May 30, 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


Web Site:


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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. 


Milwaukee Trolley Loop
Date: Now through Sat., August 31, Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: All aboard the Milwaukee Trolley Loop. Operating Thursday through Saturday each week, this transit option gives visitors a connection to attractions and summer activities throughout Westown, East Town and the Historic Third Ward. Two trolleys will service the route to offer 20-minute headways at designated stops. One complete loop is 40 minutes. Fare is $1 per person, round trip. CLICK HERE or call 414-562-RIDE for more information.



Airport Gardens 2013 Neighborhood Rummage
Date: Sat., June 1 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Airport Gardens Neighborhood Association wants to invite you to their annual neighborhood rummage sale. This is one of the biggest neighborhood rummage sales in Wisconsin with 99 homes participating in this year's event. Maps will be distributed on the day of the event. Park your car and walk around. This is a great opportunity to not only find some treasures but also meet other neighbors in the area. CLICK HERE for more information on their Facebook page.



Spring on Brady
Date: Sat., June 1 from Noon to 4 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Visit Brady Street as they celebrate Spring as well as their Annual Art Walk with friends from Art Milwaukee. Shop at amazing sidewalk sales and dine and drink at various restaurants and their springtime deals. Nearly 20 merchants will be hosting live artists from painting, sketching, pottery, and even puppy artistry. CLICK HERE for more information including a list of artists and vendors.



Family Fun Night: Puff & Other Fables
Date: Tues., June 4 at 6:30 p.m.

Location: Oak Creek

Description: Join local children's author and storyteller Mary Ellen LaPorte for an evening of tales, songs, and activities. Light refreshments will be provided. This program is geared toward children ages 5-10, but all ages are welcome. No registration is required and this event is free and open to the public. CLICK HERE for more information.

Oak Creek Public Library (MAP)

8620 S. Howell Avenue

Oak Creek, WI 53712



Downtown Dining Week
Date: Thurs., June 6 through Thurs., June 13

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Take advantage of this eight-day smorgasbord highlighting over 40 destination eateries with prix-fixe menus at $10 for lunch and $20 or $30 for dinner. Reservations are strongly encouraged. CLICK HERE for more information, including a list of participating restaurants and their menus.



Jazz in the Park
Date: Thurs., June 6 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

Description: Jazz in the Park is an outdoor, free, summer music series featuring a line-up of jazz, big band, funk, R&B, reggae, blues, and more. Performers come from across town or across the country. Music starts at 6 p.m., but stop by early for Jazz in the Park Happy Hour and get great drink specials. All proceeds from sales help offset the high costs of production and ensure continued success of the summer festival. CLICK HERE for more information.

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Date: Fri., June 7 through Sun., June 9

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Attend this annual festival that was founded in 1988 by the LGBT community. Every year, PrideFest attracts thousands of people and families, both gay and straight. With permanent stages, food buildings, vendor pavilions, and support from Milwaukee World Festivals, PrideFest kicks-off Milwaukee's festival season. Admission is $16 for a single-day ticket at the gate or $13 online. A weekend pass is $30. CLICK HERE for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202



Locust Street Festival

Date: Sun., June 9 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Join our neighbors at the Locust Street Festival in Riverwest for its 37th year. There will be music and dancing in the street with over 30 bands on six outdoor stages, over 100 unique vendors, a scrabble tournament, and the famous 1.8-mile beer run/walk. Admission is free. The festival will be held at Locust Street between Holton Street and Humboldt Boulevard. CLICK HERE for more information.


Polish Fest
Date: Fri., June 14 through Sun., June 16
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Do not miss America's largest Polish festival as Milwaukee's Polish Fest returns to the Summerfest grounds. This three-day festival features cultural performances, authentic Polish food, vodka tastings, and much more. Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors at the gate. Adults that purchase tickets in advance can also get in for $10. Children 15 and younger are free. As always, there are plenty of ways to save some money when stopping by, including 50 cent Friday and an option to donate three non-perishable food items to Hunger Task Force for free admission on Saturday. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-3378 for more information.

Henry Maier Festival Park (MAP)
200 N. Harbor Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Dear Friend,


Wisconsin is still waiting to see what the Republican budget will hold related to voucher expansion. Continue reading for more information on these and other important topics including changes to unemployment compensation, public transit, and the opening of my new, shared district office.


Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Remove Voucher Expansion from Budget

The governor's proposed budget has already come under significant fire from both sides of the aisle for its failure to make an investment in our neighborhood public schools and reverse the record cuts that were made to education in the last budget, which topped $1.6 billion. Republicans in the Senate and Assembly are in the process of striking a deal regarding how to amend the governor's budget proposal on education. However, indications are that despite the failed voucher experiment, they are ready to take the program statewide. The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to address the governor's proposed K-12 education budget, and any legislative amendments, next week.

Unfortunately, the proposed 2013-2015 budget does not just stall our kid's education, it takes us backwards with the highly controversial expansion of taxpayer funded vouchers for students to attend unaccountable private schools. This week, the American Educational Research Journal and the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis released studies confirming what we already knew: voucher schools do not provide a better education than our traditional public schools and they discriminate against those students who face greater learning challenges. Using data from the legislatively mandated evaluation of the Milwaukee voucher program, the studies' conclusions are nothing short of shocking. Below are the findings:

  • Students leaving voucher schools are the same children the program was designed to help. While the voucher program was created to give poorer, low-achieving students the opportunity for a better education, most of the children leaving voucher schools and returning to public schools are these poorer, low-achieving students. Such data reinforces that the voucher program is failing the very kids it was designed to help.

  • Most students who transfer from the voucher program back into public schools realize significant achievement gains after doing so. Such achievement growth is even more significant for low-performing students. This statistic highlights that students who return to MPS truly do better once they are back in public school.

  • Voucher schools are less likely to identify and assist students who require special education. They are also less likely to hold back failing students, a decision that denies struggling kids their right to a quality education and decreases their chances of educational success.

  • Parental dissatisfaction was the most common reason cited by parents for students leaving the voucher program. Next in line was inadequate handling of special needs students. Such results verify that voucher schools do not always live up to the hype they have created and are frequently found to be a worse option for our children than traditional public schools.

  • Holding schools accountable is the key to increasing the performance of publicly funded voucher schools. This includes mandatory testing of students.

Click here to access the voucher studies mentioned.


Over the past 20 years, Wisconsin has spent $1.5 billion on a voucher experiment that has failed the students of Milwaukee. Meanwhile, there are public schools where teachers are tasked with managing 30, 35, or 40 kids in one class, where the art rooms are always dark, where the textbooks are out-of-date and falling apart, and where they keep a piano in the cafeteria because the part-time music teacher no longer has a classroom. Imagine how many new textbooks could have been purchased or how many educational programs could have been created or maintained if we had invested $1.5 billion into Milwaukee's public schools instead of giving that money away to fly-by-night, unaccountable educational institutions.


During the 2009-2010 Legislative Session, Republicans introduced legislation, Assembly Bill (AB) 919, to increase school district revenue by $275 per pupil. These are the same legislators who boast about Wisconsin being in much better fiscal shape this session than it was during 2010, when they authored AB 919. The failures of the voucher program can no longer be ignored. It is time we learn from the lessons of Milwaukee and that Republicans work to fulfill the promises they made in 2010 with AB 919.


Wisconsin's next engineers, teachers, and doctors are in our K-12 classrooms right now. Their success is our success. Therefore, I hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in calling for the complete removal of voucher expansion from this budget.


Put Blame Where Blame is Due, Not on Workers

Once again Republican Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members have used the budget to force an extreme, anti-middle class policy on the state of Wisconsin. Yesterday, JFC approved a provision making it more difficult for Wisconsinites who have lost their jobs to access our unemployment safety net.


For roughly 80 years, the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council (UI Council), made up of employer and employee representatives, has set this policy. However, Republicans pushed through the aforementioned anti-worker measures without any public hearing or scrutiny, and without the support of the UI Council. Refusing to respect recommendations of the longstanding UI Council for the third time in two years, Republicans in JFC unilaterally decided to defiantly pass policies that will raise taxes on construction and manufacturing companies and hurt Wisconsin workers affected by Wisconsin's stagnant job growth.

The Republican changes could prevent an employee from receiving unemployment benefits after being fired for something as simple as having their car towed. Wisconsin workers should not be punished for the failed policies of this administration, which include the corruption and failure of Wisconsin's flagship economic development agency, WEDC. Wisconsin is 44th in the nation in job growth and, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's most recent publication of projected economic activity for all 50 states, is one of only five states projected to see decreased economic activity over the next six months. We should support Wisconsin's unemployed workers and help get them back on their feet by creating jobs, not using them as a scapegoat.


Democrats Push for Transit Funding

A 2012 report titled Transportation and the New Generation released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group earlier this year reveals that for the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less. As a result, our state now faces the challenge of supporting growing public transit use despite massive cuts to public transit funding.

Despite the fact that public transit use is increasing while people are driving less, highway expansion projects were highly prioritized this last session over repairing our local roads and investing in our public transit infrastructure. This assault on public transit also included:

  • Rejecting $800 million in federal funds to create jobs and a high speed rail option connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, and additional communities.

  • Eliminating the new Regional Transit Authorities and extensive cuts to public transit in Governor Walker's budget to instead fund questionable and unnecessary transportation projects, such as interstate highway expansion.

  • Cutting $77 million in shared revenue from local communities that is often used to support local public transit infrastructure.

  • Reducing funding support for public transit by a total of 10% in the 2011-2013 Biennial Budget.

As a result, local governments were forced to shift funding, raise fares, change or eliminate routes, and reduce vital services. Many of these changes were seen by riders in our own community. In 2012, the Milwaukee County Transit System was forced to increase fares for TransitPlus users by 75 cents, raising the cost of each bus ticket to $4. The system also had to eliminate some bus service routes.


The governor sought to continue the trend of sacrificing public transit and local roads in order to expand underutilized highways this session, as well. For his 2013-2015 budget, Governor Walker recommended maintaining the cuts from the last budget by providing a 0% funding increase to public transit. Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) intended on approving this transit cut. Fortunately, after continued pressure from Democratic members of JFC, a deal was reached to increase mass transit aids by 4%, or around $5 million, beginning in 2014. While this increase is not enough to restore the cuts made by Republicans last time around, it is a step in the right direction towards strengthening our transit options.

Having a well-supported public transit system is vital to maintaining and creating jobs in our community. According to the Milwaukee County Transit systems, on average 140,000 rides are provided daily. Of these, 39% are commuters traveling to and from work, another 5% are heading to job interviews, and 11% are students making their way to classes to learn valuable skills for their future careers. Therefore, my colleagues and I will continue to do what we can to encourage the bipartisan passage of key public transportation initiatives.



Milwaukee Office Now Open!

Senator Nikiya Harris and I are excited to announce that our new, shared district office in Milwaukee is officially open! Our shared district office is part of an ongoing effort to make our community a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

We are committed to increasing accessibility and better serving our neighbors. The district office will serve as a home base in our community, a resource for our neighbors, and an opportunity for us to showcase the work being done every day in the 6th and 7th Senate Districts. As our community grows, we are here to provide assistance, gather feedback, and recognize the people in our neighborhoods who work tirelessly to improve our quality of life and build a brighter future for us all. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, let us know what is going on in the community, suggest events for our electronic newsletters, or give us a heads-up on any individuals in the community who are doing stand out work and deserve recognition. We encourage you to contact us to set up an appointment or drop by.


Below, you will find the contact information for the district office staff members should you have any questions or need assistance on behalf of our offices.

Jonathan Brostoff
District Director, Senator Chris Larson
Phone: (414) 273-1509

Lisa Bahr
Communications Director, Senator Nikiya Harris
Phone: (414) 273-1555

A big thank you to the neighbors, local business leaders, and elected officials that took time out of their day to stop by the office on the official opening day. An additional thank you to my staff for donating refreshments, including cupcakes from Milwaukee Cupcake Company, our office neighbor and a  community business. Also, a shout out to the Lakeshore Jazz Duo, a local band that volunteered their services to provide neighbors with enjoyable background music as we discussed important issues including education, health care, job creation, and much more. It was great to hear the thoughts and concerns of our neighbors on community priorities and we look forward to continuing such open conversations at the new Milwaukee office.


Click here to view a Facebook album with photos from office opening day.



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 happened to the budget provision related to exempting rent-to-own companies from Wisconsin's consumer protection laws?

A: While the budget is meant to be a purely fiscal document, Governor Walker slipped in a provision to the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget that exempts rent-to-own companies from our consumer protection laws, meaning they would not need to disclose their interest rates. In fact, this provision would have enabled rent-to-own companies to leave key contract details, such as the total payment needed to own the initially rented item, blank when the contract is signed.


Many legislators were surprised to see this provision sneak its way into the budget as there was bipartisan opposition to the stand alone rent-to-own bill last session. Fortunately, after months of urging by my colleagues and me, some Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee finally relented and joined Democrats in removing this measure that preys on those seeking to join the middle class.

Under rent-to-own programs, consumers who may not otherwise qualify for a credit purchase can rent a desired item with the potential to eventually own it. However, unlike with a credit transaction, the lender does not consider the borrower's ability to pay, charges three- to four-times the value of the item in rental fees, and does not disclose the true cost of the rental or eventually purchased item. For example, a consumer, after realizing they do not qualify for a credit card, could decide to rent a TV instead of buying it right away. They may sign a contract to rent the TV at a rate of $10 per week for 78 weeks prior to paying off the item in order to own it. As a result, they will end up paying a total of $780, even though the actual retail price of that TV is approximately $220. That rent-to-own company would be requiring this Wisconsinite to pay $560 above the retail price, which equals a 228% annual interest rate.

Some rent-to-own companies follow a business model that profits by praying on those in poverty. Predatory lenders often seek out young and inexperienced customers who have jobs, but also have little in savings and damaged credit. Included in this population are some members of our armed forces.


I was happy to see this abhorrent provision removed from the budget and hope this is a permanent change and that this provision will not be quietly reinserted. This provision still exists as its own stand-alone bill, which could still make its way through the Legislature.


Did You Know...?

You may be aware that with summer approaching, fishing season is upon us. But did you know that Wisconsin was the first state to prohibit the sale and distribution of DDT, a powerful chemical pesticide toxic to fish, mammals, and birds. This legislative change made in 1970 has played a significant role in safeguarding our wildlife for generations of anglers to come.



Free Fishing Weekend is Here

Wisconsin has a strong angling tradition. Not only is Wisconsin home to miles of streams and rivers that are more than long enough to circle the globe at the equator, but we also border a number of Great Lakes, host countless fishing tournaments, and even boast a weekly fish fry each Friday in communities across the state. As a result of our culture and traditions, angling is an activity highly valued by Wisconsinites.


In honor of National Fishing Week, which falls in the first week of June, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will be offering a great opportunity for Wisconsinites to fish anywhere in the state for free this weekend. Continue reading for more details.


Fish Anywhere in Wisconsin for Free
Fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend, which falls on June 1 and 2. This includes all inland waters and Wisconsin's side of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Other fishing rules apply, such as limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons when you must release certain fish species. So, pack up the family or call your friends and head to the water for fishing fun.

Tackle Loaner Sites
No fishing pole or other fishing equipment? No problem. Contact a tackle loaner site at one of several state parks and DNR regional offices to borrow one.


Click here for more information about borrowing equipment.

Attend a Fishing Clinic
Get free instruction and gear to use at fishing clinics.
Dozens of free fishing clinics are offered on Free Fishing Weekend by many fishing clubs, local parks departments, community centers, and civic organizations. Learn the basics and fish using equipment provided at these events.


Click here for more information about Free Fishing Weekend and local fishing clinics.



No-Call List Deadline Tomorrow

The deadline for the Wisconsin No-Call List is fast approaching, so be sure to register or re-register your phone number before the Friday, May 31 deadline. The list is updated four times per calendar year (January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1).

This free no-call service, offered through the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection, covers both residential land and cell phone lines. Wisconsin residents who add their numbers to the list by May 31 will receive protection from unsolicited telemarketing phone calls and text messages by July 1, 2013. Political calls, calls from non-profit organizations, and calls made in response to your written or verbal request or permission are not covered by the no-call law. Consumers must register or re-register every two years to ensure their phone number remains protected.

Sign-up today! You can add your phone number to the list by dialing 1-866-9NO-CALL(1-866-966-2255) or by filling out your information online.


Click here to sign-up online.



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