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October 22, 2015




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

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



Mailing Address:

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




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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. 

Pumpkin Pavilion

Date: Friday, October 23 and Saturday October 24, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: Bay View

Description: The Grand Lighting of the pumpkins will be Friday October 23 at Humboldt Park at 7 p.m. where games, hay rides, face painting, Magician Tom Burgermeister performs two shows nightly. Brewcity Fire Brigade fire spinners, a black and white film and costumed attendees all get together to celebrate! CLICK HERE for more information.

Humboldt Park Pavilion


3000 S. Howell Ave.

Milwaukee, WI 53207

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation Centennial Celebration Exhibition
Location: Milwaukee

Date: Saturday, October 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Description: Celebrate the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and what they have done to help individuals, families, and the community! The cost is $5 per person and children 12 and under are free. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Milwaukee County Historical Society
910 N. Old World Third St.
Milwaukee, WI 53203

Brady Street Walking Food Tour
Date: Saturday, October 24 at 11:30 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Explore the East Side of Milwaukee while sampling food from neighborhoods famous for their Italian and Polish food. This tour is approximately 1.1 miles with plenty of breaks and chances to sit. It should take about 2-2.5 hours.
For location information, CLICK HERE.


Sightseeing Cruise: History & Architecture
Date: Sunday, October 25, from Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Explore Lake Michigan, Milwaukee River and Harbor on this 90 minute sightseeing cruise. The ticket window opens 30 minutes prior to the start of the cruise and boarding begins 20 minutes before.
For more information, CLICK HERE.
 Milwaukee Boat Line
 101 W Michigan St
 Milwaukee, WI 53203


Family-friendly Halloween at Bounce Milwaukee
Date: Friday, October 30, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Bounce Milwaukee will be transformed into a Halloween wonderland for the entire family. There will be Halloween themed crafts, laser tag, food, and drinks along with rock climbing and a costume contest. Tickets should be purchased prior to the event.
For more information, CLICK HERE.

Bounce Milwaukee
2801 S 5th Ct
Milwaukee, WI 53207


Thank You Thursdays at MPM
Date: Thursday, November 5 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: On the first Thursday of every month, Milwaukee County residents receive free admission to the Milwaukee Public Museum. Explore a variety of different exhibits. Children must be accompanied by an adult with a valid photo ID and proof of residency.

Milwaukee Public Museum
800 W. Wells St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202


Milwaukee Fish Fry Tour
Date: Fridays now through November at 5:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Enjoy your Friday evening exploring the streets of Milwaukee and enjoying fish fries along the way. On this tour, you will be able to sample three half size fish fries along with dessert! This is a bus tour, but does require minimal walking. For location and more information, CLICK HERE.



Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

Hope you're having a great week! If you haven't had a chance to get your Halloween fix, you should head down to the Pumpkin Pavilion tomorrow or Saturday night. It's always a great time with tons to do. I always enjoy catching up with friends and neighbors there so hopefully I'll see you there. Other community events are also listed below -- I will try to get to as many as I can

Also, thank you to each of you who have contacted my office in the last couple of weeks to add your voice against the destructive bills that are currently being jammed through the Legislature. I appreciate hearing from you, and agree that this series of bills will shred the fabric of Wisconsin's good government history and will do nothing to address Wisconsin's growing problems of suppressed wages, stagnant growth, and brain drain.


For those of you looking for a further explanation of these bills that are dragging Wisconsin toward corruption, this week's newsletter will focus on a few of them.


We also have some very good news for those that oppose the undemocratic takeover of our public schools. Turns out, in their haste, the architects of this faulty program failed at their own game.

As always, it is great to see many of you in the community at farmer's markets, races, and events. Please remember that I welcome your ideas and always appreciate hearing from you about your priorities and concerns. 

See you in the neighborhood,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7



Dismantling Good Government

At a time when our state has the fastest shrinking middle class in the nation, where the recovery hasn't reached our neighbors who need it most, and where our education has been severely under-funded at every level, the priority of leaders should be on tackling these problems head-on. Instead, the news we keep hearing is about increased illegal activity, disturbing coordination in political campaigns, and campaign donors getting undue influence in writing bills and getting access to taxpayer cash.

Instead of fixing the problems of our state, or cleaning up their acts, lawmakers have decided to instead make it harder to hold them accountable, harder for citizens to find out about acts of corruption, and to make actions -- that are illegal in every other state -- legal here in Wisconsin. This should disturb every citizen in our state, regardless of background. If your voice is allowed to be shut out and these bills move forward, you won't know what your state is doing and it will be harder to be heard in the future.

Walker and legislative Republicans are fast-tracking a series of bills that will streamline corruption in our state. Taken together, these bills will rewrite many of our current laws that have been part of Wisconsin's nationally recognized model of good, clean government. They will open the floodgates to more cronyism and corruption that has already begun to take hold under the Walker Administration. Specifically, these bills:

  • Exempt elected officials from our John Doe laws, blinding law enforcement to effectively investigating political corruption
  • Allow an avalanche of special interest money to political parties
  • Dismantle and politicize the agency that oversees our state's ethics laws

Limiting Investigations into Corruption 
The first of these bills to reach the Senate floor was Senate Bill 43, which largely carves out elected officials from our state's John Doe laws. This bill will make corrupt politicians almost immune from being investigated and brought to justice. Some have even declared this the "Corrupt Politician Protection Act." 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with John Doe investigations, it is a procedure conducted by a judge to investigate whether a crime has been committed and to decide whether sufficient credible evidence exists to warrant prosecution of a crime. In these cases, the judge's role is both investigative and judicial as the procedure is often used in situations where an action of wrongdoing is apparent, but the specifics and number of offenses are not immediately known. For 165 years, the law has been effective in bringing politicians to justice after they have committed crimes in public office. Most recently, Wisconsinites are familiar with John Doe investigations after it was used to unveil crimes that were committed by those in the Walker Administration. The investigations resulted in jail time for a number of top Walker aides.

While Senate Bill 43 keeps John Doe in effect for many serious felonies, it specifically carves out crimes that are committed by those serving in public office or their wealthy donors. This will make it more difficult to investigate any wrongdoing or misuse of taxpayer resources by elected officials.

In order to maintain some level of accountability, Senate Democrats introduced a series of common sense amendments to ensure elected officials are not able to get away with some of the worst corruptions. Crimes such as bribery, theft, extortion, violating campaign finance laws, buying votes on legislation, and tampering with a public record were just some of the violations that our amendments would have secured under our John Doe laws. All of our amendments were blindly rejected by the Republican majority when the bill came to the Senate floor on Tuesday, October 20.

During the debate, Senate Democrats used a procedural move to delay the final vote on this reckless proposal. However, Republican leadership called the Senators back to the Senate floor in the dark of night, and passed the bill on a party-line vote early Wednesday morning. The Assembly passed the bill on a party-line vote later that day. The bill will now go to the governor for his approval.

By pushing through Senate Bill 43, Legislative Republicans have shown that they are out of touch with the true priorities of hardworking Wisconsin families. They have the betrayed public trust by holding themselves above the law; better than everyone else. Legislative Republicans are so blinded by their haste to shield themselves from the law it makes one wonder what the are rushing to hide.

More Dark Money in Our Elections  
Many people today feel that "big money" has too much influence in politics, and that our system of equality -- the basis of our democracy -- is being jeopardized. This perspective was cemented in the minds of of people across the United States after the nation experienced the effects of the controversial Citizens United court decision. In this case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, it was ruled that the government lacks the ability to limit independent political spending by corporations or other organizations because they have the same rights as people. This court decision has impacted the United States' political sphere in a number of ways. It has, in general, made it possible for politics to be a pay-to-play game, as elections and lawmaking can unfortunately be influenced by outside spending. In his dissenting opinion to the Citizens United case, Supreme Court Justice Stevens wrote, "A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold."

As shown by referendums that passed overwhelmingly across Wisconsin in recent years, Wisconsinites agree that individual citizens' rights and votes are not being respected in the current system, and that changes need to be made to reduce the influence of millionaires and corporate big spenders on our politicians and political system as a whole. Despite broad public concern regarding this issue, Legislative Republicans responded by doing the opposite by introducing a bill that could actually exasperate  -- rather than scale back -- the negative effects on elections that we saw after Citizens United. 

Under the bill introduced by Republican leadership, which is swiftly moving through the Legislature as Assembly Bill 387, individuals and corporate donors will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money on ads for or against candidates without even having to tell you who they are, up to 60 days before an election. This bill sets up a system where unlimited money can be given to secret special interest groups to run deceptive ads for or against a candidate for elected office, and ignores that most of us want to know what sources are providing us with information to make sure it's credible. Under Assembly Bill 387, Republicans take this ability away from the public when they are trying to determine what candidate for public office they want to elect. 

Additionally, candidates and interest groups will be allowed to coordinate and corporations will be able to give money directly to political parties and campaign committees. This sets the stage for politicians �- and the decisions they make �- to be sold to the highest bidder.

The amount of money people can give directly to candidates will also be higher under the bill. To make matters worse, large political donors would be kept secret as they will no longer have to disclose who they work for, which will make pay-to-play even easier to hide. This is very concerning to Wisconsinites as there has already been hints of pay-to-play schemes from this administration. 

Just a few months ago, Walker was under fire after the public learned that his failed jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, gave $500,000 in taxpayer funds to one of his campaign donors. The money has yet to be repaid. More recently, in fact just last month, it came out that another huge financial supporter of the governor was working a sweetheart deal with the Department of Natural Resources to privatize hundreds of feet of prime lakefront property, taking land and lake access away from the public.

At a time when the dark cloud of corruption that looms over our current administration continues to grow bigger and get darker, Wisconsin ought be shedding light on this malignant culture of corruption, rather than making it harder for it to be revealed. 

The state Assembly took up Assembly Bill 387 on Wednesday, October 21, with only Republicans voting for its passage. Senate Republicans are expected force a  vote on it next Tuesday, October 27. 

Reducing Transparency and Accountability  
Legislative Republicans have once again put forth a proposal to polarize and politicize the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board (G.A.B). 

The G.A.B. was created in response to the caucus scandal in Wisconsin, where legislators and their staff were found guilty of campaigning on state time and with state resources. It is composed of six former judges who are nominated by a panel of four Wisconsin Appeals Court judges, appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Senate. Both the Board and its staff must be deemed nonpartisan. The mission of the G.A.B. is to ensure accountability and transparency in government by enforcing ethics and lobbying laws, and enhancing representative democracy by safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process on behalf of the people. The G.A.B. is also tasked with administering Wisconsin's elections through a fair and impartial process that guarantees that the vote of each individual counts so the will of the people prevails.

The G.A.B. has served and protected Wisconsinites since its bipartisan creation, yet Republicans introduced Assembly Bill 388, to dismantle the nonpartisan Board and replace with with two separate boards to be run by partisan appointees. This alone is a recipe for disaster and opens the door for political corruption that could go unrestricted.

Another major concern under the bill is the change in the availability of resources for the board to investigate potential ethics violations. The G.A.B. is currently allowed the resources they need to fully investigate potential wrongdoings. Assembly Bill 388 will make the new partisan ethics and elections boards jump through hoops in order to get the resources they need by having to ask the Legislature for adequate funding to investigate potential corruption. Having the board ask for funding to conduct an investigation from potentially the very people they may need to investigate is like handing over banking industry regulations to Wall Street.

We need to have checks and balances in our state government. It defies logic to replace a diligent and respected group of nonpartisan judges with a partisan group who will be focused on partisan gain rather than faithfully enforcing state law and regulating ethical standards in public office. This partisan model will allow for more opportunities for corruption to go undetected.
Under Assembly Bill 388, Republicans are again signaling that they only seek to serve themselves rather than their neighbors by turning our nationally respected system of nonpartisan watchdogs into partisan lapdogs.

On Wednesday, October 21, the state Assembly took up Assembly Bill 388 this destructive bill where it was passed by the Republican majority 58-39, with two not voting. The Senate is expected to take the bill up next Tuesday, October 27.

Focused on their Own Jobs, Not Yours 
Our Wisconsin neighbors are are still grappling with Wisconsin's stagnant wages and stalled job growth. Pushing these reckless bills is a betrayal of longstanding Wisconsin values that have traditionally made us champions of good, clean government. 

Wisconsin has been neglected for presidential political ambitions and torn apart to meet the partisan whims of millionaires and billionaires. Rather than focusing on grabbing more political power and inviting corruption and cronyism into our state, legislative Republicans should be focused on things that actually matter to families in our state.  

As discussed in a previous Larson Report newsletter, Senate Democrats recently introduced our Badger Blueprint, which is a shared vision of the values and policies needed to help strengthen our state. The Badger Blueprint promotes innovative, balanced pro-growth solutions that will expand access to a quality education and lifelong learning opportunities and invest in crucial springboard infrastructure. We offer the Blueprint to help working families with student loan debt relief, provide more affordable child care, and expanded access to affordable health care. 

These are the real values of Wisconsinites. Help Senate Democrats send a strong message to Republican leadership by telling them that these misguided bills are not priorities for hardworking Wisconsin families and that we should maintain our strong tradition of open, good government.

Click here to sign a petition to support open government in Wisconsin. 


Small Victory in Fight Against Cronyism
When the Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform held a public hearing on a bill that would gut our state's civil service protections a few weeks ago, overwhelmingly the members of the public who came to testify were vehemently opposed to the bill. One of the major concerns voiced at the hearing was that it will put our state on the slippery path to allowing more political patronage and corruption.

Specifically, the bill:
  • Removes neutral entrance exams for new job applicants and replaces them with a biased resume-based system
  • Shifts significant hiring authority to Walker political appointees
  • Extends the probationary period for new hires
  • Changes the layoff process from experience-based to subjective

Wisconsin's civil service protections date back over 100 years -- first enacted in 1905. Like many of our Progressive Era policies, it served as a national model for good government. Even today, it is noted as one of the best in the country.

Having strong civil service laws is not only good for state workers, by making sure they are not pressured to perform favors for politicians or contribute to campaigns, but also for citizens as it keeps our government clean and prevents cronyism.

In response to the concerns heard at the public hearing, Senator Wirch and I introduced an amendment to the bill so Wisconsinites could have some assurance that cronyism is not taking place. The amendment was reluctantly passed by the Republican-controlled committee at an executive session on October 21. Under the amendment, the new division responsible for the hiring process will be audited annually to try to ensure they are in compliance with Chapter 230.01(2). This statute declares that hiring practices must be based on merit and that hiring cannot be based on political affiliation. The statute also mandates pay inequities based on gender or race in the state civil service system be corrected.

Senator Wirch and I voted against passage of the bill out of committee, as it still guts the heart of our civil service laws. If the GOP leadership in the Assembly and Senate allow the amendment to remain, it will hopefully be a small protection to help combat further cronyism in the current administration.


Neighborhood Assistance Cooperation of America

The Neighborhood Assistance Cooperation of America (NACA) is a nonprofit community advocacy and homeownership organization. NACA has committed itself to healthy neighborhoods and communities over the last 27 years, operated by its strong core values of:

  • Wear Their Shoes
  • Take Ownership
  • Check and Verify
  • Do Not Relent

The NACA has taken a number of different measures to make homeownership and the American dream a possibility for middle class families. CEO Bruce Marks was the first to sound the alarm and predict a mortgage crisis in 2000. Weary of predatory lenders he established a mortgage program to create affordable, responsible how ownership opportunities for low and moderate income families.

After the housing bubble burst he designed and implemented the NACA Home Save Program, giving hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the country the opportunity to prevent foreclosure and restructure their unaffordable mortgages.

NACA has also created a game-changing 15-year Freedom Loan, giving homebuyers an unprecedented opportunity to build personal wealth far more efficiently than with a 30-year mortgage loan, while maintaining affordability for the home buyer

NACA's investments in working people has showed and that when they get the benefit of a prime rate loan, they can resolve their financial problems, make their mortgage payments and become prime borrowers. This work discredits the myth that high rates and fees compensate for credit risk.

Research has consistently shown that when residents are homeowners, it leads to better economic activity and stability in communities. It also gives homeowners a tangible financial benefit that creates social wellbeing for families, communities, and the country as a whole. Other measurable outcomes of homeownership include:

  • Higher educational achievement;
  • Increased civic participation;
  • Greater health benefits;
  • Lower crime;

Better property maintenance and improvement.
Homeownership has been a bedrock in achieving the American Dream. Making this achievement attainable and possible for everyone leads to a better cultural and social climate. Supporting policy and legislation that recognizes this objective is well justified and necessary.

To learn more homeownership and advocacy programs available through the NACA, click here.


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 am concerned with the MPS Takover plan, are there any updates pertaining to this issue?

There were several provisions included in the 2015-2017 state budget that harm MPS by continuing to strip resources away from them and allowing for private schools to take over our traditional neighborhood schools.

The recently enacted state budget mandates the state superintendent provide a list of public schools that have received the lowest ranking on the school accountability report. They must also identify schools that are currently vacant or have "underutilized" buildings. These schools could then be sold off to profit seeking voucher schools, without any input from parents or the elected school board.

Like the disastrous Wisconsin Economic Develop Corporation (WEDC), the hastily devised plan to take over MPS is proving to be ill-conceived. This is no surprise as it appears to be modeled after failed experiments in other states. Walker, the GOP, and those bent on grabbing power, worked behind closed doors to rush us further towards profiteering and privatization of schools in Milwaukee.

The deadline for the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to comply with the requirements under state budget � to release a list of schools � was last week. What we learned in a letter sent to Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver is that, in their haste, those seeking power over education have forced takeover action based on outdated information and stale metrics. For example, the law requires DPI to provide information using the most recent school report card information. However, legislative Republicans actually halted the creation of 2014-2015 report cards. Therefore, the information provided to those in charge of the MPS Takeover may no longer reflect how those schools are currently performing.

Click here to see the letter from DPI.

In addition to using old data, the way report cards are calculated was modified in the last state budget, therefore, the last report card available does not account for student growth and poverty when scoring school performance as required by the new system. These are key factors that should be looked at before any action of taking over a neighborhood school. It is blatantly irresponsible not to. Unfortunately, due to this failed plan these factors are not taken into consideration because of the old data DPI had to use.

According to DPI, this means those identified as potential takeover schools may not be identified as such in the future. Even though the metrics and data were faulty, Milwaukee County is still required to take over either at least one school on the list, or a vacant building. Striping power away from local communities and elected school boards from making decisions about their school is bad enough, but failing to foresee the failed implementation of this takeover is like adding salt to the wound. The misguided architects of this power grab have failed at their own game. Unfortunately, our children are the ones who really continue to lose out while their education and opportunities are endangered by these careless actions.

The MPS power grab and the historically bad funding cuts to public education are clear indications that there is a failure to value investing in our communities and kids. If we truly want to fix the problems in our schools, let's start by doing what works. If those who schemed up this takeover really care about education, and not just politics, they will join me in pursuing legislation such as the Community Schools Act (Senate Bill 146), which would invest in the proven community schools model, the Student Equal Opportunity Act (Senate Bill 216), which would ensure schools are able to provide students with special needs with the services and supports they need, and the Fair Funding Act (LRB 3162), which ensures all of our kids are fairly invested in.

These actions are proven to work. They would invest in helping the kids that need it the most. We can't afford to give up on our kids and let them fall behind. The sooner we invest in our kids, the sooner we will see real results.


October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was founded in 1985, and has since proven to be a productive way to spread information, support, and resources to those affected by the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second most common cancer found in women. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of death among women in the United States.

Although there is no sure-fire way to prevent breast cancer 100%, as many risk factors--such as age or family history--cannot be altered, listed below are steps recommended by the American Cancer Society that can help women decrease their risk by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes:
  • Getting regular, physical activity
  • Staying within a healthy weight
  • Including vegetables, fruits, poultry, fish, and low fat dairy products in your diet
  • Limiting alcohol intake

The median age for breast cancer diagnosis is 61. However, there have been cases reported in people who are just in their 20s, so do not wait to take these preventive actions.

Exercising and changing diets can only go so far, so be sure to talk to your doctor about breast cancer screenings. The most common screening is a mammogram. A mammogram is just an x-ray of the breast that can detect abnormalities. It is suggested that women age 40 and older should have a screening mammogram every year. If you are not yet in your 40s, it is suggested that women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam as part of their periodic health exam.

Click here if you would like more information about breast cancer courtesy of the American Cancer Society.


Halloween is Almost Here!

Get your costumes ready because Halloween is creeping up on us. Trick-or-treating has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for around 100 years. This community-based ritual is one of the most highly anticipated holidays as it is an evening of fun, costumes, and candy that all ages can enjoy.

Below are some tips to ensure a fun and safe trick-or- treating experience for you and your family:

  • Since Halloween is the one night where children are supposed to take candy from strangers, never allow children to eat candy before it is inspected for signs of tampering. If the wrapper is torn or looks suspicious caution on the side of safety and dispose of it.
  • Children of any age should be accompanied by a parent if possible. If not, be sure to set firm rules and require a child to carry a cell phone that can be used in the event of an emergency.
  • Plan out a route ahead of time to avoid obstacles and stay within familiar areas.
  • Be sure children stay on the sidewalks and cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Parents should remind children to watch for cars that are turning or backing up.

Trick-or-Treating in Our Community
Many communities host their very own trick-or-treat event open to children and families. Continue reading for more information about such events in our community:

Bay View--Saturday, October 31 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Milwaukee--Saturday, October 31 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Cudahy--Saturday, October 31 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
St. Francis--Saturday, October 31 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Oak Creek--Saturday, October 31 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Franklin--Saturday, October 31 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
South Milwaukee--Saturday, October 31 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Click here for additional trick-or-treat opportunities in Milwaukee County communities.


Tips for Driving Safely this Winter
The weather is starting to change as we approach winter. Below is a list of safe winter driving tips to assist you in being mindful of the weather and roads:
  • Ensure your tires have the proper air pressure. Failure to maintain the correct air pressure can result in poor gas mileage, reduce tire life, affect vehicle handling, and increase your chance of being in an accident.
  • Pay extra close attention. Look ahead in traffic farther than you normally do, do not use cruise control in wintry conditions, and do not attempt to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.
  • Use brakes carefully. Make sure you give yourself more time to stop and do not pump anti-lock brakes.
  • Clear snow and ice from all windows, lights, the hood and roof before driving. This will ensure you maintain proper visibility during your entire drive.
  • Know the current road conditions. Call 5-1-1 or CLICK HERE to log onto the winter road conditions report Web page for up-to-date information about the roads you will be traveling.

Click here for more information about weatherizing your car or staying safe on the roads this winter courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.



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