LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

March 13, 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. 

 

 

Andy Warhol: 10 Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century
Date: Now through Sun., March 30
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Experience these brightly-colored creations, featuring historical figures and renowned luminaries of Jewish culture from various disciplines. This exhibit is open to the public Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Warhol's large-scale portraits allude to the grandiosity associated with fame while establishing an intimacy between subject and viewer. Bring family and friends to experience the color and 'pop' of this unique suite of works. Guided tours are available throughout the afternoon along with coloring and scavenger activities for families. CLICK HERE or call (414) 390-5730 for more information.

 

Jewish Museum Milwaukee (MAP)
1360 N. Prospect Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Uncommon Folk: Traditions in American Art

Date: Now through Sun., May 4

Location: Milwaukee

Description: This exhibition features an unprecedented selection of American paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, textiles, furniture, and decorative arts from the Milwaukee Art Museum's world-class collection of folk and self-taught art. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as American art struggled to find its own voice separate from the classical European style that dominated the art world, an authentically American artistic expression was identified in the work of folk and self-taught artists. CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

Milwaukee Art Museum (MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life
Date: Now through Sun., June 15

Location: Milwaukee

Description: BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life is the latest exhibition from physician and pioneering anatomist Dr. Gunther von Hagens. At BODY WORLDS & The Cycle of Life, you will see the body throughout the human life cycle and across the arc of aging. More than 200 real human specimens preserved through Dr. von Hagens' invention reveal the human body in all its stages, across youth, growth, maturity, and advanced age, and in all its conditions, from health to distress to disease. CLICK HERE or call (414) 278-2702 for more information.

Milwaukee Public Museum (MAP)
800 W. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's St. Patrick's Day Parade
Date:
Sat., March 15 at Noon 

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's 48th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade takes place on Saturday, March 15. It steps off at noon at 3rd and Wisconsin and finishes at Water and Highland. Milwaukee's St. Patrick's Day Parade is one of the best in the country and the grandest parade in Wisconsin. The Parade will feature 140-plus units and include local politicians and celebrities, floats, bagpipe and marching bands, and Irish and Celtic organizations. And remember, on St. Patrick's Day, everyone is Irish! CLICK HERE for more information.

 

 

Riverside University High School Spring Musical

Date: Fridays and Saturdays from March 21 through March 29 at 7 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: One of Riverside University High School's many great traditions is their annual Spring Musical. This year, they will be presenting Dreamgirls--a musical based on the life of music legend Diana Ross and the Supremes. Performances will be Friday, March 21, Saturday, March 22, Friday, March 28, and Saturday, March 29. All performances are at 7 p.m. Show your support for this talented group of students. Tickets are now on sale. For questions or to purchase tickets call Riverside University High School at (414) 906-4900.

 

Riverside University High School (MAP)

1615 E. Locust Street

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 


South Milwaukee Recreation Spring Dance Recital
Date: Sat., March 29 at 2 p.m.
Location: South Milwaukee

Description: The South Milwaukee Recreation Department is proud to present the annual Spring Dance Recital. The performance will be on Saturday, March 29 at 2 p.m. Theatre doors will open at 1:30 p.m., at which time audience members may be seated. Plan to arrive at least 15 to 20 minutes early so that everyone may be seated and enjoy the show. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)
901 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172
 

 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

Just in time for the 2014 elections, Senate Republicans scheduled a flurry of election restrictions aimed at limiting our voting freedoms, trampling on local control, and encouraging pay-to-play politics. Continue reading for more on how these changes could impact your constitutional voting rights, as well as information about other important issues of the week.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Limiting Voting Freedoms in Wisconsin

Wisconsin currently ranks in the top five for highest voter turnout rates in the nation. But this trend will not continue if Governor Walker and Republican legislators move forward with the copious bills on its docket aimed at suppressing voter access to the polls. With elections right around the corner, it makes sense that the Republican majority would introduce bills aimed at changing our voting rules and procedures right before session ends for the year. After all, if you are afraid you may not end up winning, why not change the rules of the game at halftime? Continue reading for more about these anti-freedom bills that were passed by the Senate on Wednesday, March 12, as well as pending proposals.

 

 

Click here or on the video above to watch this week's debate on the Senate floor. 

Limiting In-Person Absentee Voting Access
This bill intends to make it harder for voters to partake in our fundamental constitutional freedom and right. For proof, look no further than the relating clause, or one-sentence bill description, which literally contains the words "limiting" and "voting." Under current law, voters can apply to vote in-person absentee with the local municipal clerk beginning on the third Monday preceding the election and ending at 5 p.m. or the close of business on the Friday preceding the election, whichever is later. Senate Bill 324 would penalize local municipalities seeking to provide greater access to the polls for qualified voters by changing this existing law.

Under this bill, 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 45 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 for at least a couple of hours. 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? The list of those that could be negatively impacted by this unnecessary restriction on access to the polls for voters goes on and on. Put simply, this bill is an attack on our freedom.

In addition to making it more difficult for our hard-working Wisconsinites to exercise their constitutional right to vote, this bill also infringes on the rights of local government. Who better to know if the municipal clerk should offer extended hours for voters than the office that conducts the elections for those Wisconsinites each Election Day? This bill does not allow large communities, such as Milwaukee, to adapt their policies and procedures to accommodate the fact that they have a population 1,200-times the size of a small town with only 500 Wisconsinites.

 

Let's look at the facts. In the 2012 Presidential election, Big Bend, a village with a population of less than 1,300 Wisconsinites, had 114 in-person absentee voters. Assuming 90 hours of in-person absentee voting, that would mean only one person stopping in to every 48 minutes to vote. Delafield, on the other hand, a city with over 7,100 Wisconsinites and one of the highest rates of in-person absentee voting statewide at 1,159 voters, would have one person stopping in to vote every five minutes. The city of Milwaukee, a municipality with a population totaling nearly 600,000 Wisconsinites, had 35,200 in-person absentee voters in the 2012 presidential election, which adds up to one person coming in to vote every nine seconds during that 90-hour time frame at city hall.

 

In the end, pretending like these communities are the same will have a catastrophic effect. Absentee in-person voting has been an essential tool utilized by larger communities to reduce Election Day voting waiting time. Due to their drastic size, it is not uncommon for cities like Milwaukee to experience wait-times of one hour to vote, a problem that will only be exacerbated by limiting in-person absentee voting hours. Parents trying to vote after work with their kids in tow should not have to wait in line for an hour to exercise their constitutional right to vote. All Wisconsin communities are not the same, which is why decisions as important as this should be conducted at the local level. As much as Republicans would like to pass a one-size-fits-all restriction, such as the one in this bill, this will not work in a community like ours. The gravity of these restrictions would likely end up in the courts on constitution grounds. Therefore, the only common sense position on this anti-freedom proposal is to oppose it. Which is why this bill passed the Senate with only Republican support, but bipartisan opposition.

 

This is not the only controversial election-related bill that passed in the Senate during session this week. There was also a bill, Senate Bill 655, that would further create a pay-to-play atmosphere in governing as it would allow lobbyists to contribute to Senate campaigns earlier than under current law. Not surprisingly, this bill is seemingly the work of conservative corporate lobby group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Senate Republican leaders. Additionally, the rushed nature of the bill should most certainly be alarming. Senate Bill 655 was introduced on Monday, March 3, 2014. A hearing was held two days later on March 5 and the bill was voted out of the committee on March 6. That means that the Legislature passed this bill after only eight days in existence, which is virtually unheard of as it is poor public policy. Another couple of proposals, Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 265, would place additional restrictions on local municipal clerks by dictating who can volunteer to assist on Election Day. 


Proposal to Eliminate Same Day Registration Introduced Again
Wisconsin has historically been one of the top states for voter participation. Much of this stems from our adoption of same-day registration laws, which reduce barriers for eligible voters to participate in Wisconsin's elections by allowing them to register at the polls on Election Day prior to voting. However, the Republican-controlled Legislature is attempting to undo this success by again introducing legislation that would prohibit same-day registration in Wisconsin.

Same-day registration enhances freedom and democracy, and has proven to be a popular option for voters. It is also widely supported by the nonpartisan officials that administer our elections. According to the Government Accountability Board, during major statewide elections, 10-15% of Wisconsin voters opt to register to vote or update their registration information on Election Day. This rate is even higher in our area. The Milwaukee Election Commissioner Neil Albrecht reported that in the November 2012 general election, 19% of those who voted in Milwaukee registered that day.

Eliminating this widely needed registration option would create a tremendous barrier for many voters and create countless problems. If same-day registration were to be eliminated, Wisconsin would immediately become subject to federal voter protection laws, including the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Wisconsin was previously exempt from these laws because it offered the freedom of same-day registration. These laws require that voter registration take place at the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as well as at agencies that provide federal or state public assistance or administer programs that primarily assist neighbors with disabilities. Many DMV locations in Wisconsin, especially in rural areas, are open during limited hours. Additionally, some Wisconsinites have to drive nearly an hour to reach the nearest DMV center. These complications, among others, will make it increasingly difficult for people with full-time jobs, the elderly, students, individuals with disabilities, and Wisconsinites in rural areas to register in a timely manner prior to elections.

Furthermore, eliminating same-day registration will also prove costly to taxpayers. The Government Accountability Board, which would be tasked with implementing any changes to our registration and voting laws, conducted a report in cooperation with the other affected departments--including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Health Services, the Department of Children and Families, and the Department of Workforce Development--to estimate the costs of eliminating same-day voter registration. The report, dated February 18, 2013, estimated that costs in the first two years could range from $11.3 million to $16.3 million for the five affected state agencies. This estimate excludes the financial impact on local government associated with eliminating same-day voter registration.

 

Click here to view the Government Accountability Board's report in its entirety.

 

Continuing to deny people the freedom to register on Election Day and having to instead comply with federal laws will also have an annual fee attached. Past estimates have placed this costs at $2 million or more every two years from here on out for the Government Accountability Board alone. No word yet on what the costs would be each biennium for other agencies, such as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.


Senate Democrats Introduce Proposal to Protect Voting Freedoms
When it comes to election reform, the difference is clear. While Governor Walker and legislative Republicans are working on restricting the freedom to vote, Senate Democrats are making it harder to cheat. In response to efforts by the majority aimed at restricting access to the polls for qualified citizens, I have signed on as a co-sponsor to a resolution authored by Senator Jennifer Shilling, which will protect our individual freedom and constitutional right to vote. This resolution, also known as the Right to Vote Act, reaffirms that each qualified elector has a fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the district in which they reside. Adoption of this proposal would further enable Wisconsinites to continue our proud tradition of high voter participation and turnout. According to the Government Accountability Board, Wisconsin saw a turnout rate of 70.1% in one of the most recent elections. Additionally, 3,071,434 votes were cast for president in the November 2012 elections; the highest number of votes cast for a single office in a statewide election in Wisconsin history. These are numbers of which to be proud. Upholding this tradition, not reversing it, is the Wisconsin way.

 

 

ACA March 31 Deadline Approaching

Are you uninsured? Do you have a family member or friend who is uninsured? Under the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law on March 23, 2010, eligible Wisconsinites may register for health care coverage through the health insurance exchange. Neighbors looking to start receiving coverage may enroll in the exchange during its open enrollment period. After the open enrollment period for 2014 ends on March 31, Wisconsinites will no longer be allowed to apply for health care through the health insurance marketplace unless they experience a significant life-changing event, which could make them eligible for a special enrollment period.

 

 

The first open enrollment period for the health exchange began on October 1, 2013, and ends on March 31, 2014. It is important that everyone who plans to apply for health insurance through this program is aware of this deadline, as those who fail to register by March 31, 2014, will have to wait until the next open enrollment period, which is October 1, 2014, to apply for coverage. There will be information and enrollment session throughout Milwaukee over the next couple of weeks. These events are a great way to learn more about signing up through the exchange.

 

Click here to view dates and times for these events.

 

It is required that all U.S. citizens have health insurance in 2014, and those who do not may be fined as a result. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions for providing health care to those experiencing financial difficulties, by offering low-income participants access to subsidized health care coverage options, as well as exempting certain low-income individuals from being fined for not having coverage.

As of February 27, 2014, 4 million people across the United States have signed up for coverage through the health insurance marketplace. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that the number of uninsured adults has dropped from 17.1% to 15.9% over just the last three months. However, there are still many others who are eligible for health care coverage, but have yet to apply before the deadline.

 

 

Click here to visit healthcare.gov and follow the easy steps to apply for coverage through the health care marketplace.

In 2013, Governor Scott Walker declined federal funds to strengthen BadgerCare and refused to set up a state-run health insurance exchange for Wisconsin. The funding for these programs would have been drawn from a fund that has already been paid into by Wisconsinites through payment of federal taxes. If Governor Walker had accepted this funding, nearly 85,000 more citizens could have been insured, while simultaneously saving taxpayers a total of $119 million. On top of this, strengthening BadgerCare would create over 10,000 jobs here in Wisconsin. In order to move Wisconsin forward both economically and in terms of health care, it is necessary that we accept federal funding to strengthen BadgerCare. Insuring more Wisconsinites for less money is not only common sense, but it is the right thing to do.

 

 

Neighborhood Business News

Neighborhood businesses are doing a lot of great things to improve our community for family, friends, and neighbors. Therefore, I will be featuring a biweekly article in the newsletter that acknowledges a new, growing, or award-winning business in our community. Continue reading to learn more about this week's featured business.

Congrats to Great Lakes Dermatology on Expanding!

Great Lakes Dermatology has expanded their Oak Creek clinic. Last Thursday, March 6, Great Lakes Dermatology hosted their Grand Re-Opening celebration at the Oak Creek clinic. While Great Lakes Dermatology started in South Milwaukee in August 2000 and was only open a couple days a week, it has since grown to 10 locations in Milwaukee and the surrounding area. Great Lakes Dermatology provides medical treatments as well as cosmetic services to a wide variety of patients, customizing treatments for each patient's needs.

 

Dermatology is an underserved specialty in the corridor from Oak Creek to downtown Milwaukee and Great Lakes Dermatology wanted to be able to offer the people in these communities exceptional care in a timely manner. This local business believes people should not have to wait months to see a dermatologist. Therefore, Great Lake Dermatology was also one of the first practices in the area to offer evening and weekend hours. They respect the fact that people nowadays are in tough situations and demanding careers that prevent them from coming to see doctors during the work day, which is when most specialists offer services.

 

According to Director of Operations Michael Hood at Great Lakes Dermatology:


"Our motto of 'Your Kind of Skin Care' isn't just a marketing slogan, it is truly our philosophy in every decision we make affecting patient care. The fact is that medicine is changing and no longer can medical groups just pump patients out as they have in the past. We now are being held accountable for the total outcome of their visit with us and must ensure that every aspect of our business delivers an exceptional visit with patients, positive and timely outcome of treatment, respect people's time and have good access to the care we offer.

"I speak for the entire practice when I say the best part of practicing in Oak Creek is the definitely the people. Everyone is just so nice and we routinely get patients bringing in baked good for the providers, thank you cards and most importantly telling their friends and family about our practice."


This expansion will increase access to dermatology services in our community. I would like to congratulate Great Lakes Dermatology on their tremendous success and for providing such a positive experience to our neighbors in the Milwaukee area, including Oak Creek.

 

 

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 recently took your K-12 Education Survey online. Could you tell me the survey results?


A: Thank you to everyone that took the time to complete the K-12 Education Survey that I offered on my Web site. Your feedback on what is important to our community and state is very much appreciated.  Overall, approximately 400 people responded with their perspective on questions about various education policies, and many also provided anecdotes about what they have experienced first hand regarding our children's education.

As you review the results, please keep in mind that the survey was not scientific. I invited anyone that subscribes to the Larson Report to participate and also made the survey available to all on my Web site.

Survey questions and results are listed below:

 

1. Over the past 20 years, $1.5 billion has been spent funding private voucher schools that receive tax dollars, but do not have to follow the same accountability and transparency standards as public schools. I __________ increasing accountability and transparency in all schools receiving taxpayer dollars.

 

  • Oppose = 7%

  • Support = 92%

  • Unsure/No Opinion = 1%

 

2. I __________ the recent increase of funding to private voucher schools by up to $1,414 per pupil while public schools will only see an increase of a mere $100 per pupil in the same school year.

 

  • Oppose = 95%

  • Support = 4%

  • Unsure/No Opinion = 1%

 

3. Unlike public schools, voucher schools are not currently required to conduct background checks on prospective teachers or employ only teachers who have been licensed by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI). What is your opinion on these policies?

 

  • I support the status quo = 1%

  • I believe teachers at voucher schools need to be licensed by DPI, but do not need a background check = 1%

  • I believe teachers at voucher schools need a background check, but do not need to be licensed by DPI = 6%

  • I believe teachers at voucher schools need both a background check and DPI licensure = 92%

 

4. To discourage discrimination, all schools receiving taxpayer dollars should be required to provide a quality education to all of its students, including those with a mental or physical disability.

 

  • Agree = 96%

  • Disagree = 3%

  • Unsure/No Opinion = 1%

 

5. The most recent budget expanded the voucher program statewide while capping enrollment in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. I __________ expanding the voucher program further by raising or lifting the cap.

 

  • Oppose = 94%

  • Support = 3%

  • Unsure/No Opinion = 3%

 

6. I believe it is fair that parents of voucher or private school students can receive a tax credit of up to $10,000 per child, while the parents of public schools students are forced to pay for two separate school systems: public schools and private voucher schools.

 

  • Agree = 6%

  • Disagree = 93%

  • Unsure/No Opinion = 1%

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may know that Wisconsin always ranks first or second in the United States for dairy and cheese production. But did you know that Wisconsin also ranks No. 2 nationally for the number of organic farms in our state?

 

According to a 2012 UW-Madison report, titled "Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2012 Status Report," Wisconsin boasts the second largest number of organic farms in the U.S., ranks first among the states for the number of organic dairy and beef farms, and is third in the nation for organic vegetable farms.

 

Click here to read the report in full.
 

 

It's National Groundwater Awareness Week

This week, we recognized the 16th annual National Groundwater Awareness Week. This event is held every year by the National Groundwater Association (NGWA), and aims to spread information about our groundwater and the issues that affect it. The NGWA hopes that by drawing attention to groundwater during this week, they can promote conservation and protection of this vital natural resource. I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to learn more about groundwater and what we can do individually to ensure that our groundwater supply and quality is responsibly maintained.

Groundwater is extremely abundant in the United States and makes up a large majority of our available freshwater. It is also a renewable resource, as it is replenished over time by rain, snow, and flows from surface bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes. According to estimates made by the NGWA, 44% of Americans depend on groundwater to supply their drinking water. This can be in the form of a water supply from a public well, or from private wells to individual households. Groundwater is also essential to agriculture, as it is one of the main sources of water used to irrigate crops. To fulfill either of these purposes it is vital that we maintain a steady, unpolluted supply of groundwater.

Although it plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and productive environment here in Wisconsin, our supply of groundwater still faces some threats. Rising levels of phosphorous have been observed in Wisconsin's waterways in recent years, which can lead to contamination of the groundwater supply as many rivers and lakes feed into sources of groundwater. Senate Bill 547, which aims to slow the reduction of phosphorous levels in Wisconsin waterways, was passed on February 18, 2014. This bill allows certain corporations and municipalities to put off compliance with safeguards against phosphorous, as well as capping the amount they could be required to pay to reduce current levels of phosphorous in the water supply. This legislation could lead to further degradation through eventual contamination of our groundwater supply. In addition to this, the most recent budget includes a policy stating that citizens cannot challenge the approval of high-capacity wells by the Department of Natural Resources. The high volume water withdrawal required to run a high-capacity well can negatively impact area lakes and streams, and can also lead to increased contamination and depletion of the Wisconsin water supply. Removing citizens' abilities to challenge such a controversial initiative is a step in the wrong direction, as it is important that decisions impacting the environment in such a profound manner are made with the opinion of the people in mind.

There are many things that you can do as an individual to protect our state's groundwater. One of the best ways to preserve this vital resource is to simply conserve water in daily life. This can be done in a variety of ways, such as using water-efficient appliances, only running the dishwasher or washing machine when it is full, and using water sparingly when watering a lawn or washing a car. Another important step in protecting groundwater is reducing pollution daily. It is vital that all hazardous household substances are disposed of correctly and that steps are taken to ensure these substances do not enter the environment during use. By conserving water and preventing hazardous materials from entering the environment, we can maintain a clean supply of groundwater here in Wisconsin for many years to come.

For more information about groundwater and what you can do as a steward of Wisconsin to preserve this important resource, please visit the Department of Natural Resources' groundwater Web site.

 

Click here to learn more about groundwater. 

 

 

Sign the Marriage Equality Petition Today!

My Democratic colleagues and I introduced a proposal that would remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality. The support for this legislation has been overwhelming. After being in circulation for a month, the Marriage Equality Wisconsin Petition has already garnered nearly 24,000 signatures. If you have not yet signed the petition located at www.MarriageEqualityWI.com, you still have time to join our Wisconsin neighbors in supporting the proposal to remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality. If you have already signed, please encourage your family, friends and neighbors to do so as well. Continue reading for more information about the details of this marriage equality proposal.

In 2006, Wisconsin adopted a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for all in our state. This amendment has prevented many Wisconsinites from being able to partake in the ultimate expression of love and commitment--Marriage. Further, it has left many couples and their families vulnerable to intolerance and undue hardship.

As Wisconsinites, we share the same core values. We believe in freedom, equality, and justice for all. According to an October 2013 Marquette University Law School Poll, the majority of Wisconsinites (53%) now support the freedom to marry. Further, 17 states and the District of Columbia have already paved the way to fairness by protecting marriage equality. It is time that Wisconsin follows suit.

Senator Tim Carpenter and Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, along with other Wisconsin legislative Democrats, have introduced a proposal that would remove our current constitutional ban on marriage equality. Our gay and lesbian family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends deserve to be treated fairly in comparison to every other Wisconsinite. Let us support them in their goal to spend each and every day married to the person they love.

The current legislative session is slated to end in April. We encourage our Republican colleagues to join us in taking this positive step forward by removing the marriage equality ban before we finish for the year.

Click here if you would like to sign the petition in support of legislation that would remove Wisconsin's ban on marriage equality.

You can also encourage your family, friends, and neighbors to show their support by printing a petition and circulating it throughout your community or across the state.

Click here to download or print the PDF for the Marriage Equality Wisconsin Petition.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have regarding this marriage equality proposal.

 

 

Support the Higher Ed, Lower Debt Bill

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. 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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