February 6, 2014































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



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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. 


Date: Now through Sun., February 9
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tony Award-winning musical returns at last. Eva Peron used her beauty and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion for the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world--while her greed, outsized ambition, and fragile health made her one of the most tragic. "Evita" tells Eva's passionate and unforgettable true story, and features some of theater's most beautiful songs, including "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" and "High Flying, Adored." CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-7206 for more information.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Colorful Nebula
Fridays Now through March 7 at 7 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Colorful Nebula showcases the beauty of space by highlighting a few celestial clouds such as the Eagle, Horsehead, and Cat's Eye. Audiences will not only be able to marvel at space's hidden beauty, but also learn how nebulae are connected to stars. Nebulae form stars, are produced by middle-aged stars and can be the final outcome of massive explosions from dying stars. CLICK HERE for more information.

UWM Manfred Olson Planetarium (MAP)
Physics Building
1900 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211



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



UW-Milwaukee's 17th Annual Festival of Films in French

Date: Fri., February 7 through Sun., February 16

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Fourteen films will be screened over the 10-day festival, bringing a rich array of French-language cinema to Milwaukee. This year's selection highlights four women filmmakers and marks the centenary of World War I with Jean Renoir's highly acclaimed "La Grande Illusion" and two other anti-war films, the dadaist short "Entr'acte" and Abel Gance's silent classic "J'accuse," which will be screened with live musical accompaniment, a Festival tradition. These 14 films will not only take you back in time but also across the globe from Canada to Senegal and Israel to Malaysia. All films are free, open to the public, and subtitled in English. CLICK HERE or call (414)229-4070 for more information.

UW-Milwaukee Union Cinema (MAP)
2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211



Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life
Date: Fri., February 7 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



Book Discussion Groups
Date: Thurs., February 13, Location: Oak Creek
Description: Two new book clubs are starting at the Oak Creek Public Library. BOOK CH@TS is open to 6th-8th graders, and TEEN RE@DS is open to 9th-12th graders. The book discussion groups will meet every other month to discuss a book that follows a particular theme. This year, BOOK CH@TS is reading books with multiple perspectives, and TEEN RE@DS is looking at books about World War II. The groups will meet on alternating months, on the second Thursday of the month, at 4 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.


Oak Creek Public Library (MAP)

8620 S. Howell Avenue

Oak Creek, WI 53154



Bay View Winter Blast

Date: Sun., February 16 from Noon to 4 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: Every winter, the Bay View Neighborhood Association hosts a warming event for neighbors to get together and have a blast. This is a  luau-themed party that will boast a Hawaiian shirt contest, hula hoop and limbo contests, spam carving, and face-painting. A tiki photo booth will also be available to take memorable photos. Live music, delicious food from local restaurants,  and booths from numerous community and neighborhood groups are just a part of what to expect at this year's Winter Blast. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.


South Shore Park Pavillion (MAP)

2900 South Shore Drive

Milwaukee, WI 53207


Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,


Students and recent graduates flooded the Capitol this Wednesday to testify in favor of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, which is a common sense solution to a growing student debt crisis. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues including increasing voting restrictions and Black History Month.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Higher Ed, Lower Debt Bill Has Hearing

A public hearing was held this Wednesday on the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill, which is authored by Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason and co-sponsored by every Democratic legislator. The Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill would do the following for Wisconsinites:

  • 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.


Students and recent graduates flooded the Capitol to testify in favor of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. While the hearing took place in room 400 Southeast of the Capitol, overflow rooms had to be opened in order to accommodate the enormous crowd of supporters. At the hearing, 72 people registered or spoke in favor of the bill. Further, not a single Wisconsinite that attended registered or spoke in opposition to the bill at the hearing. 

Wisconsinites that were unable to participate in the public hearing are encouraged to submit testimony via email or letter to me so that I can pass it along to the chair of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges, Senator Sheila Harsdorf, on your behalf.

Wisconsin's Student Debt Crisis
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.

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, my colleagues and I were pleased that the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill was granted a public hearing and hope to see it become law before the legislative session concludes this spring. This is a real solution that will help to effectively combat the current student debt crisis.

Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Petition
If you would like to see the HigherEd, Lower Debt bill become law and were unable to attend Wednesday public hearing, I encourage you to sign onto the HigherEd, 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, LowerDebt 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.


February is Black History Month

In February, Wisconsin and the rest of the nation honor the achievements of African-Americans by celebrating Black History Month. This holiday has a rich history of reflecting on the adversity African- Americans had to overcome and commemorating their accomplishments. The Legislature will be holding a reception in the Assembly parlor on February 18 at noon to commemorate this momentous occasion. It is also customary for the Legislature to adopt a joint resolution honoring the month-long holiday. Senator Nikiya Harris will be introducing this year's joint resolution.


Click here to listen to a radio address by Senator Lena Taylor celebrating Black History Month.

Black History Month dates back to 1926 when Carter G. Woodson founded National Negro Week. He purposely chose the week in which both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas were born as these two figures played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement. Fifty years later in 1976, President Gerald Ford dedicated an entire month to the celebration of African-Americans and so Black History Month began.


The 2014 theme of Black History Month is "Civil Rights in America" to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The perseverance of civil rights activists such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in publicly owned facilities and forbids states from implementing discriminatory voting practices respectively.

Wisconsin, and even our very own Milwaukee area community, was home to some prominent civil rights activists and fights for equality. Take Ezekiel Gillespie for example. Gillespie sued the elections board for denying him the right to register to vote, and with the 1866 Supreme Court case Gillespie v. Palmer, Wisconsin became one of the first states to grant African-Americans the right to vote. Lloyd Barbee was another prominent figure in the Milwaukee Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. He served in Wisconsin State Assembly where he introduced the state's Fair Housing bill. Barbee was a long-time advocate of total school integration and lead efforts to desegregate Milwaukee Public Schools.

Claretta Simpson, known to many as "Mother Freedom" was a Milwaukeean that marched with Dr. King and was a leader in the fight for equal rights in Milwaukee. So too was Vel Phillips, who was the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Wisconsin Law School, and would later become the first African-American to hold statewide office as Secretary of State.

Although tremendous strides have been made in establishing equality for all Americans, it is still important to reflect on past events. By doing so we can continue to move forward by learning from mistakes and making sure that history does not repeat itself. Black History Month also gives us a chance to reflect on how lucky we are to live in a melting pot society.



State of the Tribes Address Approaching

Next week, the annual State of the Tribes address will be delivered by Menominee Nation Chair Craig Corn before the Wisconsin Legislature. Some of the issues addressed by the tribes in the past include hunting and fishing, environmental stewardship, education, and health care. The address will be delivered at 1 p.m. on Thursday, February 13 in the Assembly Chambers. It is open to the public with seating available in the Assembly Chamber's balconies.


Click here to view last year's address or for more information about the upcoming address on February 13 courtesy of Wisconsin Public Television.



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: What is the status of legislation preventing local municipalities from setting convenient voting hours for working Wisconsinites?

A: As you may know, Assembly Bill 54 was introduced on March 1, 2013. Under current law, voters can apply to vote in-person absentee with the local municipal clerk beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 5 p.m. or the close of business on the Friday preceding the election, whichever is later. Assembly Bill 54, on the other hand, would penalize local municipalities seeking to provide greater access to the polls for qualified voters by changing this existing law.

Under this bill, in−person absentee voting applications may only be received by each municipal clerk's office Monday to Friday between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day. In addition, the clerk's office may not be open more than 40 hours a week beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 5 p.m. on the Friday preceding the election in order to receive in-person absentee voting applications. This means that municipalities that choose to offer extended hours during weekdays or open their doors on weekends prior to an election will no longer be allowed to do so.


Unfortunately, the people that really lose out under this proposal are Wisconsin's workers who are unable to leave their job to vote absentee during normal business hours. In addition to making it more difficult for our hard-working Wisconsinites to exercise their constitutional right to vote, this bill also infringes on the rights of local government. Who better to know if the municipal clerk should offer extended hours for voters than the office that conducts the elections for those Wisconsinites each Election Day?


Assembly Bill 54 has already passed in the full Assembly with a vote of 53-39-2 and was then sent to the Senate. This Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Elections and Urban Affairs held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 54. The bill has yet to pass the committee or be voted on by the full Senate. There are currently no advocacy groups registered in favor of the bill. However, 13 groups are currently registered in opposition to the bill. This includes the Wisconsin Counties Association, the city of Milwaukee, Disability Rights Wisconsin, and the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin.

A study done by George Mason University examining voter turnout for the 2010 general elections ranked Wisconsin among the top five states with the highest voter turnout. This trend continued in the 2012 general election, as well. According to the G.A.B., Wisconsin saw a turnout rate of 70.1% in that election. Additionally, 3,071,434 votes were cast for president in the November 2012 elections. This was the highest number of votes cast for a single office in a statewide election in Wisconsin history. Further, exhaustive investigations into the accuracy of Wisconsin elections has proven that restrictions on Wisconsin voters are profoundly unwarranted. These are numbers of which to be proud. Upholding this tradition, not reversing it, is the Wisconsin way.



Did You Know...?

You are probably familiar with the great features the Milwaukee area has to offer, including world-class museums, beautiful Great Lake views, stellar restaurants and bars, and bountiful outdoor activities. But did you know that the city of Milwaukee recently celebrated its birthday?


On Thursday, January 30, 2014, Milwaukee celebrated its 168th birthday. This means that Milwaukee became an official city two years before Wisconsin was admitted to the Union in 1848.



Community Meeting Recap

Thank you to the neighbors that attended the community meetings in Milwaukee and South Milwaukee this week. I was encouraged to see so many of our neighbors stop by to share their thoughts and concerns on a number of important issues, such as education, environmental protection, and women's health.

The thoughtful comments and questions are greatly appreciated. Hearing your perspective on issues that will have a significant impact on our community is crucial as we work to move Wisconsin forward together.


If you were unable to attend these community meetings, please do not hesitate to contact me directly by phone, email, or letter regarding the issues that are important to you.



Olympic Games Begin This Week

Every two years, the world comes together to for the Olympic Games where nations compete to determine which athletes are the best of the best. The Games also aim to promote its three core values of friendship, excellence, and respect between nations. Sochi, Russia is set to host the next Olympic Games, which will boast 85 nations from all over the world taking part in 89 different athletic events. This highly-anticipated event will open on Friday, February 7 and run for 17 days.

Our country has sent athletes to every celebration of the modern Olympic Games, except the 1980 Summer Olympics, which it boycotted. Thomas Burke was the first athlete to represent the United States at the Olympics. He took first place in both the 100 meters and the 400 meters of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Many athletes with Wisconsin ties are set to represent us in the 2014 Winter Games, so be sure to cheer on and pay close attention to these individuals:

USA Curling

  • Craig Brown (Alternate)--from Madison, WI

  • Erika Brown--from Madison, WI

  • Debbie McCormick--from Rio, WI

  • Allison Pottinger--former UW-Milwaukee and UW-Oshkosh student

  • Jeff Isaacson--received his Master's degree from UW-Superior

USA Speed Skating 

  • Alyson Dudek--from Hales Corners

  • Maria Lamb--from River Falls

  • Jilleanne Rookard--trains and lives in Milwaukee

  • Sugar Todd--from Wauwatosa

  • Tucker Fredricks--from Janesville

  • Brian Hansen--lives in Milwaukee

  • Jonathan Kuck--lives in Milwaukee

  • Mitchell Whitmore--from Waukesha


USA Hockey  

  • Brianna Decker--from Dousman and a former Wisconsin Badger

  • Meghan Duggan--former Wisconsin Badger

  • Amanda Kessel--from Madison

  • Hilary Knight--former Wisconsin Badger

  • Jessie Vetter--from Cottage Grove and a former Wisconsin Badger

  • Phil Kessel--from Madison

  • Ryan McDonagh--former Wisconsin Badger

  • Joe Pavelski--from Plover and former Wisconsin Badger

  • Derek Stepan--former Wisconsin Badger

  • Ryan Suter--former Wisconsin Badger and former Milwaukee Admiral

  • Blake Wheeler--former Green Bay Gambler


USA Skeleton

  • Matt Antoine--from Prairie du Chien


Despite the many physical, spiritual, and cultural differences of the participating nations, the Olympics bring all of us together through our shared appreciation of competition and sportsmanship. However, unlike many of the Olympic Games of the past, this year's Sochi Games started out mired in human rights related controversy.


Under Russian law, it is a crime to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender issues in front of minors as such action is considered "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." In addition to these limits on free speech, Russian authorities have turned a blind eye to human rights violations against LGBT teens and adults in their country. In protest of Russia's backwards behavior and discriminatory law, President Obama appointed openly gay American athletes to the Olympic Delegation. This included figure skating icon Brian Boitano, tennis legend Billie Jean King, and Olympian hockey player Caitlyn Cahow. Further, a number of gay athletes from the United States and beyond are expected to participate in the Olympics defying Russia's discriminatory practices. Such laws should not be accepted in today's society. I am happy to see that our nation is moving forward on increasing equality for all and hope other nations will eventually follow suit.


Click here for more information about Olympic programming.


Six More Weeks of Winter

This past Sunday, groundhogs across the country emerged from their burrows to help us predict the length of our winter season. If the little, furry critters see their shadow and retreat back into the burrow, it means we will be stuck with six more weeks of winter. But if they do not see their shadow, we are in the clear for an early spring.

Milwaukee's own groundhog, Wynter, who calls the Milwaukee County Zoo home predicted an expanded winter season as she saw her shadow on February 2. While this may not be the best news, given the extreme cold we have experienced this year, it does give outdoor enthusiasts the chance to enjoy some additional snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating.



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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