LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER


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July 23, 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. 


Chill on the Hill 2015
Date: Tuesdays, June through August, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Bay View Neighborhood Association, in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks, has brought the Humboldt Park Band Chalet to life on Tuesday nights with live music and a gathering of neighbors on the hill under the open sky. The concerts are set in a family friendly atmosphere with ample street and inexpensive lot parking, hillside seating, picnic baskets and blankets, with a focus of bringing the neighbors out to Humboldt Park not just for one night, but for all nights.

 

Humboldt Park

(MAP)
3000 S Howell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

 

South Milwaukee Heritage Days
Date: July 20-25
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: Events will include a Monday golf outing, a Tuesday ice cream social, a Wednesday night firehouse spaghetti dinner, Thursday Evening on the Avenue, the 2015 Lionsfest on Friday, and the Heritage Days Parade and Great Duck Race on Saturday. Click here for more information.

 

Gallery Night and Day
Date: Friday, July 24 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday, July 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Premier art event in Milwaukee for gallery hopping and art viewing. Admission is free to all participating venues during event hours. Click here for more information.

Downtown & Historic Third Ward (Map of participants)

 

German Fest
Date: Friday July 24 through Sunday July 26
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Enjoy authentic German food and music, sheepshead, dachshund races, cultural village, battle of the bands, live Glockenspiel, fireworks, Capuchins´┐Ż 5k run or two-mile walk for the hungry, Marktplatz, and much more. Click here for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park, (MAP)

200 N Harbor Dr. Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

Brady Street Festival
Date: Saturday, July 25 11 a.m. to Midnight
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Brady Street will be rockin' the night and day away with 4 stages packed with live entertainment, including some of your favorite local bands. Besides the awesome entertainment, the Division BMX Stunt Team, the Casablanca Rumble V Pro Wrestling Ring, and the CFSC Bounce House will be present. A variety of vendors, local cheese makers at the Glorioso cheese tent, jewelry and pottery crafters, a vast array of food, and of course, ice cold beer to keep our crowds from getting too thirsty. Click here for more information.

Farwell to Van Buren Streets

 

Milwaukee Air and Water Show
Date: July 25 and 26 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Milwaukee Air & Water Show will take place along Milwaukee's beautiful lakefront. Back for its 7th consecutive year, the 2015 show will feature a variety of world-class performers, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the Breitling Precision Jet Team, the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team, the U.S. Navy Parachute Demonstration Team, "The Leap Frogs," the Aerostars Formation Aerobatic Team and many more! Click here for more information.

Bradford-McKinley Beaches (Map)

 

Patrick Cudahy Race for the Bacon
Date: July 30, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Cudahy
Description: Is there a better combination than running and bacon? We don't think so. Join us for the 4th annual Patrick Cudahy Race for the Bacon 5k and 0k Run/Walk at Sheridan Park in Cudahy. The course is flat and scenic, and the post-race Bacon Bash party is full of bacon-y delights. Your race entry includes a ticket to the Bacon Bash and one free drink. New this year: a 0k option. Get the bacon and the cool shirt, but without the 5k. We will even have a start/finish for all 0k participants. Click here for more information.

Sheridan Park
4800 S. Lake Drive Cudahy, WI 53110 (Course map)

 


 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

I hope you are enjoying your summer! If you live in the 7th Senate District, you may see my staff and me in the neighborhood as we will be going door-to-door to deliver the 2015-2016 Neighborhood Survey over the next couple months. For those of you not directly in the district, I have a digital copy of the survey, which you will find a link to below.

 

Additionally, a new threat to Wisconsin's democracy has been a topic of recent discussion. You may have heard Governor Walker come out in favor of dismantling our state ethics board, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board. Read on for more details on this and more.
 

Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Share your Thoughts on State and Community Issues!
With the 2015-2017 state budget process now concluded, the Legislature will be taking a brief break until Fall. The damaging effects of the state budget will be long-lasting, and I will continue to update you throughout the summer on the implications of the budget.

In the meantime, I want to hear from you! Therefore, I created a 2015-2016 Neighborhood Survey asking about various issues that are important to our community and our state. Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for session to resume in the coming months.

My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door-to-door as possible during the next couple months. Additionally, 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 take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you.

 

Threatening our Democracy and Reducing Accountability and Transparency
 

While Republicans have failed to improve the lives of average Wisconsinites, leaving Wisconsin with the fastest shrinking middle class than any other state in the nation, they have proven vocal on plans to decimate Wisconsin's prized, clean election system. In 2013, Legislative Republicans put forth a proposal to polarize and politicize the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (G.A.B). As you can imagine, the bill was widely unpopular, and they reluctantly retreated. Unfortunately, the idea is gaining traction once again with Governor Walker's recent announcement that he supports an overhaul of our state ethics board.

Under the proposal introduced during the 2013-14 Legislative Session, Republican legislators set their sights on converting the G.A.B. from a nonpartisan agency to being run by partisan appointees.

The G.A.B. was created in response to the caucus scandal in Wisconsin, where legislators and their staff were found guilty of campaigning on state time and with state resources. It is composed of six former judges who are nominated by a panel of four Wisconsin Appeals Court judges, appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Senate. Both the Board and its staff must be deemed nonpartisan. The mission of the G.A.B. is to ensure accountability and transparency in government by enforcing ethics and lobbying laws, and enhancing representative democracy by safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process on behalf of the people. The G.A.B. is also tasked with administering Wisconsin's elections through a fair and impartial process that guarantees that the vote of each individual counts so the will of the electorate prevails.

The comments by governor Walker about dismantling our nonpartisan ethics board came a week into his campaign for president and just four days after the Wisconsin Supreme Court halted an investigation -- approved by the board -- into whether conservative groups' coordination with Walker's 2012 recall campaign was illegal.

 

Importantly, this recent push by the governor is not a stand-alone idea but rather a series of moves by the governor and Tea Party Republicans in an effort to cement their power, dismantle our democracy, and muzzle the political voice of the voters of Wisconsin. One of the initial steps toward changing our elections was the controversial redistricting process that occurred in 2010. Republican legislators worked behind closed doors to craft the new legislative district maps and even signed a secret contract vowing to hide details of their redistricting plan from the public. When all was said and done, Republicans then stuck Wisconsin's taxpayers with a $400,000 tab to cover the fees for the private attorneys they hired to help them protect their jobs.

Republicans were sued over their controversial process after a panel of three federal judges found that two Assembly maps on Milwaukee's south side violated the voting rights of Latinos. The court redrew those two maps. The litigation continued, however, because the plaintiffs discovered additional documents that should have been turned over but were not.

In 2012, the court granted plaintiffs access to the computers used by legislative aides and consultants to draw the maps. Republicans introduced several motions attempting to keep the process used to craft the maps secret. Not only did the three-judge panel rule against these attempts, but they issued a scathing opinion saying the following:

"Quite frankly, the Legislature and the actions of its counsel give every appearance of flailing wildly in a desperate attempt to hide from both the court and the public the true nature of exactly what transpired in the redistricting process."

 

The plaintiffs then began a forensic examination of the computers and found large numbers of documents had been deleted. Because a settlement between the plaintiffs and defendants was reached in June 2013, the court's involvement in investigating misconduct by GOP legislators and staff came to a halt, leaving many questions unanswered.

 

Recently, a new lawsuit against Wisconsin's partisan maps has been initiated. In the lawsuit, filed earlier this month, it is argued that the maps are unconstitutional because they dilute the voting power of some voters based on their political beliefs, therefore infringing on their right to free speech and freedom of association. 

Click here to read a Wisconsin State Journal article about the lawsuit.

 

Additionally, due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, there is still hope to alter our statutes and establish an alternative to partisan legislative redistricting. On June 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Arizona's Independent Redistricting Commission, which was sued by their state Legislature. The Commission was created after citizens in Arizona approved it by utilizing the state's initiative process. The Supreme Court, in a tight 5-4 decision, dismissed charges against the Commission on grounds that the process and act of redistricting is essential to lawmaking which, in accordance to the constitution, must be carried out by a method each individual state prescribes for their Legislature. The court further determined that the Election Clause respects the state's autonomy to establish their own process to regulate the time, place, and manner of elections as they see fit. Naturally, according to the court, this includes the utilization of an independent or nonpartisan redistricting commission voted on and created via the democratic processes respective to each state.

This ruling paves the way for Wisconsin to transfer the responsibility of redistricting from the majority in the Legislature to an independent and/or nonpartisan commission. This session, my fellow Democratic colleagues introduced Senate Bill 58, which would create new standards for legislative and congressional redistricting.
 

Since taking office in 2011, Governor Walker has signed into law numerous policies that seek to suppress transparency and voter access in Wisconsin. Some of these include:

 

Limiting In-Person Absentee Voting Access
A bill passed last session limits access to early voting by penalizing local municipalities seeking to provide greater access to the polls for qualified voters.

Under the law, in-person absentee voting applications may only be received by each municipal clerk's office Monday to Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. In addition, the clerk's office may not be open more than 55 hours a week beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 7 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 may be unable to leave their job to vote absentee during normal business hours. While employers often provide workers the opportunity to leave work in order to cast their vote on Election Day, many of these workers do not have the luxury to take their employers up on this offer. Imagine you are a nurse working a 12-hour shift in the emergency room. When are you going to have the time to leave work for an hour or two to visit the polls? What if you are the sole owner and operator of a small business? With no one to watch the business while you are gone, your only option is to close up shop to vote. How about the high school senior or university student that has classes all day during normal business hours and wants to participate in our Democratic process? Put simply, this law is an attack on our freedom.

Paving the Way for Pay-to-Play Politics

Another controversial election-related bill, now 2013 Wisconsin Act 153, was passed last session. It promotes a pay-to-play atmosphere in governing as it allows lobbyists to contribute to legislative campaigns earlier than under our previous law. Not surprisingly, this bill was seemingly the work of conservative corporate lobby group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Senate Republican leaders.

 

Removing Local Control

Several other proposals that passed last year place additional restrictions on local municipal clerks by dictating who can volunteer on Election Day. 

 

Disenfranchising Voters with Strict Identification Requirements

The most frequently discussed attempt to alter elections in a way that favors GOP candidates was 2011 Assembly Bill 7, Wisconsin's Voter Suppression Law.

With a cost of over $7 million, the voter identification (ID) law put up road blocks for those wishing to cast their vote in our democracy, increased the residency requirements from 10 days to 28 consecutive days, and arbitrarily eliminated straight-party voting.

The law disproportionately impacts students, the elderly, people with disabilities, and the homeless, by increasing the requirements on what people would need to do in order to obtain a photo ID for voting while doing nothing to increase their access to actually obtaining an ID.

Many lawsuits were filed, so the implementation of the law was put on hold until September 2014, when the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals failed on a split vote to take up the case. In March 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court also chose not to hear the case on the voter suppression law, therefore, it is now being enforced in Wisconsin.

 

All of these arbitrary laws do nothing to solve any existing problems, but instead showcase the lengths Wisconsin Republicans will go to suppress rights of Wisconsinites and cement a regressive era in Wisconsin. Their actions are a thinly veiled attack on our constitutionally guaranteed freedom to vote. It's simply un-American.

 

Judge Richard Posner -- a Reagan-appointed judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has an interesting perspective on the issue of requiring photo IDs for voting is that of. Once a proponent of voter ID laws, he upheld Indiana's law in 2008. However, due to data now available, Judge Posner has changed his mind about voter ID restrictions. Last year, he noted in his dissent written that voter ID laws are motivated by conservatives wanting to discourage voting by "persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens." This, among other strong statements written in the dissent, affirms that these laws are only meant to suppress votes of those who typically lean Democratic, such as students, minorities, and seniors.
 

Wisconsin's Regressive Era of Politics is Upon Us
Wisconsin used to be renowned for our progressive approach to voting access. Our state has historically enjoyed one of the highest percentages of voter turnout in the country. But now, under Republican rule, we are hastily dismantling laws and policies that are national models and represent our shared values. In fact, the G.A.B was recognized in a 2013 as "America's Top Model." The author stated, "I conclude that GAB has been successful in administering elections evenhandedly and that it serves as a worthy model for other states considering alternatives to partisan election administration at the state level."

Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans have already rigged the game, changed the rulebook, and tilted the playing field. Now, they are trying to cheat by firing the impartial referees and replacing them with their buddies. Overhauling the G.A.B. would be detrimental to ensuring some sort of fairness and transparency remains in our elections.

 
 

 

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
July 26, 2015, marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).The ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) give civil rights protections to our neighbors with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA and ADAAA also assure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications.

The ADA breaks down many of the barriers that used to limit the public participation of nearly 50 million Americans with disabilities. As such, celebrations of the signing of the ADA on July 26, 1990, are taking place across the nation. Below is information for an event in the Milwaukee area:

Ability Fest: The 25th Anniversary Day Party for ADA
Date: Sunday, July 26, 2015
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m
Where: Wil-O-Way Recreation Center Grant Park
Address: 207 Lake Drive , South Milwaukee, WI 53172 (MAP)
Description: The celebration will include a vendor fair, health expo, employment board games, card games, dice games, storytelling, show-and-tell, community picnic, sport and recreation activities, music, art, and more!

To many of our neighbors, the ADA is more than just good public policy, it is a better quality of life.
Briana of Stoughton, Wisconsin feels that her community doesn't see her as a "disabled person." Instead, they see her as who she is -- Briana, an artist, a teacher, a friend, a church member, a neighbor who shares her talents through her local Timebank. She just happens to also have disabilities. The ADA has helped people to get to know her and see her as a whole person.

Read more about Briana's story, by clicking here.
 

 

 

 

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