LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER



 

March 6, 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

 

 

2014 Milwaukee Archaeology Fair

Date: Fri., March 7 and Sat., March 8

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Take a trip back in time to explore the past through hands-on activities and presentations. Talk with archaeologists and historians from Wisconsin universities, museums, historical societies, and other institutions. The Milwaukee Archaeology Fair will feature presenters spread throughout the Museum's exhibit floors. This event is open to the public and free with general admission. CLICK HERE or call (414) 278-2702 for more information.

 

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

 

12th Annual Local Farmer Open House
Date: Sat., March 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Know your farmer, know your food. Whether you are learning about Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) or have been a member for years, this is a great opportunity to talk with local farmers, learn about their growing practices and share options, and choose which farm is best for you. Short workshops on issues such as cooking from your CSA, will also be featured. This event is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for more information. 

 

Urban Ecology Center Riverside Park (MAP)

1500 E. Park Place

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,

 

This week, the Senate had an opportunity to adopt a bipartisan surplus plan. Compared to Governor Walker's plan, this proposal would nearly double the property tax relief for middle-class families, eliminate the deficit, double our savings for the Rainy Day Fund, and triple the funding for job training. Unfortunately partisanship and politics got in the way of adopting this common sense plan. Continue reading for more about this and other important issues in our community and state.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Common Sense, Bipartisan Surplus Proposal Rejected

On Tuesday, the Senate debated what to do with Wisconsin's projected surplus. While Senate Republicans advocated for adoption of Governor Walker's plan, my Democratic colleagues and I introduced a balanced, alternative proposal that would do the following:
 

  • Nearly doubles the property tax relief for middle-class families--For a median value home, the plan by Wisconsin Senate Democrats delivers $231 in property tax saving for Wisconsin's hard-working families, while the proposal by Governor Walker and legislative Republicans only provides $131.

  • Eliminates the deficit while doubling our savings--The Republican plan leaves Wisconsin with a $658 million structural deficit. The Democratic proposal, on the other hand, not only eliminates the structural deficit, but also doubles the deposit placed in the state's Rainy Day Fund.

  • Triples the funding for job training--In his first budget, Governor Walker cut funding for tech schools by $72 million. Since then, Wisconsin has fallen from 11th to 37th in job creation. Under the Democratic alternative for the surplus, my colleagues and I nearly triple the funding to $100 million for much-needed job training for up to 40,414 people currently on waiting lists or not being served. 
     

By prioritizing our values, the Democratic proposal was able to do more with the same amount of money in comparison to the Republican plan. This is because our common sense proposal maintains the Alternative Minimum Tax, which ensures everyone pays their fair share. Additionally, we changed the mechanism by which property taxes are reduced to the First Dollar Credit, which targets property tax relief towards middle-class families.

 

 

Click here or on the video above to watch the Senate floor debate on this bill.

 

However, Republicans legislators proved once again what matters most to them: their jobs. Their election gimmick contains giveaways to wealthy individuals and corporations to assist them in dodging their community tax responsibilities while passing off the cost to the average Wisconsinite. Further, the corporations that obtain this tax break will not be required to keep jobs here in Wisconsin and could even ship jobs overseas while still receiving this giveaway. The trickery contained in the Republican proposal plunges our state further into a deficit and reduces the property tax relief possible for middle-class families in order to prioritize potential donors before the impending elections.

 

When deciding which plan would have been better for Wisconsin, simply ask yourself the following questions:

 

  • Would I rather Wisconsin provide more property tax relief to middle-class families?

  • Would I rather Wisconsin eliminate the structural deficit?

  • Would I rather Wisconsin save more in the Rainy Day Fund for future emergencies?

  • Would I rather Wisconsin provide more funding for job training?

 

If you answered "yes" to these questions, that you would prefer Wisconsin provide more property tax relief, eliminate the structural deficit, place more savings into the Rainy Day Fund, and offer more funding for job training, then you support the Democratic proposal. It is clear that the Democratic surplus proposal was the common sense choice given that it was able to garner bipartisan support, while the Republican plan failed to achieve that same feat. Ultimately, Republicans rejected this bipartisan plan proving once again that they are unwilling to compromise, even if it is in the best interest of Wisconsinites and our state.

 

Wisconsin No Longer Alternative Energy Leader

In addition to falling behind on job creation, data also shows that Wisconsin is being surpassed by its neighbors with regards to renewable energy. Of the 29 states that have a commitment to obtain a certain amount of electricity from clean, renewable sources by adopting a Renewable Portfolio Standard, Wisconsin has the lowest requirement. While Minnesota and Illinois have committed to 25% by 2025, Kansas has committed to 20% by 2020, and Colorado has committed to 30% by 2020, Wisconsin trails the pack by only committing to 10% by 2015. Our ranking of dead last among these states is shocking given that Wisconsin was once a leader in this sector, becoming the first state to enact a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard without a full restructuring of its utility industry.

Our insufficient Renewable Portfolio Standard also has an impact on overall job creation. Almost 99.4% of wind farm development in 2012 occurred outside of Wisconsin. This means that Wisconsin is missing out on high-paying, quality jobs that are instead being established elsewhere.

In an effort to ensure Wisconsin can remain competitive with its neighboring states when it comes to our Renewable Portfolio Standard and green energy jobs, my Democratic colleague Senator Mark Miller has introduced the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act. This bill sets a renewable standard of 30% by 2030.

Other provisions in the bill include:

 

  • Net Metering--A policy ensuring everyone can receive full credit for producing their own renewable electricity by allowing meters to spin backward as well as forward. Like rollover minutes for a cell phone, this allows people to balance out times when they are generating electricity with times when they are using more than they generate.

  • Advanced Renewable Tariffs--Directs electrical utilities to establish a system of Advanced Renewable Tariffs--set prices for renewable energy generations like wind and solar--at the discretion of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission. The market then determines how much, where, and by whom renewable energy will be developed.


A recent poll shows such a policy is widely supported by Wisconsinites. This poll, conducted in 2012, found that 84% of Wisconsin voters support increasing the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard to 30%. This is likely because the benefits of renewable energy are vast. Some of these benefits are listed below:

 

  • Promotes Local Economic Development--Creates a stable environment for renewable energy companies, adds to the state's economy, creates jobs, and helps local governments fund services and maintain the line on property taxes.

  • Helps Keep Electric Rates Lower--Adding renewable energy to the electric grid allows inefficient plants to be taken offline and has predictable relatively low cost fluctuations since no fuel costs are involved. Electricity in the 11 states that produce more than 7% of their electricity from wind energy have seen their electricity prices fall by 0.37% in the past five years, while Wisconsin has seen average electric rates rise by nearly 14% over the past five years.

  • Reduces Our Dependence on Foreign Oil--Diversifying our portfolio is crucial to ensure that Wisconsin does not fall victim when oil and natural gas supplies are affected by external factors. We saw this problem arise just this year when we experienced a propane shortage and the natural gas pipeline from Canada was damaged. Wisconsin currently sends over $12 billion out of state annually to meet our energy demands. Why not keep this money in our own state to support local jobs instead?


Given the many benefits a proposal like the Wisconsin Renewable Energy Act could have on local communities and our state, I hope it will be given adequate consideration before the legislative session concludes for the year. By working with neighbors, businesses, and established energy providers, Wisconsin can lead again.

 

 

Solar Energy Opportunity in Milwaukee

Looking for alternative energy options to outfit your home or business? Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood has an opportunity to take advantage of record-low solar pricing through a limited-time solar group purchase program. The Solar Bay View program is a new solar group-buy program that can help residents and businesses invest in lower cost solar installations through the power of volume purchasing. The program is open to Milwaukee-area residents outside of Bay View, but its main outreach focus will be within the neighborhood. This investment model is increasingly popular and is likely to continue to spread to other communities across Wisconsin.

Solar Bay View is being led through a partnership of the city of Milwaukee's solar program, Milwaukee Shines, the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

 

Learn more about this alternative energy opportunity by attending one of their community information sessions. Information for these events is listed below.

 

Click here for more information about Solar Bay View.

Saturday, March 8 at 3 p.m.
Colectivo Bay View
2301 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Wednesday, March 12 at 6 p.m.
Outpost Foods Bay View
2826 S Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Wednesday, March 26 at 6 p.m.
Bay View Library
2566 S Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Sunday, March 30 at 6 p.m.
Anodyne Coffee Bay View Cafe
2920 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Monday, April 7 at 6 p.m.
Mercy Hill Church
2625 S. Greeley Street
Milwaukee, WI 53207
(Hide House 1st Floor)

Saturday, April 19 at 3 p.m.
Outpost Foods Bay View
2826 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

 

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: What is the status of legislation that would pre-empt local government action to establish living wages?

A: Under current law, a city, village, town, or county is not allowed to enact an ordinance that establishes a living wage. There is an exception in the case of workers who are contracted to provide services to a county, city, village, or town, or an employee whose work is funded by that municipality.

As originally written, Assembly Bill (AB) 750 voided the exemption stated above, thus prohibiting local governments from establishing ordinances that specify a living wage. Furthermore, AB 750 prohibits local governments from requiring that a worker employed on a public works project live within a specific area.

 

A substitute amendment to AB 750 was proposed and adopted that retains the original bill's language regarding residency restrictions on workers, but changes the living wage aspect. Under this amendment, local governments cannot create an ordinance establishing a living wage for workers if the project is funded with state or federal funds that have passed through the state treasury. In other words, local governments may establish a living wage ordinance for public works projects provided no funding for the project is being contributed in the aforementioned ways. AB 750 passed in the Assembly on February 20, 2014, and was referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor. A public hearing was held on the bill on March 3, 2014. This bill was supported by the committee with a 3-2 vote. It is now available to schedule for a vote in the full Senate.

The state of Wisconsin has a long, proud tradition of allowing local governments and officials to make decisions on behalf of their neighbors and communities. While the substitute amendment did loosen the bill's restrictions on local living wage ordinances, it still strips local governments of decision-making power regarding wages. A living wage ordinance may make sense in some communities where housing prices and cost of living are higher, such as Madison and Milwaukee, where as other communities may find such a policy would not have an impact on their community as their cost of living is substantially lower. This is why living wage ordinances and other similar decisions should be left to the discretion of each municipality.

 

This past year, the Legislature has deprived municipalities of the ability to enforce ordinances related to landlord/tenant agreements. Furthermore, there is proposed legislation that would limit the hours a municipality may offer in-person absentee voting. AB 750 is yet another step taken by the Republican majority in the state Legislature to restrict local control. I strongly oppose AB 750, and should it reach the Senate floor for a vote, I will oppose it.

 

 

Did You Know...?

You are likely aware that the Academy Awards took place this past weekend. But did you know that in addition to receiving a Golden Globe for his screenplay "12 Years a Slave," Milwaukee-area native John Ridley Jr. also won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay? The film "12 Years a Slave" also received Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

 

While Homestead High School alum John Ridley Jr. got his start in show business doing standup comedy, he eventually changed course to pursue being a writer. He has proven successful at his career, which has included writing novels, TV shows, screenplays, internet series, stage plays, and graphic novels all in a wide range of genres.

 

 

It's Severe Weather Preparedness Week

This week, March 2 through March 8, is National Severe Weather Awareness Week, as declared by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). During this week, NOAA wants to make sure citizens are aware of the possible severe weather we may experience in the months to come and that they are prepared for such events. As you may know, in 2013 alone, severe weather damage exceeded $1 billion across the United States. Different weather events, such as tornadoes, flooding, and drought, were responsible for the damage and caused the deaths of 109 people.


In 2010, far too many of us were deeply affected by the flash floods in Milwaukee. In just two hours on one day alone, we received 7.5 inches of rainfall, turning our streets into rivers and backing up several sewers in our neighborhoods. Sadly, the flooding was also responsible for the tragic death of a 19-year-old boy. It was estimated that the flooding did about $37 million in damage over the course of two days. Given the reality of global climate change, the frequency of severe weather events, like flooding and droughts, are predicted to increase.


Wisconsin is also known to be a hotbed of tornado activity. According to NOAA, the 30-year normal, as of 2010, is 23 tornadoes per year. The months of May, June, and July are our highest months of activity due to higher levels of warm, moist air coming up from the Gulf of Mexico every year.


With those severe weather events in mind, it is important that we are all prepared for future emergencies to keep our families safe. The likelihood of severe weather will only increase as we enter the warmer months. NOAA suggests having a "Disaster Supply Kit" ready in the event of an emergency. It is recommended that the kit be assembled in advance so that you can be ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. This means having water, food, and other supplies in sufficient quantities to last up to three days per person. In the event of an emergency, relief workers may not be on the scene immediately and cannot reach everyone at the same time. A basic supply kit should include:

 

  • Water (one gallon per person per day, for drinking and sanitation)

  • Food (at least a three-day supply of nonperishable foods)

  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both

  • Flashlight and extra batteries

  • First-aid kit

  • Whistle to signal for help

  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape

  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for personal sanitation

  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

  • Manual can opener for food

  • Local maps

  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter, or solar charger

 

Click here to learn more about severe weather preparedness courtesy of FEMA.

 

 

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 only a few weeks, 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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