LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

 

January 16, 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. 
 

 

A Midnight Cry

Date: Now through Sun., February 9,
Location: Milwaukee

Description: This moving, historical drama with live music is inspired by the true story of a young slave's journey to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Whisperings of a railroad helping slaves across to the free states seem too good to be true to young Lida Anderson. But with the help of other slaves and her family, Lida risks everything to be free. Leaving behind the only life she knows, she embarks on a dangerous journey out of slavery to freedom. "A Midnight Cry" brings to life a vital part of our nation's history. CLICK HERE for more information.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)

Todd Wehr Theater

929 N. Water Street Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

End of the Rainbow

Date: Now through Sun., February 9
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Explosive acting and classic songs bring down the house in this critically-acclaimed exploration of Judy Garland's infamous 1968 London comeback. Named in Time Magazine's "Top 10" List and called "electrifying" by The New York Times, this savagely funny and emotionally-searing play finds the once-glittering starlet sparring with her new fiance, her devoted accompanist, and her personal demons. Filled with Garland's legendary tenacity, razor-sharp wit, and once-in-a-generation voice, this is a piece of theater truly befitting the late, great songstress who took us "over the rainbow." CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-9490 for more information.

Milwaukee Repertory Theater (MAP)
108 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Milwaukee Children's Choir Auditions

Date: Now through Fri., March 28

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Milwaukee Children's Choir is a non-profit organization that offers programs for children ages four to 18, with convenient rehearsal sites throughout the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Choir students participate in numerous concerts and events every year. Auditions for the second semester are currently being held. To schedule an audition for a child, please call (414) 221-7040. CLICK HERE for more information.



Gallery Night and Day

Date: Fri., January 17 and Sat., January 18

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Gallery Night and Day, presented by the Historic Third Ward, is the premier art event in Milwaukee for both the experienced art connoisseur and the beginning admirer. This quarterly event will showcase 40 venues throughout the downtown Milwaukee area. Admission is free to all participating venues during event hours. Gallery Night and Day will also host "Sculptures on Ice," Milwaukee's annual ice sculpting exhibition. Bundle up and bring your family and friends to witness these artistic cold weather creations. Watch local artists and sculptors form five-foot blocks of ice into creative pieces of art at Catalano Square off Broadway and East Menomonee Street on Friday, January 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information, including a list of participating venues.

 

 

Colorful Nebula
Date:
Fridays from January 17 to 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

 

 

Trains that Passed in the Night--Railroad Photographs of O. Winston Link
Date: Fri., January 17 through Sun., April 27
Location: Milwaukee
Description: This exhibition features 36 framed, original prints signed by O. Winston Link that showcase the final years of steam railroading on the Norfolk & Western Railway, the last major railroad in America to operate exclusively with steam power. They are regarded as one of the best records of this long vanished type of locomotion. The broad appeal of Link's photographs is derived not so much from the images of the steam locomotives themselves, but from the way in which their inclusion expresses Link's deeply felt respect for the quality of life that the steam railroad supported for so many years in the U.S. The exhibit is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.

The Grohmann Museum (MAP)
1000 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Milwaukee Ballet II World Premiere Featuring the Music of Cole Porter
Date: Sat., January 25 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: The vibrant dancers of the Milwaukee Ballet's second company, the Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II program, return for a third season. Said to have danced "a splendid concert with confidence, presence and personality" by dance critic John Schneider, this season's performance features a world premiere, with music by Cole Porter, choreography by former Milwaukee Ballet Company member Petr Zahradnicek, and live music by Daniel Boudewuns, senior accompanist for the Ballet.  CLICK HERE for more information.

 

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)

901 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

 

 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

Despite Wisconsin ranking 37th nationally for job creation, Republican legislators have set economic development proposals aside in order to pursue controversial bills, such as creating a 7-day work week for employees. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues, such as a sporting group's tax woes, a voucher school closing but keep taxpayer dollars, and upcoming community meetings this February.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Republican Pushes for 7-Day Work Week

Wisconsin has a rich history of leading the nation in championing key labor reforms, such as instituting the 8-hour work day and 40-hour work week. Over a century ago, Milwaukee workers even fought for this right by implementing a five-day industrial work stoppage, halting production in factories throughout the city. However a Republican state senator is trying to change that by circulating a bill to do away with weekends for workers.

 

Current Wisconsin law requires employers of factories or retail stores to give workers at least 24 consecutive hours off every seven days. Under this regressive proposal, this protection would be taken away and workers could be pressured into working seven straight days without rest. This means less time for middle-class workers to spend with their families. Further, too much work with little breaks can also have an adverse effect on productivity and work quality.

 

While the author of this bill claimed to be moving the legislation forward on behalf of the workers of Wisconsin, it appears that the only people or groups he worked with when drafting the proposal was Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce--a business interest group, not a worker's organization. Workers, on the other hand, are concerned this legislation could allow businesses to force their employees into working overtime or face consequences, including losing their job, if they say "no."

 

This is not the first extreme anti-worker bill this senator has authored or supported. In addition to advocating for a seven-day work week, he has also proposed eliminating the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, voted to decrease child labor law protections, and supported eliminating Wisconsin's Equal Pay Enforcement Act.

 

This proposal has yet to be officially introduced and assigned to a committee. Should this anti-family bill reach the Senate floor for a vote, I will be sure to oppose it.

 

 

Sporting Group Asks IRS for Forgiveness

The scandal continued for United Sportsmen this week, likely leaving Wisconsinites relieved that their taxpayer dollars were rescinded from this troubled group. While initially presenting itself as a nonprofit, this organization switched its status to a for-profit company after not being awarded federal nonprofit status. However, when it was discovered by the media that United Sportsmen had yet to file any state tax filings--a requirement for for-profit groups--the organization reverted to declaring itself a nonprofit yet again. This flip-flopping behavior has resulted in incorrect tax filings by United Sportsmen, who are now asking the federal government to exempt them from the resulting penalties.

 

In addition to United Sportsmen trying to dig itself out of the troubles they created, information about their past funding sources have also come to light. Their tax filings show that the group has only ever had one donor--Citizens for a Strong America, a group with strong connections to the Tea Party organization Americans for Prosperity as well the Koch brothers. Further, it appears that United Sportsmen dedicated the majority of their funds to paying for political mailers to be sent out during the election season.

 

Below are some of the shocking facts that have come to light regarding the rescinded $500,000 sweetheart deal to United Sportsmen:
 

  • The narrowly-tailored language creating the grant in the Republican budget prevented established hunting, fishing, and conservation groups from applying for the grant.

  • The only eligible group for the grant was United Sportsmen, which had ties to the Republican Assembly Majority Leader who was in charge at the time the grant was drafted and awarded.

  • Republican legislators ignored warnings from the federal government that awarding the $500,000 grant to their political ally could cost Wisconsin up to $28 million in federal funds.

  • The lobbyist for United Sportsmen offered free fishing excursions to then-Assembly Majority Leader just days before the $500,000 grant was awarded to the group.

  • A top Department of Natural Resources official was featured at a fundraiser for United Sportsmen in May, just weeks before the group was awarded the $500,000 state grant.

  • 18 Tea Party legislators signed a letter encouraging the grant be issued to United Sportsmen.

  • The organization had no history of doing the type of training for which the grant provides funding.

  • They admitted that the funds would almost solely fund staff salaries and consultants.

  • United Sportsmen's president was cited, convicted, and fined for a hunting violation. The violation involves state fish and game law that the group would have been receiving taxpayer money to teach to new hunters and anglers as part of the grant. The group's president later claimed that he would not have been cited under current law because of recent changes to state statutes, but that claim, according to the DNR, is false.


While Democrats are proposing legislation to move forward with a new grant program to ensure our hunting and angling tradition stays alive in Wisconsin, Republicans have yet to announce what they have in mind for the $500,000 in taxpayer dollars following the cancellation of the grant. It appears the Department of Natural Resources agrees on the value of the Democratic proposal as they are currently working on reallocating these funds to provide grants to reputable outdoor groups. It is my hope that Republicans will join us in these common sense efforts to modify the grant program in light of this scandal. I will continue updating you on this important issue as new details emerge.

 

 

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: I read that a voucher school in Milwaukee closed for 2014, but still got to pocket the voucher money they received from taxpayers. How is that not fraud?

A: As you mentioned, LifeSkills Academy, a private K-8 school participating in the voucher program abruptly closed this December. As a result, students--including voucher program participants--were forced to relocate to other schools. Despite closing, however, the school was still able to collect $202,278 in taxpayer-funded voucher payments, which DPI is prohibited from recouping.

 

This recent event gets at the heart of the problem with the unaccountable voucher system. Under current law, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required to pay voucher schools $6,442 per pupil based on the school's fall enrollment count. These payments are currently paid in four installments during the school year. But there is no mechanism set up to recollect these funds if voucher schools break their commitment to educate the children they are receiving funds for over the course of the entire school year. Instead, DPI can only halt future payments. With the case of LifeSkills Academy, they received half of their funding payments already, but only educated the children under their care for three and a half months out of the nine-and-a-half-month school year.

 

Of additional concern is the fact that this school has collected more than $2 million in public tax dollars since joining the voucher program in the 2008-09 school year. However, it was 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 most state achievement test score results."

 

For this reason, my Democratic colleagues and I fully support extending current accountability and transparency measures that apply to public schools to all schools receiving taxpayer dollars, including voucher schools. We cannot afford to keep wasting money on fly-by-night schools, like LifeSkills Academy.

 

 

Join Me at Upcoming Community Meetings

I will be hosting a number of town halls during February 2014. Attending these listening sessions is a great opportunity to talk to me about issues facing our community and state, or to listen to the concerns and thoughts of our neighbors.

The information for these events is listed below. I also advertise these by posting on my Web site, Facebook, and Twitter; via neighborhood groups; with media alerts; and through direct emails.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office for additional information.

Monday, February 3, 2014

5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park (MAP)

Community Room
1500 E. Park Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211

(Representative Jon Richards and Alderman Nik Kovac also attending)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
South Milwaukee Public Library (MAP)
1907 10th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

 

Did You Know...?

While you likely are familiar with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case, did you know that its four-year anniversary is taking place on Tuesday, January 21?


This decision, which allows corporations to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns, has allowed special interest groups to maintain their grasp on our elections. Since the decision was handed down, spending on political campaigns has exploded. Instead of the people choosing the best representative for their community, our elections are now vulnerable to being sold to the highest bidder.

The influence of special interests was especially noticeable in the most recent recall elections, particularly with the gubernatorial race. In this single race, over $63 million was spent with $3.9 million being spent by Tom Barrett, $30.5 million being spent by Scott Walker, and nearly $29 million being spent by non-candidate groups. This is why my Democratic colleagues and I have proposed numerous campaign finance reform bills this session.
 

 

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This year, we will mark the 51st anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Although later assassinated in 1968, his message of freedom and equality still rings true as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this January.

After settling down in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. successfully carried out a boycott on discriminatory city buses, organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters, and led a series of nonviolent marches and demonstrations. As a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, his actions 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.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day commemorates a man who not only dreamed of racial equality, but also led a movement that carried out necessary reforms to make his dream a reality. Because of the vision he championed, our country has moved closer to becoming a place where all people, no matter what their race, can be treated with fairness and equality.

Although we have made significant strides forward toward equality, progress still needs to be made. For example, racial separation is still prevalent in our very own Milwaukee, which currently ranks as the most segregated city in the nation with 90 percent of all African Americans living in one area of the city. But this blatant inequality is not solely limited to race as discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, and religion continue to persist.

Our efforts to fight against discrimination in our society shows how relevant Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message remains today. So when we celebrate his legacy and accomplishments this Monday, January 20, we should not only reflect on the progress Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has made, but also look toward the future and recognize how much still needs to be done in his name.

Our community will be hosting events to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you would like to join in the festivities, please see the event information listed below:

 

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service

Monday, January 20 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Join City Year as they hold a day of service to commemorate the civil rights movement and honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This event allows volunteers to participate in service activities at Bay View Middle and High School. Activities include painting brightly colored murals, painting inspiring quotes, performing light construction, and participating in general beautification projects throughout the school. Approximately 350 volunteers are expected to participate, in addition to the 100 City Year corps members and staff.

 

Bay View Middle and High School (MAP)
2751 S. Lenox Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Click here for more information about this event.

 

30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration
Sunday, January 19 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The only U.S. cities that have celebrated Dr. King's birthday annually since 1984 are Atlanta, Georgia and Milwaukee. Always taking place in the month of January, this event focuses on keeping the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. alive. The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration programming highlights the youth in our community who every year interpret Dr. King's words through an art, speech, and a writing contest. In addition, various cultural arts organizations take center stage in Uihlein Hall, truly demonstrating the excellence of our arts community. Some of the performing groups that recently celebrated at this event in the past include the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra Calypso Steel Drum Band, Ballet Folklorico Nacional, Signature Dance Company, and Aarabhi Indian School of Dance. The event concludes with the Paulette Y. Copeland Reception in the Bradley Pavilion.

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

 

Click here or call (414) 273-7206 for more information.

 

 

Get Ready for Free Fishing Weekend

Ice fishing is just one of the many outdoor recreation traditions valued by Wisconsinites. An estimated 590,700 Wisconsinites age 16 and over reported ice fishing, up from 479,900 in 2000, according to the most recent National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) believes this growth may in part reflect that ice fishing is a low-cost way to try fishing or serves as a way to extend the fishing season for veteran open water anglers.

 

This year, the DNR is offering neighbors statewide the opportunity to participate in this beloved activity free of charge. Winter Free Fishing Weekend will take place on January 18 and January 19. No fishing license or Great Lakes salmon stamp is needed to fish any Wisconsin water during this event weekend. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River and other boundary waters. However other fishing rules, such as limits on the number and size of fish anglers can keep and any seasons when anglers must release certain fish species, still apply. 

 

Click here for more information from the DNR about the free fishing weekend.
 

 

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 before winter arrives. 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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