May 2, 2013



Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487



Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707


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Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below. 


MIAD 2013 Senior Exhibition
Date: Every Tuesday through Saturday Now through May 11

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Milwaukee's most exuberant and anticipated exhibition of emerging talent returns in all MIAD galleries. Meet the artists and designers who innovate for the economy and community, and discuss their capstone projects from all of MIAD's 11 majors and 16 minors. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-8070 for more information.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MAP)
273 E. Erie Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Grant Park Weed-outs

Date: Sat., May 4, 11 & 18 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Help neighbors pull invasive garlic mustard to protect plant diversity in Grant Park. Meet at the tennis court parking lot (Area 1). CLICK HERE or call (414) 764-0612 for more information.


Grant Park (MAP)

100 E. Hawthorne Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172


Warnimont Park Clean-up

Date: Sat., May 4 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Location: Cudahy

Description: Meet at the Kelly Senior Center parking lot for this community clean-up. Coordinators will provide gloves, bags, pick-up tools, water, and snacks for volunteers. Participation is welcome for an hour or the entire day.


Kelly Senior Center (MAP)

6100 S. Lake Drive

Cudahy, WI 53110



Milwaukee Bar Association's Law Day

Date: Sat., May 4 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Location: Various libraries in Milwaukee

Description: The Milwaukee Bar Association will provide free, one-on-one meetings for anyone, including Spanish speakers, needing legal assistance. This event will be hosted at the following locations: Bay View Library, Central Library, Center Street Library, and the Atkinson Library. CLICK HERE for more information about this event.

Native Plant Sale

Date: Sat., May 11 from 9 a.m. to Noon

Location: South Milwaukee

Description: Support South Milwaukee Middle School's Environmental Club by purchasing native, hardy perennials and garden vegetable plants. Prices start as low as $1 for 2.5-inch pots. Plants also make a great Mother's Day gift. This event will take place in front of South Milwaukee Middle School.


South Milwaukee Middle School (MAP)

1001 15th Avenue

South Milwaukee, WI 53172



City of Cudahy Bike Auction & Rummage Sale

Date: Sat., May 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Location: Cudahy

Description: Partake in the auction of bicycles and rummage hosted by the Cudahy Historical Society and Cudahy Police Department. Paddle sales begin at 9 a.m. with the auction starting at 11 a.m. A city rummage sale will occur simultaneously in the Historical Society Annex. CLICK HERE for more information.


Cudahy Historical Society (MAP)

4647 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue

Cudahy, WI 53110





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Dear Friend,


This week's report takes a look at the negative effects of wasting tax dollars on unaccountable programs, including WEDC and vouchers. Continue reading for more information on these and other important issues such as the UW System reserve funds, suspicious deletion of redistricting files, and the upcoming Bay View Tragedy commemoration.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7




New Report Confirms Voucher Dollars Wasted on Inferior Schools

Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction released a report last week confirming what has been a familiar notion to many in Milwaukee County: voucher schools do not provide a superior education to our neighborhood public schools. Statewide test assessments taken by students in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) and Racine's Parental Private School Choice Program (PPSCP) revealed that voucher students underperformed in mathematics and reading as compared to their local public school districts. The test scores reflect the reading and mathematics scores for students of all grades during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.


In Milwaukee, public school students fared 7.8 percentage points better in math during the 2011-2012 school year and 6.5 percentage points better in the 2012-13 school year as compared to MPCP students. MPS students also did better with reading proficiency, scoring 4.2 percentage points better in 2011-12 and 3.4 percentage points better in 2012-13.


Milwaukee Public School were not alone in their compared success to voucher school students. Students in the Racine Unified School District also did better in math and reading as compared to PPSCP voucher students. During the 2011-12 school year, public school students tested 0.9 percentage points higher in math and 8.1 percentage points higher in reading versus their voucher student counterparts. The same was true in the 2012-13 school year, where public school students scored 3.7 and 2.1 percentage points higher than voucher students in math and reading respectively.


Click here to view the results referenced in full.


The results of this recent report continue the previous trend that this unaccountable experiment on our children has failed. Scoring lower in math and reading than their public counterparts, voucher schools in Wisconsin have done a disservice to parents and future Wisconsin workers. After 20 years of report after report showing underperformance, the logical reaction would be to institute accountability measures to private schools receiving taxpayer funded vouchers, not expand them without reforms. As property taxes continue to rise while reading and math scores remain low, Wisconsin's middle-class families are the unlucky backers of a losing gamble with the education of our children.


Despite recent failures, the Republican budget allows for no new spending--$0 dollars--for our traditional public schools but increases spending for voucher schools by up to $1,414 per pupil. It is time for all of us to do something about this misguided, nonsensical education budget. Let the governor and Republican Legislature know that you oppose their misplaced education priorities. Tell them to support public education and stop spending public dollars on unaccountable private voucher schools by signing this new petition being circulated on The petition states the following:

In 2011, Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature passed a budget that contained the largest cuts to public education in Wisconsin history--$1.6 billion gone from our kids' schools. Class sizes went up drastically. Quality after-school programs were eliminated. Good teachers were laid off.

This year, the governor's proposed budget freezes public school spending, while increasing funding for unaccountable and unproven private voucher schools. Tell Governor Walker and the state Republicans to stand up for our kids and not special interests that want to profit on the backs of our future generations.

Petition signatures will then be shared with your state representative, state senator, and the governor. Additionally, once a neighbor has signed on to the petition, they will then have the option to send information about the petition to others by sharing it on Facebook, tweeting about it on Twitter, or emailing it to friends and family.

Join 3,035 of your fellow Wisconsinites by clicking here to sign the petition.


UWM Education Protection Funds

Last week, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly appeared before the Joint Committee on Employment Relations to discuss the recent disclosure of cash reserves within the system. UW System campuses maintain reserves, primarily from tuition, to pay for future and planned obligations. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau analyzed the reserves using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and found that the amount of reserved funds nearly doubled in three years at the same time tuition increased 5.5% per year. These funds are not all in one account, but rather spread among thousands of accounts that are largely controlled by chancellors at campuses. Further, as stated by President Reilly, many of the funds at these campuses have already been allocated for use. Such funds play a key role in a university's accreditation and ability to carry out approved strategic initiatives.


This is apparent when looking at the case of our own UW-Milwaukee, where many of these funds have already been committed to implementing the Milwaukee Initiative. This program was approved by the Wisconsin Legislature in the 2009-2011 Biennial Budget and invests in faculty, staff, and equipment associated with the new Zilber School of Public Health and School of Freshwater Sciences.


As of June 30, 2012, UWM had a total of $92 million in cash balances, representing 13% of the university's total revenue for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. However, $72 million of those funds have already been committed to the Milwaukee Initiative to fund aspects of this project including, but not limited to, the following:

  • $21.4 million at the Northwest Quadrant (former Columbia St. Mary's Hospital campus) for renovations and operations

  • $15.5 million at the Zilber School of Public Health for faculty and staff, equipment acquisition, and operating costs

  • $10.5 million at the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex for equipment and operating costs

  • $8.1 million at the School of Freshwater Sciences for faculty and staff, purchase of new lab equipment, and operating costs

  • $5.1 million at the Innovation Campus Business Accelerator Building for equipment acquisition, lease payments, and operating costs

  • $3.5 million at the Global Water Center a partnership with the Water Council, that includes lease payments, equipment acquisition, and operating costs

At a time when Wisconsin's working families are still fighting for middle-class security, ensuring more students can afford higher education at our best universities must be a priority. Over the past 10 years, the only predictable fact is that state funding will cover a smaller and smaller portion of the university system budget. In fact, funding for the UW System has decreased from 32% financial obligation to 18% during this time. For that reason, rather than waging a press release war, jumping to conclusions, or prematurely pointing fingers, we should sit down and have genuine conversations about the entire UW budget, including those for each campus, and the appropriate level of reserves to be maintained by the university system. My colleagues and I have requested a tuition freeze during this time to ensure that Wisconsin's students attending these institutions are our main priority.

I was encouraged by the calls from Republican legislators to increase accountability and transparency at the UW System to ensure the state can more easily track these funds. I would hope that such measures would also be considered for other state agencies receiving tax dollars, including the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. This hastily-created public-private agency has had persistent problems since its inception in 2011. These include circumventing Wisconsin's fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw was losing track of over $50 million in loans, including about $12 million that were overdue.

Overall, with regard to recent concerns over UW System funding, Wisconsin's working families and students deserve to know where their tax and tuition dollars are going. But the bottom line remains: Senate Democrats want what is best for students and parents.


Audit Shows WEDC Failure

This Wednesday, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau released its findings on Governor Walker's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
The audit confirms what legislative Democrats and concerned citizens have been saying from the beginning. Although it has been given great authority over our tax dollars, WEDC lacks the necessary accountability and transparency measures that should accompany such obligation.


While Democratic legislators offered extensive suggestions to improve accountability and transparency when WEDC was created, most of these protections and safeguards were rejected by legislative Republicans. By refusing to adopt commonsense transparency and accountability amendments, Republicans provided the avenue for WEDC to waste our tax dollars and fail Wisconsin.

WEDC is currently tasked with administering many of the state's economic development programs, including grants, loans, bonding authorization, and tax incentives. This public-private agency has had persistent problems since its inception in 2011. These include circumventing Wisconsin's fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw was losing track of over $50 million in loans, including about $12 million that were overdue.

Unfortunately for taxpayers, it appears WEDC problems have not been relegated to the past. In fact, the revelations made in the newly released report are nothing short of shocking. Below are just a few of the many problems listed in the audit:

  • Provided awards to ineligible recipients, for ineligible projects, and for ineligible amounts

  • Disregarded the law by not requiring grant and loan recipients to disclose their financial statements

  • Ignored requests to put policies in place for handling delinquent loans

  • Failed to put policies in place or track use of agency credit cards resulting in purchases of iTunes gift cards, Badger football tickets, and alcohol with taxpayer dollars

  • Mismanaged record-keeping preventing WEDC from assessing its effectiveness in creating jobs

  • Lacked transparency on staff compensation, staff fringe benefits, and gifts from businesses and other organizations with a financial interest in WEDC

Click here to view the audit of WEDC in full.


Given the findings of this audit, there is clearly a reason why Wisconsin ranks 44th in the nation in job growth and 45th in wage growth. Legislative Republicans supposedly created WEDC to be the state's job creation agency and yet, because it does not have a clear plan, strong leadership, meaningful board involvement, and has ignored attempts at oversight, those efforts are failing. WEDC's problems have gotten so out-of-hand that even its CFOs are fleeing this sinking ship. Its third CFO in less than two years resigned last week after only one day on the job. If WEDC were a business, this kind of damaging audit would cause its stock to plummet.

Losing track of taxpayer dollars during difficult economic times is unacceptable. We cannot allow WEDC to continue this fraud, waste, and abuse at a time when neighborhood schools are not able to spend a single new dollar in the classrooms and 90,000 Wisconsinites are being cut from BadgerCare. Until accountability and transparency measures are enacted, no new taxpayer dollars should be wasted at WEDC.



Suspicious Deletion of Redistricting Files

This past Thursday, Representative Barca, Senator Miller, and I sent a letter to Senate and Assembly Republican Leadership requesting that they come clean and do whatever is necessary to assist in the recovery of deleted redistricting documents. This letter was sent in response to court documents released two weeks ago, which revealed that thousands of files were deleted from state computers "at suspicious times." Further, at least 55 redistricting documents were not turned over despite three court orders to release them. The public has the right to know what the court- protected documents would have shown.


The controversial redistricting process began when Republican legislators worked behind closed doors to craft the new legislative district maps and even signed a secret contract vowing to hide details of their redistricting plan from the public. When all was said and done, Republicans then stuck Wisconsin's taxpayers with a $400,000 tab to cover the fees for the private attorneys they hired to help them protect their jobs.


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

In 2012, the court granted plaintiffs access to the computers used by legislative aides and consultants to draw the maps. The plaintiffs began a forensic examination of the computers and found large numbers of documents were deleted. They are now in the process of attempting to restore the thousands of documents that were deleted right after the initial ruling legally instructed Republicans to turn over the documents to the plaintiffs and right after Democrats took over the majority in the Senate in the summer of 2012.

How the Redistricting Process Works in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin State Legislature is required by Article IV, Section 3 of the Wisconsin Constitution to redraw Senate and Assembly districts every 10 years based upon the results of the federal census to ensure districts provide representational equality for all potential voters.

Wisconsin currently uses a legislative redistricting process, where the maps are drawn up by the majority parties in the Legislature, are voted on by the Senate and Assembly, and are then signed by the governor. If the Legislature cannot agree on a redistricting plan, as is usually the case with split houses, the Supreme Court steps in to finalize the new legislative districts. For the past 50 years, Wisconsin's elected officials have had to work together with bipartisan cooperation or leave the task of redistricting up to the courts. This was the first time in 60 years that one political party had complete control over the redistricting process.

Courts Condemn Secret Process for Drawing Maps
After legislators, advocates and neighbors voiced concerns over the new legislative district maps drawn and hurriedly passed by Republicans earlier this year, two former legislators and 13 others filed a legal challenge. The group raised concerns that the partisan boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act and the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because of the way they treat minority communities, break apart neighborhoods, and shift voters from one district to another.

In September 2011, a federal three-judge panel was assembled to hear the challenge. The panel, two of whom are Republican appointees, included J.P. Stadtmueller of the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Diane P. Wood of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and Robert M. Dow Jr. of the Northern District of Illinois.

Republicans introduced several motions attempting to keep the process used to craft the maps secret. Not only did the three-judge panel rule against these attempts, but they issued a scathing opinion saying the following:

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

The court went on to say that the taxpayers should not have to pay for the sanctions it issued and instead ordered the Legislature's attorneys to cover the $17,000 in costs accrued from that legal challenge because they are "those ultimately responsible for the sandbagging, hide-the-ball trial tactics that continue to be employed."

The Future of Redistricting in Wisconsin
Recent events only help to confirm that our current redistricting process promotes gerrymandering, or manipulating the redrawing of districts to achieve political gain and help ensure the reelection of incumbents, by those in power. The majority of states still use a Legislative Redistricting Model, where the maps are drawn up by the majority parties in the Legislature. However, many states are shifting to using bipartisan or nonpartisan commissions to draw up their maps in an effort to decrease partisanship as well as legal fees involved with the process. So far 21 states use some form of a Commission Redistricting Model. Below you will find a list of redistricting models currently used throughout the country.

  • Legislative: Maps are drawn by the majority parties in the Legislature. Once finalized, they are placed in a bill which must be passed by both houses and signed by the governor. This model is used in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and 27 other states.

  • Back-up Commission: Maps are drawn by the majority parties in the Legislature. If the Legislature does not finish by the statutory deadline, a bipartisan commission completes the process. This model is used in Connecticut, Texas, and three other states.

  • Advisory Commission: Maps are drawn by the advisory commission. These can be accepted or rejected by the Legislature. The Legislature must enact their own plan or the commission's, before the statutory deadline. This model is used in Maine and Vermont.

  • Bipartisan Commission: Maps are drawn by a redistricting commission comprised of bipartisan members. The plan must be approved by either the commission or the State Supreme Court. This model is used in Ohio, Washington, and 10 other states.

  • Nonpartisan Commission: Maps are drawn by a redistricting commission comprised of nonpartisan members. If the Legislature rejects all three plans proposed by the commission, the State Supreme Court makes the final decision. This model is used in Iowa.

This past summer, I gave neighbors the opportunity to participate in a survey about Wisconsin's redistricting process. Overall, more than 400 people responded with their perspective. The survey found that:

  • 90% of respondents oppose Wisconsin's current redistricting system, which has the Legislature draw the state's Senate and Assembly district maps

  • 84% of respondents believe Wisconsin's current redistricting system increases partisanship and political gridlock in the state

  • 83% of respondents believe Wisconsin should switch to a bipartisan or nonpartisan commission model

No matter which party is in control, we need more accountability and transparency, not less. I will continue doing what I can to promote good government policies, by forwarding legislation aimed at keeping government actions open and accessible to the public. I will also continue to keep you updated on the most recent events and how the lawsuit over court- ordered documents on redistricting progresses.



Bay View Tragedy Event on Sunday

The annual Bay View Tragedy Commemoration will be held on Sunday, May 5 at 3 p.m. at the Bay View Rolling Mills state historical marker site to honor the 127th Anniversary of this historic event. The event pays tribute to those lost in the tragedy of May 5, 1886, when the State Militia shot into a crowd of some 1,500 workers marching in an eight-hour-day rally, killing seven in front of the old Bay View Rolling Mills, then Milwaukee's largest manufacturing plant. The Bay View Tragedy played a significant role in Wisconsin's labor movement and the struggle of Wisconsin's workers to fight for their rights and improve their employment conditions.

The program will include a speech, a folksinger performance, wreath laying ceremony, and a re-enactment of the May 5, 1886 event.

Click here for more information.

Bay View Rolling Mills State Historical Marker Site (MAP)
Northeast Corner of South Superior and East Russell
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: As someone who values our lakes and rivers, I would like to know more about the status of the S.S. Badger being allowed to dump waste in Lake Michigan. Do you have any updates on this issue?


A: As you may know, the S.S. Badger received a special permit in 2008 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to continue polluting Lake Michigan under the condition that it would eliminate coal ash discharges by December 19, 2012. After failing to meet that deadline, owners of the ship asked the EPA for permission to continue dumping dangerous toxins into the water.

Back in October, the governor sent the EPA a letter asking the agency to extend the S.S. Badger's pollution permit while its owners continue working on a solution. Representative Jon Richards and I also sent letters to the EPA and the U.S. Assistant Attorney General's office urging them to hold the coal-spilling steamship to its promise to stop dumping toxic pollutants into Lake Michigan by the end of the year.

Such pollution allowance practices will result in tons of mercury-laden coal ash continuing to be dumped into the fresh waters of Lake Michigan even longer, which can have a detrimental impact on the health of Wisconsinites and damage our Lake Michigan economy. Further, it is not fair to allow one company to continue asking for a pollution extension while other companies have made the necessary investments to ensure they are not contributing to water contamination.

Given the overwhelming evidence about the harmful effects of coal, and specifically mercury, on the millions of residents who live near Lake Michigan, it is hard to see how further exposure to these toxins can be construed to be in the public interest. Therefore, Rep. Richards and I have requested that the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency either amend the current request by S.S. Badger owners that would allow them to pollute through the 2014 sailing season or to set the request aside, which would end Lake Michigan Carferry operations until the company can demonstrate that they can follow EPA rules related to discharges and deposits of coal ash into United State waters. I will continue to keep you updated on the status of our requests related to the S.S. Badger as they occur.




Did You Know...?

You may know that this past Wednesday we celebrated May Day. But did you know that May 1 is also an important day in Wisconsin's labor movement?


A two-year campaign to urge all employers to adopt a standard eight-hour workday culminated on May 1, 1886, when all workers not yet on the proposed system ceased work until their employers met their demand. Eight-hour-day marches and strikes were strongest in industrial cities like Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, and our very own Milwaukee. These cities played a major role in the U.S. adopting the eight-hour workday, a progressive idea that is now commonplace nationwide.




Legislative Internships Available

A legislative internship at the Capitol is an excellent way to gain valuable real life experience about everyday operations of the Wisconsin State Legislature and the state's legislative process. This internship is a wonderful opportunity open to both students and recent graduates. In addition to internships at the Capitol in Madison, there are also opportunities available at my new Milwaukee office, which is shared with Sen. Nikiya Harris.


Intern responsibilities vary, but include policy research, summarizing proposed legislation, and responding to constituent inquires. All interns also assist with general office operations, including answering the phone. In addition, there may be opportunities for interns to attend session days, sit in on committee meetings, and participate in in-district events.


Applicants must be able to work during normal business hours, and dedicate a minimum of 10 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid.

To apply for an internship, please submit the internship application, a cover letter, and a resume electronically to or mail them to Wisconsin State Capitol, P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707. Please specify which office you are interested in working at when you submit your application materials. Do not hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions about this internship opportunity.


Click here for more information about this opportunity and to access the intern application.


Take My Survey Online

I recently mailed out a newsletter district wide. This newsletter not only provided an update on a variety of important legislative issues, but it also featured a survey. The short survey provides me with a way to learn more about you and gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts on how to move Wisconsin forward together.

This survey was distributed by mail in my district wide newsletter titled Neighborhood News and has also been made available online.

Click here to save a stamp and take the Neighborhood News Survey online.

I look forward to tackling difficult but important issues with the governor and Republican legislators. However, such efforts will only succeed if as fellow badgers we dig deep and work together to create a brighter future for our family, friends, and neighbors. I look forward to hearing your feedback so I can represent you and our community as we endeavor to renew the Wisconsin spirit.




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