted by increased algae growth, which can close beaches and keep boater and anglers off the water. Polluted waterways can also lower property values as studies have shown a direct link between water clarity and property values. A 2012 DNR study showed a $1.1 billion increase in property values once the Phosphorous Rule was in place.

 

Given all of the potential dangers that phosphorous can create for our family, friends, neighbors, and local communities, it is important that we seek to strengthen safeguards against pollution, rather than weakening them. I will continue to keep you up-to-date on legislation that impacts our treasured waterways.
 

 

Did You Know...?

As Wisconsinites, we are highly accustom to extreme weather conditions. From droughts to flooding rains, blizzards to heat waves, we have pretty much experienced it all.

 

However, there is one natural phenomenon that Wisconsin has never experienced. While our communities are familiar with tornadoes and many of us have experienced them personally, Wisconsin has never had a tornado during the month of February. Our state has recorded a tornado in every single other month, but never in February.

 

 

Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Petition

Exponential increases in tuition and fees coupled with challenging economic times over the years have made it nearly impossible for students to work their way through school, as was commonplace in the past. In fact, nearly 40 million Americans now hold over $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationally.
 

Wisconsin's Student Debt Crisis
Unfortunately, Wisconsin currently ranks 10th in the nation for number of college students with debt, with 67% of graduates from four-year schools having loans to repay. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve System there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt). Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years and Wisconsin's student loan borrowers have an average debt of $22,400. It is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388 per month for about 18.7 years.

Student debt is the only kind of household debt that continued to rise through the Great Recession, and is now the second largest consumer debt in our country, more than credit cards or auto loans. Having this money tied up in debt is a huge drain on our already struggling Wisconsin economy as the money spent on student loans could instead be spent on cars, new homes, and at local businesses in our communities.

 

Some issues related to student loans can only be dealt with at the federal level. Unfortunately, Congress' current partisan gridlock leaves little hope for real relief for student loan borrowers in the near future. We cannot wait for Congress to act. It is time for innovative, common sense solutions that will provide real relief for Wisconsin's student loan borrowers.

Therefore, I am asking that the Wisconsin State Legislature passes the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason, which would do the following:

 

  • Allow Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to deduct their student loan payments from their income tax, resulting in annual tax savings of approximately $172 for the typical borrower or as much as $392.

  • Enable Wisconsin's student loan borrowers to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates, putting potentially hundreds of dollars back in their pockets and into Wisconsin's economy annually. For example, a borrower with an interest rate of 6.8% and the average University of Wisconsin graduate's loan debt of $27,000 who could lower their interest rate to 4% could save over $40 per month. That would put nearly $500 back in their family's pocket over the course of a year.

  • Provide students and parents with detailed information about student loans, the best and worst private lenders, and ensure that students receive loan counseling so that Wisconsin's student loan borrowers can make informed financial decisions about student loans.

  • Ensure data is collected and tracked about student loan debt in Wisconsin to help policymakers and the public better understand the depth and breadth of the debt crisis in our state.

 

As you can see, this legislation offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. I hope legislative Republicans will see the economic value of moving forward with such a proposal. Therefore, I encourage them to join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. Wisconsinites cannot afford to wait any longer for more affordable college education and decreasing their debt burden.

 

Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Petition

If you would like to see the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill become law, I encourage you to sign onto the Higher Ed, Lower Debt petition. The petition states the following:

I support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill authored by Sen. Hansen and Rep. Mason. It is a positive step forward in making higher education more affordable in Wisconsin and frees up money for Wisconsinites to spend in local communities and our state.
 

Click here if you would like join me in supporting the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill by signing on to the petition to encourage the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass the bill.


I also encourage you to tell your family, friends, and neighbors to join you in taking action. The more Wisconsinites that advocate for the bill, the more likely it is to pass.

 

 

Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey

I created a survey for the 2013-2014 Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door to door as possible. In addition, 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 save a stamp and take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues!

 

 

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