September 10, 2015
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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.
Fresh food is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. We need movement and
body awareness to complete our physical self-care. That's why this
year's annual Local Food Open House is expanded to include resources for
natural wellness activities. Enjoy workshops, presentations and visit
vendors as you learn about resources for eating locally and living well.
Silver City International Food and Art Walk
September 12, 2015
W National Ave. between 33rd to 35th Streets
Milwaukee, WI 53215
Beach Walk and Star
Description: A sunset beach walk stroll along an illuminated path, campfire, s'mores for purchase, and gazing at the stars with stargazer Greg Gonia and his telescopes. Fun for the whole family. CLICK HERE for more information.
100 Hawthorne Ave.
Description: Come enjoy a day of tasting, experiencing and learning about sustainably grown and locally sold coffee from the leaders in the field. Coffee sampling, presentations, door prizes and more. CLICK HERE fore more information.
Description: Celebrate local art, music and local business on one amazing evening in Bay View. Over 45 locations and over 200 artists! Free and family friendly.
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
I hope you had a fun and relaxing
Labor Day weekend, spending time with friends and appreciating the
victories labor unions and the working class have given our country.
As always, let me know what you think
or if there's anything we should be bringing attention to in our
community and state.
|Remembering September 11|
This Friday, our nation will be
recognizing the 14-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I
will be joining Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and other elected officials
for a memorial ceremony at the Milwaukee County War Memorial. I hope you
will join us, in body or in spirit, to take a moment to remember the
lives and our nation's resolve to not be intimidated by these acts of
destruction and cowardice.
Where Were You on 9/11?
|Restoring Integrity in Our Elections|
Citizens paying close attention to our elections know that the flood of special interest money into politics is drowning our democracy. When millionaires and billionaires can secretly buy elections, when corporations and shady special interest groups can deluge us with grossly misleading ads, we are not free and our democracy cannot thrive.
The erroneous and precedent-breaking decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, also broke the special-interest cash dam, allowing an unprecedented flow of dark money into politics. It has had a harshly negative impact at every level of our American government, shutting out the voices of the middle class and voters. Since the 2010 ruling was made, there have been several attempts to restore integrity in our elections. Although often cast as a partisan issue, correcting this error should be a bipartisan endeavor, which is why I am introducing, the Free and Fair Elections Resolution (LRB 2338).
The Free and Fair Elections
resolution, which will be introduced in both the Senate and Assembly,
calls for a limited amendments Convention of States for the singular
purpose of proposing a Free and Fair Elections Amendment to the U.S.
|Walker Fails on Fraud|
Wisconsin has been shown to have the
fastest shrinking middle class in the country while at the same time, we
are one of the slowest growing economies in the country. Instead of
addressing this job crisis head-on, at a hearing this week legislative
Republicans peddled a bill that would jeopardize the economic lifeline
we provide the very neighbors who find themselves temporarily laid-off
or out of work. The punitive Senate Bill 140 would ban workers from
receiving unemployment benefits for seven years if they make two filing
mistakes within a year.
The bill appears to be a desperate measure to scapegoat workers for the failure of Governor Walker's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to provide adequate service, sensible questions, and proper fraud prevention.
To make sense of this, let me give you a little background on DWD. DWD was recently audited because of a growing concern over their failure to answer phone calls from our neighbors who were left unemployed by Walker's cut-and-gut economy. The study, done by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau, revealed over 60% of calls were not connected via phone for help. Nearly two million calls were blocked in 2013-2014 as our neighbors who were out of work struggled to make ends meet. This failure is inexcusable. Crippling a system designed to assist people when they are laid-off -- or their job is sent to China -- is blatantly immoral.
The audit also revealed additional failures by the Walker agency, such as not preventing fraud by businesses concealing employee information to avoid contributing their fair-share to the unemployment insurance fund, failing to prosecute people intentionally defrauding the system, and ignoring the massive number of workers who make unintentional errors on their claims. The audit even shows that Governor Walker failed to stop ten of millions of dollars in fraud and waste.
Although the audit found that there were up to 64,700 fraudulent payments that could be attributed to 44,488 unique social security numbers, the legislative Republican author of this bill acknowledged that just 19 cases were pursued for prosecution. Despite requests to do so, neither DWD nor the governor's office chose to testify to explain this failure. Sadly, while DWD has balanced tools to prevent fraud, the agency appears unwilling to use them. Testimony from Legal Action of Wisconsin shined a light on other disturbing trends within DWD. Although DWD has indicated that they made 64,700 fraudulent payments, testimony showed that some of these should actually be counted as unintentional errors, adding to the over 577,000 recorded unintentional errors.
What makes this even worse is that the number of individuals who make honest mistakes has been on the rise because of changes made by Governor Walker. Under Walker, DWD modified the way that it asks qualifying questions for those seeking unemployment benefits. In fact, the questions are now so muddled and confusing that both the United States Department of Labor and the Wisconsin Labor and Industry Review Commission have noted the problem and requested that DWD change the misleading questions. At the committee hearing, Senator Julie Lassa, shared a story of one of her neighbors who unintentionally answered one of the questions wrong and also had her daughter help her use a computer to file for unemployment insurance. Although she self-reported the error, under this new GOP proposal, she could be ineligible for benefits for seven years because of the mistake she made, combined with the fact that she had someone else file her claim, could be counted as two errors.
Looking at the big picture, it's clear the governor and legislative Republicans have decided that rather than pull a few weeds, they are just going to mow down the whole garden.
If this weren't bad enough, it's about to get a lot worse. At the same time this bill is moving through the legislative process, DWD is also requesting a change to the definition of fraud in our state laws. The requested new definition would remove the requirement that DWD ensure that the fraud is the result of the claimant's intent, ("intent" being the cornerstone element of any type of fraud). This change in the rules would open the door to a range of problems and unfair practices. So on top of changing the questions to make them harder and more confusing, increasing the criminal penalties for fraud in the recently passed budget, and kicking people off the program for seven years if they make two mistakes, now they want to assume applicants guilt immediately. Taken all together, this is a sucker punch to the unemployed. It rejects the foundation of American freedom and our tradition of justice by judging people guilty until proven innocent.
While Senate Bill 140 fails to help our economy or our unemployed, there are immediate actions that we can take to improve the dismal track record of Walker on fraud. I anticipate that Senator Lassa and I will propose amendments including: requiring DWD to better monitor claims so that intentional fraud is found quickly and stopped, prosecute businesses that cheat and make them pay their fair share, requiring DWD to eliminate misleading questions, and protecting workers that make honest, unintentional errors.
Our workers are the economic backbone of our state, their efforts bring prosperity to businesses and communities alike. Safeguarding the integrity of our unemployment benefit system helps protect them, their families, and our communities from the volatile and stressed economy that we have seen under Governor Walker. Wisconsin can and must do better.
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.
In April, a report was released that showed private health insurance rates in Wisconsin are far higher than rates in Minnesota -- where Medicaid was expanded, a state-based Marketplace was set-up, and a robust rate review process is used. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed our moral commitment to ensuring individuals have access to health care services, it is time to take this responsibility seriously by implementing the health care reform law as intended.
According to the report, Wisconsinites may be paying up to $1000 more
per year for health insurance than their neighbors in Minnesota. This is
due to our failure to strengthen our consumer protections and accept
federal funding to expand Medicaid.
It is more expensive to be healthy in
Wisconsin than in most other states. For individuals who are, for
example, on a fixed income, there is often no room for unexpected costs.
One neighbor reached out to me about her mother, who receives social
security. She explained that if Wisconsin would have accepted the
funding to expand Medicaid she would have qualified for BadgerCare.
However, she was forced into the health care Marketplace because our
state rejected the money to strengthen BadgerCare. A couple months ago,
without notice, her plan shot up from $50/month (with the tax credit) to
over $500 dollars. There was no warning and the money was directly
debited from her account. What's more, if she did not have family
support, she would have been unable to pay her living expenses for the
month. She also acknowledged that not all of our Wisconsin neighbors
have family that is able to offer support in times of need, therefore,
ensuring consumers have adequate protections against unjustified
insurance pricing is simply the fair thing to do.
These are easy, fair things to fix. This bill is about making sure patients are getting affordable care and taking the consumer's side instead of worrying about hurt feelings of large insurance companies. Everyone paying insurance in Wisconsin is impacted by insurance rates. If this bill moves forward, consumers will save money.
|Intern at the Capitol|
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.
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 10-12 hours each week to the internship. All intern positions are unpaid and are based in Madison.
To apply for an internship, please submit the internship application, a cover letter, and a resume electronically to Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov 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.
|Share your Thoughts on State and Community Issues!|
the 2015-2017 state budget process now concluded, the Legislature will
be taking a brief break until Fall. The damaging effects of the state
budget will be long-lasting, and I will continue to update you
throughout the summer on the implications of the budget.
In the meantime, I want to hear
from you! Therefore, I created a 2015-2016 Neighborhood Survey asking
about various issues that are important to our community and our state.
Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for session
to resume in the coming months.
I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you
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