Click here to view this Email in your Web browser


June 18, 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




Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:













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

3000 S Howell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207


Summer Soulstice Music Festival
Date: June 20, 10 a.m. to Midnight
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The festival returns for its 15th year and continues the tradition of showcasing Milwaukee's homegrown music talent. It is hosted by the East Side Business Improvement District and in partnership with Made In Milwaukee. The event features three stages of Milwaukee's top local, original music acts along with all the ingredients needed to celebrate the rites of the summer solstice: food and spirits from the businesses of the East Side neighborhood, arts & crafts vendors, creation stations for kids of all ages, dodgeball and more.

E North and Murray Avenues


Milwaukee, WI 53202


Lakefront Festival of Art
Date: June 19 to June 21
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Both inside the Museum and outdoors, visit one-on-one with more than 170 jury-selected artists as they sell their jewelry, paintings, ceramics, metalwork, and more. With fun-filled interactive activities in the Children's Area, live music, the Milwaukee Magazine Wine Garden and the Blue Moon Beer Garden, a silent art auction, the sculpture garden, and a variety of food offerings, there's something for everyone.

Milwaukee Art Museum 700 N. Art Museum Drive


Milwaukee, WI 53202


Family Yoga in the Park
Date: Wednesdays June 24 to July 29, at 10 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Space is limited, each class is only $10 per family. For questions or registration contact Julie Zettel at 414-486-0302

Humboldt Park Pavilion

3000 S Howell Ave

Milwaukee, WI 53207


Artists Working in Education (A.W.E.)
Date: June 29 to July 3rd, and July 6th to July 10th
Monday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: A.W.E. offers FREE drop-in art programs for kids ages 4-14. For more information, visit, CLICK HERE.

Truck studio at Burnham Park (35th & Burnham)


Milwaukee, WI


MCTS is Your Ride to Summerfest
Date: June 24 to 28 and June 30 to July 5
Description: The Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) offers several choices for an easy and convenient ride to Summerfest. Take a bus or drive downtown (and park at one of many parking lots) and then take the Shuttle to the Summerfest North Gate. Those farther out can park at one of eight park-ride lots and take a Freeway Flyer to the Summerfest Mid Gate. Don't forget those traveling from north of Milwaukee can take the Ozaukee County Express

For more information, CLICK HERE.


Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,


While we wait for the Republican-led Joint Finance Committee to return to their stalled work on the state budget, Democrats in the Legislature have been proactively introducing legislation to get Wisconsin back on the right track.


These bills would invest in Wisconsin's shared values, like increasing education opportunities, ensuring fair elections without big money influences, and promoting public safety with universal background checks for all gun purchases.


Additionally, the State Senate was in session last week. Read on for more on some of the controversial actions by Senate Republicans, like confirming an appointment to the Board of Regents who has close ties to the governor's campaign, as well as passing an unpopular, dangerous abortion ban.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Invest in our Children Act and Special Education Restoration Act Introduced

Democrats remain committed to ensuring our children have the opportunity to pursue their American Dream and are able to achieve economic prosperity.

This past week, Representatives Barnes and Riemer, along with Senator Harris Dodd and I circulated legislation that would move our state forward in ensuring all of our state's children receive a quality education.

One of the proposed bills, the Invest in Our Children Act, would allow school districts to increase their revenue limits. For the first time in decades, our state budget contains no increase in the state imposed revenue limits -- this is money that can actually be spent in classrooms for our kids.

Former Governor Tommy Thompson established the standard that the state should, at minimum, allow locally elected school boards the ability to increase their revenue limits so they can at least keep pace with the rate of inflation. This standard was followed by both Republican and Democratic governors, until the Great Recession hit.

In Governor Walker's first budget in 2011, he reversed course and actually prohibited locally elected school boards from increasing their levy limit, while at the same time slashing per pupil funding. Walker has continued this trend over his tenure. The governor and the Legislature have continued to pump money into a flawed funding formula that doesn't actually invest in our traditional neighborhood schools. As a result, school districts have suffered and have been unable able to put resources back into their classrooms. For example, Steve, a Milwaukee high school student interested in engineering, may be forced to use outdated text books and failing technology that is more than a decade old. Starting at this disadvantage, Steve, like his fellow classmates will have less opportunity to succeed. If we want our kids to be able succeed in the global economy, we need to make sure that our schools have up-to-date information and resources that adjusting to inflation allows.

The Invest in Our Children Act gives locally elected school boards, who are accountable to the taxpayers who elected them, the ability to increase their levy limit to keep up with the cost of inflation. School districts from every corner of the state have asked for this flexibility, and if we as a state are serious about making our public schools whole again and investing in our children's future, we must give our school boards the local control they need to do what is best for their districts and our kids.

Another bill, the Special Education Restoration Act, was also circulated and would increase the reimbursement rates to school districts for special education.

State aid that supports the education of students with disabilities remains frozen in the 2015-17 state budget as proposed by the governor and Joint Committee on Finance (JFC). This move will result in a continuing slide in reimbursement rates for special education costs that school district incur. Funding for the special education categorical aid will remain frozen at the level set in the 2008-09 school year, but the cost associated with educating special needs kids has continued to rise.

In the real world, this means that school districts have to make tough choices about where to spend their scarce resources. They may be forced to spread their resources thin to try and accommodate all of the students in the district. For instance, they may do this by having one school nurse be responsible for several schools. This is problematic, because some students require medications be administered multiple times a day. The thinner vital school staff are spread, the more likely important student needs may not be met. This is applicable to all facets of special education programs. The opposite could also happen, school districts may be forced to eliminate programs like music, languages or art, because they have a students that require a full-time assistant to help them learn, which costs more than what the current state reimbursement rate allows them to cover. In either situation, children are not receiving the quality education and services we expect them to be receiving in our schools.  

The end of the 2015-17 state budget will mark the eighth consecutive year that special education aid will have held flat. Costs associated with educating students with disabilities have increased over time, resulting in an overall decrease in the average reimbursement rate the state provides to school districts. In the very first year reimbursement rates were established, 1980, school districts were reimbursed at a rate of 66.1%. In the 1999-2000 school year, reimbursement rates were 34.3%. For the 2014-15 school year, the rate fell to just 26.8% of costs.

As you know, funding our public schools is a responsibility that is shared by local, state, and federal governments. We are constitutionally obligated to educate all students, including those with disabilities. When the state share of this responsibility is held flat or shrinks, the burden to make up the costs land on our local property taxpayers and takes resources away from other students. This puts schools in an unfair situation as they may need to decide to cut down on services offered to students with special needs in order to offer other program or services to the student majority. For example, a school may have to to let go their speech pathologist in order to maintain their football program.

Schools are already hurting under the current budget and cannot cover the basic cost to continue operation. The state should do more to support all of our children once again and begin to reinvest in special education. If we are serious about making education whole again, we should start by increasing the reimbursement rates for special education. Our bill will bring us back to reimbursing districts at 33%. This is being asked for by school districts from every corner or the state, and it is time that we act responsibly and make sure all our children receive the education they deserve -- including those with disabilities.

I hope that you will show your support for both bills by asking your legislators to:

1.) Support children with disabilities by increasing the reimbursement rates in state funding to 33%.

2.) Give school districts the tools and flexibility they need to keep up with the cost of inflation, which can be achieved by allowing them the ability to increase their levy limit.

You can find your legislators and their contact information here.


Restoring Integrity in our Elections
It's time for Republicans and Democrats alike to come together and fix our Constitution and stem the tide of money pouring into politics -- from all sides. The bizarre Citizens United court decision that granted corporations the same constitutional rights as people has torn the fabric of our nation and threatens to unravel our Democracy.

Neighbors across the political spectrum understand that we, as a country, need to end the auctioneer-style politics that have replaced the more thoughtful democracy our parents enjoyed. Last week, I  circulated for co-sponsorship a proposal to restore balance to our democracy. This proposal has garnered strong, bipartisan support in other states across the country. It is my hope that it will find the same bipartisan support here in Wisconsin. Everyone can see that we are not really free if our freedom of speech is drowned out by a flood of special interest campaign money.

LRB 2338, known as the Free and Fair Elections Resolution, is specifically drafted so that passage would allow Wisconsin to join other states across our nation in calling for a convention to propose a constitutional amendment to address the unjust influence of powerful economic forces on our elections. Like many, I have become alarmed at the inaction and failure of Congress to address this problem. I'm even more concerned at the courts rejection of campaign finance laws passed by individual states. Recently, Montana's efforts at campaign finance reform were struck down by the courts due to the continued misinterpretation of the Constitution. It's clear that states acting alone do not have the power to restore free and fair elections. However, acting collectively they do.

President Dwight Eisenhower said, "Through their state's legislatures and without regard to the federal government, the people can demand a convention to propose amendments than can and will reverse any trends they see as fatal to true representative government."

This resolution does just that, it is a solid first step in addressing this problem. This is truly a democratic endeavor as following the convention, a Free and Fair Elections Amendment would still need to be ratified by 75% of the states.

There is hope for bipartisan action as citizens across the nation have become more vocal about the need to restore the integrity of our election process. Republican and Democratic controlled legislative bodies alike are responding, by passing resolutions like LRB 2338. Here in Wisconsin, I was joined by Representatives Pope, Sargent, Subeck, and Ohnstad in unveiling this proposal. The deadline for additional legislators to sign-on is September 9, 2015. This provides Republican and Democratic legislators considerable time to evaluate the proposal, hear from their neighbors, and to sign on as a co-sponsor.

It is my hope that this proposal will move forward with bipartisan support and that this vital issue will be addressed.

More Tax Breaks for the Rich, While the Rest of us Pay for Them

As the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is wrapping up their work on the state budget. Republicans are working hard to finalize a plan that they would include in one of the final motions JFC will vote on.

While finale details of the plan have not been made public, we know that they are looking to repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is targeted at Wisconsin's highest-income earners, typically those who earn $200,000 to $500,000 annually.

In fact, according to the Wisconsin Budget Project, the tax cut from eliminating the AMT would be minimal for taxpayers earning under $100,000. Those individuals could expect to receive a cut of only $2. In contrast, taxpayers with incomes of over $200,000 would receive an estimated tax break of $283.

Further, the cost to the state to eliminate AMT would be about $28 million, which could instead be used to invest in Wisconsin's shared values, such as K-12 education, our universities, or health care. What is atrocious is that Rep. Dale Kooyenga, the lead author of the proposal, said he'd make up for lost revenue by increasing taxes on other products and services that we all use -- such as increasing sales taxes on car rentals and hotel rooms.

This is another clear example of Legislative Republican's favoring tax breaks for the wealthy and shifting the cost onto the rest of us, while at the same time cutting $250 million from the universities, doing little or nothing to help K-12 public schools, and rejecting opportunities to strengthen our vital health care programs.

Let's also not forget that over the past 4 years Wisconsin Republicans have already passed nearly $2 billion in tax shifts and sweetheart deals. As the Wisconsin Budget Project points out, "those tax cuts haven't done much to contribute to job growth. Wisconsin's rate of private sector job creation has consistently ranged 25% to 50% below the national rate since 2011. That slow rate of job growth has its roots in many economic factors, but it's clear that significant tax cuts in Wisconsin have not led to the hoped-for job growth." They went on to say, "Not only have the tax cuts not created jobs in Wisconsin and other states, they have made it harder for these states to build strong economies, by reducing the revenue needed to invest in schools, transportation, safe communities, and other tried-and-true building blocks of economic growth."

So once again Republicans are doubling down on failed policies that are clearly wrong for Wisconsin‬. With Wisconsin's middle class shrinking faster than any other state, it is unfair to the majority of Wisconsinites to give  even more to our state's top earners.


Bradley Foundation Continues to Push its Way into Wisconsin Politics

Last week, the Senate Republicans voted to confirm Michael Grebe to serve on the UW Board of Regents. Grebe is an attorney and executive vice president at HUSCO International, a Waukesha-based hydraulics manufacturer.

Grebe has no background in education policy or any experience in managing institutions of higher education. During his confirmation hearing, he alarmingly said that he is open to the idea of shutting down campuses, ending degree programs at certain schools, and approves cutting $250 million to the UW System, as proposed in the current state budget.

So why is he being appointed by Walker to serve on the Board of Regents? As it turns out, Grebes father, Michael W. Grebe, is the president and CEO of the ultra-conservative Bradley Foundation who chaired Walker's gubernatorial campaigns. The New York Times recently published an article outlining just how important Michael W. Grebe and the Bradley Foundation are to Scott Walker's success.

This looks like political cronyism at its worst. Indications are that Walker owes the Bradley Foundation a lot for his political success, so a seat on the UW Board of Regents might be the first step towards repaying that debt. We continue to see a culture of corruption in Governor Walker's Administration. This highly political appointee is wrong for Wisconsin to say the least and will have a negative impact on UW System for years to come.

You can read more about the influence of Grebe and the influence of the Bradley Foundation in the New York Times article here.


Abortion Ban Passes Senate

On June 9, 2015, Senate Republicans chose to ignore the heart wrenching stories from women and families, and the opposition of all leading medical groups in Wisconsin, by passing Senate Bill (SB) 179. This fast-tracked bill intrudes on the important doctor-patient relationship, preventing physicians from providing individualized care to patients based on their specific circumstance and health care needs.

At the public hearing on this bill, we heard from many women, all with their own unique story that emphasized the importance of having a range of medical options, under a doctor's consultation, when faced with medically complex and/or dangerous pregnancies.

Click below to hear Briel bravely share her story at the hearing:

Disturbingly, there are no exceptions in this bill for fetal anomalies or for cases of rape or incest, and authors of the bill even admitted a physician would be forced to disregard the life of his patient, a woman facing dangerous medical complications. Interfering with medical experts and their obligation to protect their patient is morally wrong and will have a chilling effect on the medical community.

Because this ban interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, includes unsupported, flawed science, endangers the health and safety of women, and criminalizes doctors, I voted against it when it came to the Senate floor for a vote. It is unclear when the Assembly will take up SB 179, or its companion bill. Governor Walker, however, has indicated he will sign it into law, even though it has been found unconstitutional in other states. I will continue to keep you updated as this issue progresses.


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: Gun violence is a prevalent issue in our community and across the nation, are their any best-practice solutions to help address this problem?

A: Gun violence has been a major problem for many cities and states across the country for decades, yet states have been slow to respond with legislation to prevent additional tragedies. This is in part because of the safety claims from groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA) that lobby heavily on "gun rights" and spend large amounts of money on elections. Now that might all change thanks to a recent study.

Earlier this week, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkley released the results of a study supporting something that most of us already understand to be true, but Republicans in Wisconsin have yet to acknowledge: universal background checks on gun purchases saves lives.

Research undeniably shows that states requiring background checks for all gun sales see dramatically reduced rates of gun homicide.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University examined the effects of a Connecticut law requiring prospective handgun buyers to first obtain a permit by passing a criminal background check. In the 10 years since the law was implemented, homicides committed with firearms declined a stunning 40% between 1996 and 2005. That's 296 lives saved in 10 years.

The researchers compared Connecticut to the 39 states that didn't have similar legislation at the time as well as records on gun killings from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information about this study, click here.

How do permit-to-purchase laws work?

Federal law requires gun dealers to run background checks before selling guns to anyone. However, the law doesn't require background checks for gun sales between private citizens. We often call this the "private sale" or "gun show" loophole.

Basically, most states allow the purchase of a gun from a stranger on Craigslist, at a garage sale, or gun show, with no questions asked and no background check required.

Permit-to-purchase laws, which are on the books in 10 states, require people to get pre-cleared by state or local authorities, who issue them a permit allowing them to buy a gun. As a matter of public safety, Connecticut, for instance, requires permit applicants to pass a background check as well as a gun safety training course.

While preserving the right to own and purchase firearms, permit-to-purchase laws make it a crime for anyone to sell or give a gun to someone who does not have a permit. This discourages the sale of firearms to criminals, who wouldn't clear the background check for a permit.

I joined a number of my Wisconsin Democratic colleagues in introducing a bill similar to the permit-to-purchase law in Connecticut back in April. Recent surveys indicate that a solid majority of people, including NRA members, support universal background checks. Unfortunately, the Republican legislators in control continue to ignore gun violence and related tragedies, refusing to even give the bill a hearing.

In Wisconsin, approximately 450 people are killed with guns every year. Young children have been gunned down in their own homes and in neighborhood playgrounds for no reason at all. This study shows a course of action that offers hope to communities ravaged by gun violence. Knowing that we can save lives, make our communities safer, and preserve constitutional rights makes universal background checks the right thing to do.

As stated, our bill, Senate Bill 159 is currently in the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee and has yet to receive a public hearing. If this is an issue that you care and are concerned about, please consider contacting the committee chair and tell him to schedule a public hearing for this bill. You can email the chair, Sen. Wanggaard, at:



Juneteenth Day

On Tuesday, June 9, the Legislature adopted Senate Joint Resolution 41, recognizing June 19, 2015, as Juneteenth day, a national holiday commemorating the day where the last of the remaining slaves were officially freed from slavery.

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law following the union's victory at the Battle of Antietam. The proclamation was issued under President Lincoln's war powers and called for the release and subsequent freedom of all slaves in the confederacy. In the two years of fighting following this proclamation, the goals of the Civil War shifted from the sole preservation of the union, to enforcing the freedom of all confederate slaves.

A little over two years later on June 19, 1865, slavery was officially abolished in the south following and the union's emancipation of the South's last remaining slaves in Galveston, Texas.

Since then, Juneteenth Day, otherwise known as "Emancipation" or "Freedom" Day, has been celebrated every year, earning recognition as the most observed African American holiday in America. Although Wisconsinites have been celebrating Juneteenth day since the 1970s, it was adopted in 2009 as an official state holiday. Every year since, the state Legislature recognizes the 19th day of June to commemorate the conviction of every individual who fought for civil rights and the emancipation of slaves.

This year, Milwaukee will be hosting its 26th annual Juneteenth day celebration. On June 19, at 9 a.m., the Juneteenth day parade will begin at North 19th Street and West Atkinson Avenue and proceed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. At that time, the  Juneteenth day street festival on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, with a ceremony at noon.

On June 20, the Milwaukee Public Museum on 800 West Wells Street will be hosting the Freedom Ball at 7 p.m. Admission is $15.00.


June is LGBT Pride Month
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month) is held during the month of June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, which were a tipping point for the Gay Rights Movement in the United States. Throughout the month, celebrations are held across the country including pride parades, picnics, parties, and workshops. The purpose of this commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals have had on history and to inspire support for the pursuit of marriage equality for the LGBT community.

Wisconsin has a committed history of supporting equality among citizens. In 1982, Wisconsin became the first in the nation to have a state law protecting gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. In 2012, Wisconsin made history by electing the first openly LGBT U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin. Our state Legislature currently has four openly LGBT members.

In honor to celebrate Pride Month, Milwaukee hosted Pridefest the first weekend of June, the largest LGBT festival in Wisconsin. I had the privilege of speaking at this year's event, which included a parade, a wide range of musical and entertainment acts, interactive educational exhibits, and discussion groups on topics important to the LGBT community. This year's celebration was extra special, as it marked the one year anniversary of marriage equality in Wisconsin.

Despite the advances toward equality in both our nation and state, there is certainly more work to be done in order to achieve full equality. In particular, activists are focusing on more equality for the transgender community. It is also true the LGBT community still faces discrimination, and that LGBT youth continue to experience higher risk of bullying, homelessness, depression, substance abuse, and suicide.

While there is more work to be done, LGBT Pride Month is a great way to promote acceptance, respect and understanding across our state. I will continue to support policies that encourage equality for all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.



To Subscribe to the weekly Larson Report, CLICK HERE.

To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."