LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


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January 15, 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

 

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. 


 

18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Breakfast

Date: Monday, January 19

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee for their 18th Annual Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. Celebration Breakfast to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and recognize local community members and organization who are dedicated to serving others. CLICK HERE for more information about the event.

Italian Community Center (MAP)
631 E. Chicago St.

Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

Free Weekend Admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum

Date: Saturday, January 24 and Sunday, January 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Greater Milwaukee Foundation will be offering an all-access, free weekend at Milwaukee Public Museum as part of their year-long Gifts to the Community series. No reservations are required, and all are welcome. In addition to free general admission, the January Gift to the Community will include free admission to the Daniel M. Soref National Geographic Dome Theater & Planetarium, featuring the show Cosmic Colors. All guests will be treated as "members for a day," entitling them to discounts on food, beverages and gifts. Throughout the weekend, museum educators will add insight to exhibits while enactors dressed in period attire will interact with guests on the Streets of Old Milwaukee. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Milwaukee Public Museum
(MAP)

800 W. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233

 

RUMMAGE-A-RAMA!

Date: Saturday, January 24 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday January 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: RUMMAGE-A-RAMA! is an indoor flea market and rummage sale event held four time a year. It features a collection of over 100 different sellers and a wide variety of items. Admission is $2 + two canned goods, which will be delivered to Hunger Task Force of Milwaukee. Admission without a food donation is $4. Kids 12 and under are free. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Wisconsin State Fair Park (MAP)

640 South 84th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53214
 

Yeti Dash

Date: Saturday, February 7, 9 a.m.

Location: Cudahy

Description: The Yeti Dash is a premiere snowshoe 3/5K in our community. This year the route will be along the new scenic bluff trails along Lake Michigan. CLICK HERE for registration information.

 

Warnimont Park  (MAP)

6100 South Lake Dr.

Cudahy, WI 53110

 

 

Woman Up!
Date: Saturday, February 7, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description:  The Shepard Express invites you to Woman Up!, a festival dedicated to celebrating women that will inspire, empower, and enliven you. Guests will have the opportunity to sample of variety of delicious food and drink from some of Milwaukee's finest restaurants, chocolatiers, and wineries.  Tickets for the event are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Wisconsin State Fair Park (MAP)

640 South 84th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53214





 



 



 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

Happy New Year! On January 5, the Legislature kicked off the 2015-2016 session, and new and returning legislators were sworn in. I was happy to stand beside my colleagues as I started my second term as state senator. Thank you again for granting me the opportunity to serve you for another four years -- it is an honor and privilege.
 
The governor delivered his annual State of the State address on Tuesday, January 13. This week's Larson Report will discuss Progressive Priorities for the 2015-2016 Legislative Session as well as highlight some of the takeaways from the governor's speech.

Additionally, Senate and Assembly Republicans have unveiled their first bills of the new session, which unfortunately feature new efforts to take control of our local schools. Read on to learn more about their proposals, which do nothing to address the education values deficit. 

In contrast, the Democratic education solution supports our neighborhood schools and protects our shared public investments by ensuring all schools are held to the same standards. 

Sincerely, 


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

New Year, Same Empty Promises

On Tuesday, Governor Walker presented his annual State of the State address to both houses of the Legislature. In recent years, these speeches have featured cherry-picked statistics that show the current administration in a positive light, while sweeping the concerns of Wisconsinites under the rug. This address was no different from those of the past four years.

Unfortunately, Governor Walker laid out yet another irresponsible agenda for our state. What we heard were more empty promises and right-wing talking points that appeal to Tea Party voters in other states, but ultimately don't address the snowballing problems he has created here in Wisconsin.

So what did the Governor have to say to the state?
After praising the Green Bay Packers multiple times, Walker announced that he is working with Attorney General Brad Schimel on a lawsuit challenging a new proposal by President Obama that would place limits on harmful carbon emissions from new power plants, and also cut carbon emissions from existing facilities. Once again, it seems that Governor Walker is more fixated on what happens in Washington D.C., than what happens here in Wisconsin. While the proposal will help combat climate change responsibly by lowering the amount of CO2 in the air over time, Walker claims he is worried that the new standards could increase the energy rates we pay. Just a few months ago, however, the Public Service Commission (PSC), a state board with members appointed by the governor that oversees utility rates, approved an 80% increase in service fees for the power corporation that services the Green Bay area. The PSC also recently approved other rate hikes in Madison and Milwaukee. If the governor was truly interested in saving working families money and boosting our economy, he should more time reining in boards he has direct authority over, instead of trying to distract the public with quixotic fights.

 

More Power to an Already Failing Agency?
Later in the speech, the governor made the alarming announcement that he intends on giving more power and money to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) by combining it with the Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). Why is that alarming? WEDC is the failed state agency created by Walker that has:

  • Lost track of over $50 million in loans, including about $12 million that were overdue
     

  • Provided awards to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and for ineligible amounts
     

  • Disregarded the law by not requiring grant and loan recipients to disclose their financial statements

  • Ignored requests to put policies in place for handling delinquent loans

  • Failed to put sufficient policies in place or track use of agency credit cards resulting in purchases of iTunes gift cards, Badger football tickets, and alcohol with taxpayer dollars
     

  • Mismanaged record-keeping preventing WEDC from assessing its effectiveness in creating jobs
     

  • Lacked transparency on staff compensation, staff fringe benefits, and gifts from businesses and other organizations with a financial interest in WEDC

These are just some of the continuously building list of WEDC failures.

 

Squandering our shared investments, especially during difficult economic times, is simply unacceptable. I agree that there needs to be serious changes at WEDC and now is the perfect time to pursue greater accountability and transparency measures at the agency instead of giving them more power and money.
 

State of the State Recap
The governor is using broad brush strokes to paint over the reality of the past four years. Let's not be hoodwinked into forgetting that this is the same governor who:

  • Turned his back on Wisconsin's tradition of quality public school investment, creating a values deficit of more than $500 million by making largest cut to public education in state history. At the same time he spent millions more on private, unaccountable voucher schools

  • Gave away more than $350 million of our money by rejecting an opportunity to strengthen BadgerCare

  • Mandated forced vaginal ultrasounds on women seeking abortions, including survivors of rape and incest

  • Created a state agency that is plagued with incompetence and failure, and that has lost track of millions of dollars

  • Allowed our health, economy, land, water, and air to be endangered by sand mine profiteers
    Stripped from Wisconsin law the guarantee that women receive equal pay for equal work

Because of these backward policies, Wisconsin faces a $2.2 billion budget deficit and lags behind other Midwestern states in job creation. This is not the time to double down on an extreme agenda of failure. Across Wisconsin people are asking themselves if they are better off now than before the recession, and the answer from unemployed workers, parents of public school children, college students, seniors, and countless others, is "no."

 

Click here to view a copy of the governor's State of the State speech.
 

Progressive Priorities for a Prosperous Wisconsin
My Democratic colleagues and I are asking the governor to put his own ambitions aside and work with us on good public policy that prioritizes Wisconsin's working class families, helps educate all children, and protects our senior citizens and veterans. Polices such as:

  • Ensuring workers receive a fair, livable wage

  • Closing the values deficit by reversing the largest cuts in state history to public education and make sure all schools receiving public investments are held to the same fair standards

  • Increasing access to health care by expanding BadgerCare to more of our neighbors

  • Reducing the cost of tuition and college debt for students seeking higher education

  • Reinstating the right to equal pay for equal work

  • Re-strengthening our tech colleges and worker training programs

These policies will help build to a stronger future for all Wisconsinites. It's time we stop putting politics before people and get to work.

 

 

Ensuring Quality Education for All Students

Last week, Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd and I introduced the Quality Schools proposal that will help prevent the blatant waste, fraud, and abuse of Wisconsin's public dollars that has run rampant in the unaccountable, private voucher school system for the past 25 years. Similar legislation received bipartisan support last session, but was ultimately blocked by Republican legislative leaders.
 

The proposal we circulated includes common sense rules for voucher schools that are current practices in public schools, such as:

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

  • Holding regular meetings of governing bodies

  • Requiring licensure for teachers

  • Providing similar access to open records

  • Abiding by seclusion and restraint laws

  • Offering due process for expelled students

  • Creating similar graduation requirements

  • Administering early reading screenings

  • Require building inspections for safety purposes

  • Halt payments to out-of-state voucher schools

To protect our shared investment in education, the proposal also does the following:

  • 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

Click here to view a copy of the Quality Schools bill.

We know that our students and neighborhood schools are still struggling to recover from the largest cuts to education in our states history, and by failing to restore cuts we are failing to restore faith in our future. Restoring the $500 million values deficit should be our state's top priority. At a bare minimum, we must make sure that every school receiving taxpayer dollars are held to the same standards and accountability. That is not the system we have today, and it continues to jeopardize the quality of education all of our children receive.
 

Low Education Quality and Continued Voucher Failure 
Allegations of discrimination and mistreatment of students with disabilities in voucher schools over the years is extremely alarming and now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. In addition, studies have shown that in many cases voucher schools perform worse than our traditional community schools. Last year, LifeSkills Academy, a voucher school that received $2.3 million in public funding, closed because none of its students were proficient in math and only one fourth grader was proficient in reading. Most recently, Travis Technology High School, a voucher school in Milwaukee, closed because of financial mismanagement.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Republicans are paying attention to the damaging effects this failed experiment has had on our children and community. This week, Republicans in both the Senate and Assembly introduced legislation that are essentially "Local School Takeover Bills" and do little to hold voucher schools to the same standards of accountability that already exists in our traditional neighborhood schools.

Although the Republican bills are not identical, there are some common concerns, for example, both bills:

  • Allow multiple tests to be used to measure student achievement. This will create an apples to oranges comparison of how students are learning in voucher schools and public schools

  • Impose sanctions on public schools that are essentially a back-door way to turn public schools into privately-run charter schools


  • Create a bureaucratic board made up of political appointees, not educational experts to impose sanctions and create rules on academic standard

It is also worth noting that in many cases the Department of Public Instruction, including our State's Superintendent who is a constitutional officer elected by the people of Wisconsin, has been cut out of the conversation by the Republicans when putting together their bills. In contrast, those groups of people who represent voucher schools, who push for more public funding while also demanding less accountability, have had a seat at the table.

Whether it is turning a blind eye to allegations of disgraceful treatment of students with disabilities, or ignoring gross instances of fraud and financial mismanagement of public dollars, Wisconsin Republicans continues to display a pattern of putting campaign contributors ahead of our kid's classrooms.

Access to quality education is a freedom and right that every child deserves. To that end, my Democratic colleagues and I will keep fighting to ensure that Wisconsin's educational investments are in an accountable, discrimination-free system so that every child can obtain the knowledge and skills to succeed in life.
 

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: With the recent elections and Inauguration of new legislators, are there any changes neighbors in the 7th Senate District should be aware of? 
 
A: Wisconsin's recent elections have brought a lot of changes to the Legislature. New legislators took the Oath of Office on January 5, 2015.
 
As you may know, within each senate district there are three assembly districts. The 7th Senate District contains Assembly District's 19, 20, and 21. Neighbors who reside in Assembly District 19, which covers Milwaukee's East Side, Downtown, Riverwest, and the Bay View neighborhood, have a new member serving them in the state assembly: Representative Jonathan Brostoff. Rep. Brostoff comes to the Legislature after longtime representative, Jon Richards, left the Assembly to pursue a campaign bid for Attorney General. It was an honor to serve the community alongside Jon Richards who was first elected to the Assembly in 1998. During his time in the Legislature, Jon championed laws pertaining to public safety, open government, environmental protection and health care.

Representative Brostoff is a lifelong resident of the 19th Assembly District. His dedication to enhancing the community began when he took his first volunteer position at age 14 with Pathfinders, a youth homeless shelter. Rep. Brostoff has served the Milwaukee community in the public and non-profit sectors ever since then, including on the board of the Wisconsin ACLU and with our veterans at Dryhootch. He is a graduate of the AmeriCorps program Public Allies. Rep. Brostoff also served as the district director in my Senate office. I look forward to working with Representative Brostoff to find out-of-the box, innovative solutions to move our state forward.

 

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns you would like to share with Rep. Brostoff, he can be reached by:

 

Phone: (608) 266-0650
Toll Free: (888) 534-0019

Email: Rep.Brostoff@legis.wisconsin.gov   

Mail:  P.O. Box 8952
         Madison, WI 53708

 

You can also connect with Rep. Brostoff on Facebook by clicking, here.
 

Go Pack Go!

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend my first Packer game at Lambeau Field. It was a thrilling game to watch and I was exhilarated to see our Packer victory firsthand. This weekend, the Packers are headed to Seattle to compete for the NFC Championship title. As most of you know, a win on Sunday means they will be headed to the 49th Super Bowl.

 

A successful season like this one is a testament to the hard work and dedication the team has demonstrated throughout the year, beginning with their training season. Even though the infamous Green and Gold players put in countless hours of practice to prepare for each season, they still find time to hold interactive events with fans during the training period. One of these special events, is a longstanding tradition where kids bring their bikes to Lambeau field in hopes to have a Packer ride it to their training -- a tradition that still carries on today. No one is exactly sure when this tradition started, but Packer players have been riding kids' bikes during training camp for more than half a century, and I have heard many stories of lucky fans who have been a part of this tradition. It is believed to have been originated in the early 1960s during Vince Lombardi's tenure as coach.

 

Good luck to our Green Bay Packers -- I know you will continue to make Wisconsin proud!

 

Click here for information on watching the Packers @ Seahawks game.  

 

 

 

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