LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


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February 27, 2015

     

 

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

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

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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. 

 

Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market
Date: Now through April 11, Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Milwaukee County Farmers' Market will be held again this year at the Mitchell Park Domes. The Farmers' Market gives Wisconsin residents a great opportunity to shop for local produce from the 35 weekly vendors. Vendors provide a wide selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery, poultry and meats all winter long. Free parking spaces are provided.
CLICK HERE for more information.


Mitchell Park Domes (MAP)
524 South Layton Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53215

 

 

St. Ann Indoor Market

Date: Every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from now
through April 2015

Location: Milwaukee

Description: There are many great products sold including: Fresh, seasonal, natural, and organic produce; preserves; canned goods; handmade items; jams and jellies; soups; soaps; lotions and makeup; jewelry; household items; and more. They feature live music, family fun, and free coffee every week!

Purchases from the market support local vendors and the young, elderly, and clients with disabilities at the center.

 

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care (MAP)

2801 E. Morgan Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center 10th Anniversary Performing Arts Series

Date: Starts Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., ends Friday, May 1, 2015
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: The Performing Arts 10th Anniversary Series features 10 shows that highlight topics relevant to South Milwaukee and surrounding communities. Each show speaks to a memory of South Milwaukee's proud past, reflects on a shared experience, or brings hope and optimism for a bright, creative future. Some shows are celebratory and entertaining, while others address important social issues like the changing nature of Main Street or what it means to be "broken," yet inspired. For more information about each show, CLICK HERE.

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)
901 15th Ave.

South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

 

Mad Hatter Tea
Date: March 7 and 8, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: This is a great event for parents, children, relatives, friends and mad hatters! Come to the Charles Allis Art Museum to meet "Alice In Wonderland" characters while sampling a variety of Rishi teas, catered sandwiches, and sweet treats. Live music  performed by Jeffrey Krumbein, complimentary hand massage given by the Milwaukee School of Massage, a Docent-guided museum tour, prizes, and more. CLICK HERE for more information.

Charles Allis Art Museum

(Map)
1801 N Prospect Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

International Women's Day

Date: Sunday, March 8, 2015 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join women from across the globe to celebrate International Women's Day (IWD). This free celebration, hosted in the Bradley Pavilion at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, is coordinated by a collaborative of organizations whose joint mission is to educate, empower and inspire women for the greater good of community.

The theme for IWD 2015 is "Equality for women is progress for all" and highlights the contribution of women in our communities to create a positive, safe and nurturing environment for their families, co-workers, friends and neighbors. Additionally, for the first time, IWD Milwaukee (IWD MKE) will host a women�s leadership institute. This institute will bring together women of all ages for the purposes of learning together and sharing wisdom, mentoring the next generation of women to follow their passions and come together to make a difference.

At the March 8th celebration, cultural groups will present dance and music, guest speakers will share inspiring stories, and refreshments will be served. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Bradley Pavillion, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)

929 N Water St. Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

49th Annual Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's St. Patrick's Day
Date: March 14 at Noon
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's 49th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade will take place on March 14th, starting at 3rd and Wisconsin and finishing at Water and Highland. Come and enjoy one of the best St. Patrick's Day Parades in the country! The parade will feature more than 140 units and includes local politicians and celebrities, floats, bagpipe and marching bands, and Irish and Celtic organizations. CLICK HERE for more information.

Downtown Milwaukee

(Map)
3rd St. and Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53203

 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

This week, the Senate was rushed into an Extraordinary Session to take up anti-worker legislation that will reduce wages, increase poverty, and lower rates of employer-sponsored health care coverage. The bill, wrongly coined as "Right to Work" (RTW) was introduced hurriedly last Friday, raced to a public hearing on Tuesday, and swept before the full Senate on Wednesday, February 25.

 

By calling an Extraordinary Session, the Republican Majority is able to fast-track this bill limiting debate, review, and public involvement. It is in the Assembly and already scheduled for action on Monday.

 

Governor Walker and legislative Republican's may think we have forgotten about the $2.2 billion deficit they created, the $300 million in cuts to the UW System and attack on SeniorCare and IRIS in the recently introduced state budget, and the state's lagging job growth -- but Democrats and Wisconsin neighbors haven't. Read on for more on these important issues. 

Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Eliminating Worker Freedom 


This week, the Republican leadership approved going into an Extraordinary Session to take up the anti-work RTW bill. The bill was introduced late on Friday, February 20, 2015, had a public hearing -- just a few days later -- on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, and went before the full Senate the next day. By calling an Extraordinary Session, the Republican-controlled Legislature is able to jam the bill through the process without fair consideration.

 


 

RTW Interferes with Private Business Relations and Hurts WI Families


Under current law, businesses in Wisconsin -- like contractors and sub-contractors -- can already choose whether they wish to employ union workers or nonunion workers. Similarly, federal law states that unions must represent members and nonmembers equally. In exchange, federal and current state law allows the union to collect fees from the nonunion employees in exchange for representation -- such as legal help if they are wrongly fired. Importantly, federal law also states that an employee can NOT be required to contribute to that union's political activities. RTW laws, then, interfere with these private contracts between employers and employees and takes away freedom for workers. The bill even makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to maintain a traditional worker organization in Wisconsin, with a penalty of up to $10,000 and 9 months in jail.


Currently, 24 states have imposed RTW laws. While corporate CEOs and their right wing foundations, the strongest proponents of RTW laws, want us to believe that these policies are for our benefit, they are actually more for theirs. If such a law is enacted, worker organizations could be forced to legally defend workers who do not pay dues to the organization for that or other member services. This costly legal mandate is not forced upon other private organizations and is designed to bankrupt groups that protect workers.

CEOs want to push these policies to make it easier to move us into part-time positions, pay us less, and cut back on health and safety standards. RTW laws are wrong for Wisconsin because they hurt all of us, not just those in union professions. According to facts gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Census Bureau, in states where similar laws were enacted:

  • Families earned $5,333 less per year than workers in states without the laws

  • States spent $2, 671 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education

  • 14.2% of nonunion members were uninsured, compared to 2.9% union uninsured

  • Poverty rates increased from 10.2% to 12.5%

  • Incidences of workplace fatality were 51% higher

Further, these anti-worker laws decrease protection against unfair firing, and harm middle-class families by gutting their ability to negotiate for better safety and a fair workplace. For example, our neighborhood nurses could be stripped of the ability to join together and negotiate safe patient-staff ratios in hospitals. As you can see, this is not only taking away freedoms from our nurses, but also putting the health of our entire community at risk.
 

Cutting off the Voices of the People


The facts are, if passed into law, RTW means less freedom for workers and hurts all of us. As stated, RTW laws reduce worker wages, diminish worker health and safety, and, at the same time, increase poverty and workplace fatalities. This legislation puts our state in the race to the bottom. It is simply wrong for Wisconsin.

There was an overwhelming amount of concern expressed by my Democratic colleagues, as well as neighbors across the state, about the bill being fast-tracked -- passing the full Senate in less than a week from its introduction.

The public hearing for the bill went before the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform, of which I am a member, and started at 10 a.m. this past Tuesday. The hearing was originally scheduled to go to 7 p.m. Throughout the day we heard comments from fellow Wisconsinites -- one woman said she drove five hours to be there, arriving shortly after 8 a.m. to register to speak. Another gentleman waited nine hours to speak and was late for his 2nd shift job, but knew it was important he and his co-workers have their voices heard.

Despite the sacrifices made from Wisconsin workers in order to be at the hearing -- waiting for hours to have a chance to express their concerns with the bill -- the Committee Chair announced shortly after 6:20 p.m. that public testimony would be halted because of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog that said a "peaceful" disruption was planned at 7 p.m. if the Committee Chair refused to hear the testimony of those who had waited all day to speak. Ironically, he used likely frustration of those who would be cut off, to deny even more the opportunity to participate. Apparently, he constitutes the public a "credible threat." 
 

Click here to see the article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Putting a time limit on public testimony is not how the Democratic process ought to work, and it was disappointing to me and our fellow Wisconsinites to have so many voices ignored. Throughout the hearing, I asked the Committee Chair more than once to update the committee members on how many individuals were waiting to speak, how many individuals were registered opposed, and how many were in favor. After the Committee Chair announced he was cutting off debate, earlier than what was previously stated, I tried advocating for people to be allowed to continue to speak. I again asked the chair for an update on the registries, as I felt it important to know the number of Wisconsinites who supported vs. opposed the bill before voting. My request was ignored. My request to debate the bill was also ignored.

The process of which they are jamming this bill through is unfair to our hardworking neighbors. A bill should not be voted on without adequate public input or debate by committee members on the issue. The Committee Chair gaveled the executive session closed without answering my request and without providing basic information from the public hearing.

While the exact numbers have still not been released by the Committee Chair, an initial tally by his office shows there were 1,751 speakers and registrants in opposition to the bill and just 25 people in support. Further, the only individuals who testified in support of the bill at the hearing were either currently or previously associated with the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation. Additionally, one proponent of the bill, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce admitted during the hearing that less than 7% of their members came out in favor of this regressive legislation.

 

The overwhelming opposition to the proposal was so alarming to GOP leadership that they have had to change the rules, promoting a new support-only website that allows their supporters to officially register at the committee days ahead of opponents who would be required to attend the hearing before the Assembly committee. These are desperate measures meant to cloud the reality of the overwhelming opposition to this proposal.

If you want your voice to be heard, and cannot attend the hearing on Monday, Assembly Democrats will be submitting -- in the hopes they will be added to the hearing record -- all the names of those who have completed the RTW survey, HERE.

Wisconsinites do not Support RTW

We heard concerns from veterans, economy professors, business owners, and trade professionals in opposition to the bill -- who were all ignored by the Republicans. Wisconsin businesses recognize how dangerous this bill is. In fact, a coalition of more than 400 local businesses, who know firsthand the value of working in partnership with private labor groups, expressed their strong opposition to RTW. If Republicans took the time to review the list of businesses, they would surely find some in their own communities.

On Wednesday, February 25, 2015, the bill went before the full Senate. Despite my Democratic colleagues and I bringing up damaging consequences to the state should RTW legislation be enacted, the bill was passed 17-15, with only one Republican joining Democrats to stand on the side of workers and families.

When complex legislation, such as RTW, is pushed through, it opens the door to a wide-range of consequences, due to the bill not being thoroughly considered. For example, Republicans were unable to answer important questions about provisions of the bill -- such as how players on the Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Brewers (who belong to unions) would be prevented from being charged with a class A misdemeanor, which could lead to up to 9 months in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

 

Click here to view the statement against RTW by the NFL Players Association.

 

Click here to view the statement against RTW by MLB Players Association.

It is also unclear whether the state could lose federal funding for our local transit systems. Under federal law, transit systems must ensure certain protections for workers, such as preserving employee rights and benefits and maintaining collective bargaining. While transit employees were taken out of Act 10 for these reasons -- after much criticism over the federal funds in jeopardy, as pointed out by Democrats -- some transit systems are operated privately. It is unclear how RTW will impact federal funds or rights of workers in this regard. 

 

Calling this Extraordinary Session is a distraction on the real issues Wisconsin is facing, such as our lagging job growth and $2.2 billion budget deficit. RTW is a smokescreen trying to diminish the blowback the governor is receiving over his irresponsible state budget. Introduced earlier this month, the budget  cuts funding for local schools, undermines the integrity of our university system, effectively kills our Stewardship program, jeopardizes community assets like Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, forces layoffs across Wisconsin, limits access to affordable health care, and increases state borrowing to pay for more highway projects.


The RTW bill will now head over to the Assembly next week for consideration. I encourage you to contact your state representatives to make sure your voice is heard. Also, I would like to thank all of those who came to the hearing and/or called my office to show your support for Wisconsin workers.

 

Click here to view a copy of the bill.

 

 

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: Are there any efforts to encourage Wisconsin to take advantage of the federal money to increase health care coverage?


A: This past Monday, Wisconsin Democrats took a responsible, proactive step in promoting Wisconsin's shared values that would also help ease some of the austerity measures included in Walker's budget, due to the over $2 billion deficit he created, such as the $300 million cut to the UW System and $127 million cut to K-12 education.

State Representative Daniel Riemer and State Senator Jon Erpenbach introduced a bill that would accept the popular Medicaid expansion money from the federal government, which would save the state at least $241 million, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau. That one act -- accepting the Medicaid funds -- would also allow 81,000 more Wisconsinites to receive affordable health care coverage, and bring in an additional $1.2 billion in federal funding to cover the costs of health care for our neighbors.

Wisconsin has long been a national leader in health care, ranking among the top states for health care quality and access. We know that access to affordable health care is a vital step on the path to economic stability and, therefore, is a key factor for the security of Wisconsin's middle class families, and those trying to reach the middle class.

Representative Riemer's bill is modeled after the plan the Republican administration in Iowa implemented just over a year ago, championed by their six-term Republican governor, Terry Branstad. Iowa provides Medicaid to its citizens who are in poverty. Iowans above poverty -- up to 133% of the poverty line -- get help to purchase private plans.

According to Representative Riemer, his plan saves Wisconsin $241 million over the next two years by calling for Wisconsin to adopt the Iowa model that helps people -- who are above the poverty line but who still struggle to access truly affordable coverage -- afford private insurance on the health care marketplace.

In Iowa, the money is funded in full by the federal government under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that expand Medicaid. Currently in Wisconsin, the funds come, to a much larger degree, from Wisconsin taxpayers because the governor turned down the federal money that Iowa accepted. This would be the right move for Wisconsin as it would allow 81,000 people to have access to basic health care services and would save tax payers hundreds of millions in the future.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin's ability to achieve more affordable, better access to health care has been undermined in recent years by Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature's refusal to work with the Obama Administration, based on their own right-wing ideology. Their one main argument -- because of national budget deficits, there may come a time when our national government might reduce funds for BadgerCare.

However, Representative Riemer says that by adopting the plan he and other Democrats have proposed, Wisconsin gets at least a 90% commitment from our national government to help fund BadgerCare, which, as stated, will save Wisconsin $241 million over the next two years. To alleviate the irrational concerns from Republican's -- in the unlikely event the federal government reduces funding for Medicaid -- the bill includes an escape clause permitting the Wisconsin Legislature to review any new federal funding formula. This means Wisconsin can walk away from the plan and return to the way things currently are. That sounds like a win-win for all of our neighbors.

An added bonus is the investments Wisconsin could make with $241 million in savings. Democrats would propose using it to invest in education and reduce the $300 million dollar cut to the UW System that is included in the governor's most recent state budget. Unfortunately, it seems clear Governor Walker and legislative Republican's are willing to put their extreme ideology ahead of our state's shared values and what is in the best interest of children and families in Wisconsin.

What can you do help? Contact the governor and Republican legislators and let them know that we want the tax dollars we send to Washington returned to Wisconsin through Medicaid expansion. It's time to end the political posturing, and save Wisconsin taxpayers $241 million so that we can use that funding to grow Wisconsin's middle class.

Click here to view a copy of the proposed bill.
 


 

Save SeniorCare
As you may know, Governor Walker�s 2015-17 state budget was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 21 on February 3, 2015, and was referred to the Legislature�s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). One of the damaging provisions included in the budget, that our neighbors have expressed concerns about, is the attack on the SeniorCare program. The governor's budget cuts SeniorCare funding by $15 million and forces all SeniorCare participants to sign up for Medicare Part D � a move which would reduce patient coverage and increase costs. 

SeniorCare is a vital state health care program that provides life-saving medication to seniors at a price they can afford. SeniorCare first went into effect in 2002, and currently serves around 85,000 of our neighbors. SeniorCare is often a better option for our seniors, compared to the federal Medicare Part D, because it is easier to apply for and understand, provides reliable coverage at a lower cost, and costs taxpayers less than what Medicare Part D does. Unlike Part D, SeniorCare has a simple enrollment process, a $30 annual enrollment fee, income-based deductibles, and co-payments of just $5 for generic medications and $15 for name brand medications. Additionally, according to the Wisconsin Aging Advocacy Network, under Walker�s plan, an enrollee's out-of-pocket costs would increase by an average of $732 per year.

SeniorCare has earned widespread support because it is a responsible program that serves the health care needs of seniors in a way that makes the best possible use of scarce state and federal funds. It is important that we support this popular and important program that ensures our seniors are able to purchase the medications they need. Actions by the governor, like cutting SeniorCare and refusing health care coverage to more people at a lower cost to the state by rejecting federal money for BadgerCare, are irresponsible. I will continue to advocate for a state budget that reflects Wisconsin�s shared values and ensures economic security for hardworking families in our state.

There are two things that you can do to Save SeniorCare:

1. Go to www.SaveSeniorCare.Com to show your support for this life-saving program that helps our seniors, by signing the petition creating by Legislative Democrats.

2. Attend JFC public hearings. JFC will be holding public hearings as they review the budget, and will make changes over the coming months, before approving a final version to be voted on by the full Legislature, which typically occurs in June. I am strongly advocating for having one of these committee hearings in Milwaukee, and I hope to see my fellow neighbors come to express their opinions and concerns regarding the state budget, such as the attack on SeniorCare.

 

Artwork in the Rotunda

The Wisconsin Art Education Association is sponsoring a student art exhibit in the Capitol Rotunda from Saturday, February 21, 2015, through March 6, 2015. Student artwork from across the state is being displayed. I am proud that there were several students from the Milwaukee area whose artwork is displayed. The artwork came from students from La Causa Charter, MacDowell Montessori, Central City Cyber School, and Bruce Guadalupe Community. The  artwork was submitted by students ranging from 2nd to 12th grade. Congratulations to all of the students who had their artwork was featured in the display.

 

 

Wisconsin Rare Disease Day
Today, an event was held in the Wisconsin Assembly Parlor to raise awareness for the 1 in 10 individuals living with a rare disease, and the challenges they face. Patients, caregivers, and other stakeholders spoke about the challenges and triumphs of living with rare diseases in Wisconsin.

Many important decisions related to rare diseases are made through state policies. I recently co-sponsored a bill, introduced by Senator Julie Lassa, that would create Collin's Law in Wisconsin. Collin's Law would screen newborns for disease's like Krabbe Luekodystrophy (LSD). In order to ensure patient's of these rare, fatal diseases survive with a good quality of life, it must be caught during newborn screening.

I would like to thank the individuals who came to speak at the Capitol today to raise awareness about this important issue.

 

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