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January 29, 2015




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



Mailing Address:

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. 


Free Admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum

Date: Thursday, Feb. 5

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Through the �Thank You Thursday� program, Milwaukee County residents receive free general admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum on the first Thursday of every month. Adult residents must present valid photo identification showing Milwaukee County residency to receive free admission, and children must be accompanied by an adult. CLICK HERE for more information.


Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)

800 West Wells St. Milwaukee, WI 53233


18th Annual Festival of Films in French

Date: Friday, Feb. 6 to Sunday, Feb. 15

Location: Milwaukee

Description: As a part of UW-Milwaukee�s �Year of the Humanities,� the French Program will be screening 17 French films. This includes four special events: a day-long hip-hop dance and music program, featuring special guest Jean-Pierre Thorn, a classic double feature evening focusing on cinema and politics in 1930s France, an afternoon devoted to Claude Lanzmann�s most recent documentary, and Jacques Feyder�s 1925 silent film, Mother, with live musical accompaniment. CLICK HERE for more information about the show.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Theatre (MAP)
2200 East Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211



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 St.
Milwaukee, WI 53214


Family Free Day at the Milwaukee County Zoo

Date: Saturday, Feb. 7

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Admission is free on February 7 to the Milwaukee County Zoo. There are many indoor and outdoor animal exhibits open year-round.



Milwaukee County Zoo (MAP)
10001 West Bluemound Rd.

Milwaukee, WI 53226


Yeti Dash
Date: Saturday, Feb. 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 to view the flyer for the event.

Warnimont Park (MAP)
6100 South Lake Dr.
Cudahy, WI 53110


MYSO Presents: Dynamic Debut
Date: Feb. 8, 2 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) will feature its Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble on February 8. The symphony will perform in the Uihlein Hall of the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. CLICK HERE for more information.

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


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


Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,


Last week, the Wisconsin State Senate met for the first time of the new session.


Despite the many challenges we face as a state, like our crippling values deficit in education, the Republican's in control of our state decided to make their first bill of the session a politically motivated attack on Wisconsin's 126-year tradition of how the chief justice of the state supreme court is selected, which does nothing to improve the lives of hardworking Wisconsinites.


While those on the other side of the aisle may not be thinking about Wisconsin families, Democrats in the Senate are. My colleagues and I unveiled our Democratic priorities for the session. Continue reading to learn more. 


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Politicizing the Wisconsin Supreme Court

SURELY, the first bill taken up in the Wisconsin State Senate this session wasn't just another political maneuver by Republicans to cement their power, was it? Seems odd right? Unfortunately, that actually was the one and only bill the Senate took up on the first floor period of session last week.

The bill, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2, is a constitutional amendment that alters the way the State Supreme Court elects its chief justice. Currently, the chief justice is based on seniority -- meaning the justice with the most experience would be the chief justice.


Republicans decided to change the rules by adding partisan politics into the process. Under SJR 2, which passed the Senate along party lines, the chief justice must be selected through an election among the other justices on the court. This controversial measure seems to be a direct attack aimed at removing Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson -- the longest serving member on the court. Republicans have often railed against Justice Abrahamson because they view her as a liberal on a court that has been shifting to be more conservative over the years.


Should this proposal go into effect, it would allow the Republican Majority to have control other yet another branch of government by making the selection of the chief justice a partisan popularity contest. By making this a priority, Republicans made it clear that they are willing to use any measure, even make changes to a document as sacred as our Wisconsin Constitution, to score politically.

Because the bill is a constitutional amendment, voters in Wisconsin will be asked to approve the measure via a referendum in the 2015 Spring Election, held on April 7. Should the referendum pass, the traditionally nonpartisan makeup of the court could drastically change.

You can read the text of the bill, and the question that will be on the April 7 ballot, here.

Republicans continue to ignore the very real problems facing our state. We should not forget Wisconsin still faces a $2.2 billion projected deficit, and lags dangerously behind most of the country in job creation. Our school-aged children are still suffering under the largest cut to education in our state's history, there is a growing disparity between rich and poor in Wisconsin, and gun violence is plaguing our communities. Women do not have state protections ensuring equal pay for equal work; there is rampant waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the governor's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; and the list goes on.

Instead of focusing on real issues that would move Wisconsin forward, the Republicans in control of our state are following the same pattern of misplaced priorities as the last four years. The GOP made it clear last week that their top priority continues to be putting politics before people. Working families in Wisconsin need the Legislature to come up with real solutions to ensure prosperity for all in our state, not play more political games.

Welcome to the "Special Interests" version of Wisconsin. It seems that if you're not already rich, a man, and a person who cares more about power than working families, the Republicans in charge of our state are not looking out for you.



Ensuring Prosperity and Opportunity for All

Last week, President Obama, in his State of the Union address, outlined a vision for our nation that provides all citizens an equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream. It is fitting that Wisconsin Senate Democrats follow the President's lead by introducing a clear plan to promote our state's shared values; grow Wisconsin's economy; and move us all forward by investing in families, education, and local communities.

While the rest of the nation is recovering from the Great Recession and experiencing strong economic growth, Wisconsin families continue to struggle as a result of our lagging economy, stagnant family wages, and a looming $2.2 billion budget deficit. With the governor distracted by his presidential primary ambitions and Republican leaders at odds over their legislative agenda, Senate Democrats are stepping forward with a plan to put Wisconsin Families First.

We are focused on addressing the issues that matter most to working families, children, and seniors in our state. Over the next several days and weeks, Senate Democrats will be introducing several legislative proposals to encourage job creation, increase family wages, and strengthen local communities as part of our plan to put Wisconsin Families First. Our plan includes:

Protecting Wisconsin Students

  • Restore funding to local schools

  • Hold voucher schools accountable

  • Lower student debt via the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Act

Investing in Communities

  • Promote infrastructure investments in roads, bridges, bike/ped, transit and broadband

  • Prevent raids on hunting and fishing fees via a constitutional amendment

  • Protect local control and ensure clean air, land and water

Promoting Good Jobs

  • Reintroduce the Made In America Act

  • Invest in worker training

  • Increase minimum wage to $10.10

  • Restore pay equity protections

  • Guarantee retirement security

Strengthening Health Care

  • Strengthen BadgerCare

  • Improve access to mental health and rehabilitation services

  • Expand access to health care choices

  • Create a savings program for long-term care

We know that over the next several years our friends, families, and neighbors will face an uphill battle with a Republican run government that is more interested in serving corporate special interests, and putting politics before people. It is our hope that over the next weeks and months we can show the people of Wisconsin that Democrats in Wisconsin are focused on creating economic opportunities, increasing wages, strengthening our local schools, and truly putting Wisconsin families first.

If you support our agenda for Wisconsin please consider signing our petition so that we can let the governor and the Republicans in the Legislature know that you share our Democratic values.

Click here to sign our petition to put
Wisconsin Families First.


Attack on the Wisconsin Idea
The Wisconsin Idea is under threat. Most Wisconsinites are familiar with the Wisconsin Idea
as a belief that began over 100 years ago that the research and education of the University of Wisconsin System is crucial and should be applied to solve problems and improve the health, quality of life, environment, and agriculture for all citizens of our great state. In summary, the Wisconsin Idea is an enduring promise made over a century ago, and has been renewed and kept by each generation ever since, to keep education, economic success, and opportunity available to the children of Wisconsin.

That is, until recently. Just this week, Governor Walker announced a plot to inflict the largest cut to higher education in our state's history. This $300 million cut would slash investments in our UW schools, limit access for students, and lead to layoffs of professionals across our state. Our universities are barely hanging on after bearing the brunt of a similar $250 million cut less than four years ago.

Right now, high school students across our state are bumping up on deadlines to decide where they'll attend college. If we, as a state, turn our backs on the Wisconsin Idea, should we expect the next generation to do any different when it's their turn to lead? How can we expect them to stay in a state we're no longer committed to?

We can't let this happen. Rather than allowing the personal political ambitions of one governor trump the needs of thousands of students, we should instead renew the pledge of the Wisconsin Idea. By investing in our people, we can grow our economy, strengthen the middle class, and move Wisconsin forward, once again.


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: Is Wisconsin keeping safety and building codes up-to-date?

A: Last week, the Labor and Government Reform Committee held their first Public Hearing and subsequent Executive Session. The Committee took up the reappointment of Secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), Dave Ross. While the Committee voted, unanimously, to confirm his reappointment, recent news stories brought to my attention prior to the hearing prompted some questions that needed to be addressed prior to voting.

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported on a concerning trend that has been occurring since DSPS was created under the governor. That is, some building and safety codes have not been kept up-to-date. In some instances, councils made up of professionals to examine and update our safety codes, have failed to meet as required by Wisconsin law. For example, the multifamily dwelling code council, which is statutorily required to meet twice a year, has not met since early 2011. Keeping our building and safety codes current is important to guarantee best practices are being followed to ensure the health and safety of our neighbors.

When I posed this problem during the hearing, Secretary Ross indicated that a major contributing factor to the councils failing to meet is due to a lack of commitment from community members to serve on them. Members of the multifamily dwelling code council, for instance, consists of:

  • Two members representing labor organizations for the skilled building trades, each of whom is actively engaged in his or her trade.

  • Two members representing municipal inspectors, one of whom is actively engaged in inspections in a county whose population is less than 50,000 and one of whom is actively engaged in inspections in a county whose population is 50,000 or more.

  • Two members representing the fire services, each of whom is actively engaged in fire service work and at least one of whom is a fire chief.

  • Two members representing building contractors and building developers, each of whom is actively engaged in on-site construction of multifamily housing.

  • Three members representing manufacturers of materials or suppliers of finished products in one of 5 product categories, consisting of cement products, concrete block products, gypsum products, metal products and wood products. Each member shall represent the manufacturers or suppliers of a different product category, and each member appointed to a 3-year term shall represent the manufacturers or suppliers of the product category that has not been represented by any of the 3 members for the previous 2 years. Each member shall be actively engaged in the business of manufacturing materials or supplying finished products for multifamily housing.

  • One member representing architects, engineers and designers who is actively engaged in the design or evaluation of multifamily housing.

  • Two members representing the public, at least one of whom is an advocate of fair housing.

If you, or someone you know, is able to offer their expertise on these councils, in an effort to keep Wisconsin in compliance with state law and ensure community safety, please consider applying to serve.

Click here for more information about the application process.



Hunger Next Door

Hunger Next Door is an exhibit by the Hunger Task Force that made its public debut at Gallery Night in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The project illustrates the reality of hunger in our community. Five families were given digital cameras to capture their story through photos. These families generously shared their privacy with the hope of changing how we view, understand, and work to solve hunger.

Mu Tah, Paw Kler, and their family are residents in the 7th Senate District who recently immigrated from Burma. They have struggled to balance a new language and culture with putting food on the table. Mu Tah's photos are part of this eye-opening exhibit, which will be on display at the Wisconsin State Capitol from February 4 - 16, 2015.

Click here to view the Hunger Next Door photos.

St. Francis Citizen of the Year

This Saturday, the city of St. Francis will be honoring its 55th recipient of the St. Francis Citizen of the Year award: Bob Boknevitz. It is always great to see the continued dedication of our neighbors to better the community we live in. This commitment to grassroots democracy is something to be honored and commended.

Bob has lived in St. Francis for the past 23 years and has been a tireless advocate, and involved parent, for our neighborhood schools. Both of his children graduated from the St. Francis School District. Since April of 2002, Bob has served in various capacities on the St. Francis School Board, including his current role as president. Bob's roots in the community do not stop there, however, as he has also served on the St. Francis Police and Fire Commission and the Board of Directors of the St. Francis Association of Commerce as well as being an auditor of the Miss St. Francis Pageant for close to ten years.

Bob will be honored for his achievements at a dinner this Saturday at the Pulaski Inn.



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