LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER


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September 24, 2015

     

 

CONTACT ME


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

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

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

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

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

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COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

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



 

Just Between Friends Of Milwaukee County
Date:
September 20th- 26th at 10 am except the 26th at 9 am
Location: Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park
Description: Just Between Friends Sales events are a savvy shopper's dream! These are not retail stores but rather savings extravaganzas--shopping events that happen usually twice a year per location. At these events, consignors bring their new and gently-used children's and maternity merchandise to sell. Shoppers can then browse and purchase these items at great savings, usually far below retail price

Exposition Center at Wisconsin State Fair Park

(MAP)
640 S. 84th St.
West Allis WI 53214

 

 

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.
 


Bay View Gallery Night
Date: Saturday, September 25,
times vary
Location: Milwaukee

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.For location and more information, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Comet Cafe 20th Anniversary Block Party
Date: Sept. 26, 2015 12:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Come celebrate 20 years of great food and fun on Milwaukee's East Side by attending the Comet Caf�'s first ever block party! There will be live music, local vendors, and food from the Comet kitchen and suds from Lakefront Brewery.
 

Comet Caf�
(MAP)
1947 N. Farwell Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

Seven Seat Bike Food Tour of the Historic Third Ward
Date: Sept. 27, 2015, at 11 a.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Learn more about the city of Milwaukee by exploring the city by bike. On this unique bike tour, seven people pedal and one person steers to stop at five historic Third Ward Eateries and taste authentic cuisine! For location and more information, CLICK HERE.

 

 

Miller Brewing Company's 160th Anniversary Month:
Date: September 8 through October 3
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Miller Brewing Company founder, Frederick J. Miller, followed his brewing passion from the German state of Hohenzollern to the United States, taking over the Plank Road Brewery from the Best brothers in 1855. Now, 160 years later, they are celebrating the efforts of a young, entrepreneurial brewmaster who turned a pocketful of yeast into a brewing icon. This event only comes along once every 160 years, so don't miss it. CLICK HERE for rules and regulations on this event.
 

Miller Brewery Tour

(MAP)
4251 W State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53208
 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

It was great to catch up with many of you at the Bay View Bash!

 

It's been a busy week in Madison at the Capitol. In this email, I'd like to share some of my thoughts on a couple of proposals currently being talked about, such as yet another bill targeting the nationally recognized Wisconsin Retirement System as well as a bill attempting to restrict access to needed health care services.

 

As a reminder, as you read this email if there are things you think we should be bringing more attention to, please let me know.
 

Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Dismantling Retirement, One Bill at a Time

There have been numerous, failed attempts to alter the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), despite the fact it has steadfastly remained an efficient and sustainable retirement system. The newest threat to the WRS comes in the form of two legislative proposals recently circulated for co-sponsorship. One of the damaging proposals increases the retirement age for public employees from 55 to 57 (50 to 52 for public safety workers). The other would change how pension payments are calculated, averaging the person's top five years of pay instead of the current top three.

An independent consulting actuary firm conducted a study on the WRS in June 2013. The report indicated the WRS remains a strong, viable retirement system, has a solid foundation, and is well-positioned to fulfill its intended purposes in the future. Also, the funding ratio has stayed well above 90% and has hovered near 100% since 2004. The study goes on to state that the WRS is one of the lowest pension cost systems to taxpayers in the nation. This report solidifies that our Wisconsin pension system is a win-win for our public service workers as well as for our taxpayers. In contrast to Wisconsin, the Pew Center reports that 34 state-run plans were below the 80% funded threshold that experts say is the minimum for a healthy system. I have heard from many neighbors who are pleased with the success of the WRS and who, therefore, oppose any changes to it. For many, their livelihood in retirement is secure because of our WRS.

Attempts to Politicize WRS
Shortly after the proposals began circulating, many of you began contacting my office to ensure your voice against these attacks was heard. Douglas, from Milwaukee, had this to say:

Douglas, like many others who have been paying close attention to attempts to tamper with the WRS, has good reason to be weary. During the 2015-2017 state budget debate, the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee attempted to keep the pubic in the dark with the damaging proposals passed the Committee's 999 proposal. The proposal sought to change the make-up of the committee that oversees the WRS, which would have given the Republican-run Legislature an unprecedented amount of control over retirees' assets. This is concerning, as Republicans have already attempted to make changes to the system, and allowing the Majority party to have complete control over it would make such an endeavor easier. Because of the immediate, strong pushback from Wisconsinites, Republicans were forced to retreat from this reckless proposal and pulled the changes from the budget when the Senate took it up on July 7, 2015.

Build on Success of WRS, Rather than Tear it Down
Wisconsin has a nationally recognized and admired retirement system. With a shrinking middle class, we need to be building on what we know works to ensure prosperity among our hardworking Wisconsin neighbors. Making risky changes to the WRS is exactly the opposite of what Wisconsin ought to be doing. In reality, Republicans should focus on real solutions to actual problems facing Wisconsin families. For instance, according to latest job numbers, Wisconsin was 30th nationally in 12 month private sector job creation through the first quarter of 2015 and 34th over four years. Wisconsin trailed the national pace in 12 month private sector job creation for the 15th consecutive quarter.

Furthermore, Wisconsin is currently experiencing a retirement crisis. In fact, nearly 1.5 million Wisconsin workers do not have a retirement plan. Further, those that do have a plan are not always able to contribute the amount needed to cover their living expenses once retired. Studies show that poverty rates are nine times greater in households without defined benefit pension incomes, and since 1979, the number of private sector employees receiving income from one of these plans has dropped from 38% to just 15%. This is often because many employers and self-employed workers simply do not have the means to manage a pension fund, and 401(k)s can be costly, complicated, and insecure.

In contrast to wanting to politicize and potentially privatize this successful system, Senate Democrats recognize the success of the WRS program and introduced Senate Bill 45, which would create a similar system for workers in the private sector. While the private funds invested by Wisconsinites would be held separately from those in the WRS, they would still be managed by State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), who has also managed the WRS so effectively. Senate Bill 45 would protect our retirees by providing the framework to make low-cost, secure pension plans accessible to all of our workers.

Additional components of Senate Bill 45 are listed below:

  • The private retirement system needs to be as similar as possible to the successful WRS
  • Renowned SWIB would be in charge of managing the private retirement system
  • Retirement funds will be paid out monthly to participants in the private retirement system once they reach retirement age

It is past time to share the success of the WRS from the public sector to the private sector. This bill goes a long way to creating a retirement system for employees in the private sector that will provide them with peace of mind upon retirement. It also ensures that all Wisconsinites will have access to our world-class retirement system. I encourage my Republican colleagues to give this bill proper consideration.

 

Attacking Women's Health

Last Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services held a public hearing on Senate Bill 237, which would restrict access to essential health care services in Wisconsin if passed. The bill's Assembly companion, Assembly Bill 310, has already passed the Assembly Committee on Health, on a party-line vote, and was scheduled to go before the full Assembly on Thursday, September 24. The bill has received overwhelming opposition because of the health care gaps it would create by dismantling our current network of community-based health care providers.

Click here to watch the Assembly session.

Specifically, Senate Bill 237/Assembly Bill 310 are intended to block Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and other family planning providers from receiving federal funding (Title X) for providing preventive reproductive care to those who may not otherwise have access to such services. Planned Parenthood is the largest nonprofit reproductive health care provider of its kind in Wisconsin. Each year, they serve more than 60,000 women and men. Notably, the majority of patients served by Planned Parenthood consider them to be their primary care provider. In many counties, they are often the only option for women.

To be clear, none of the Title X funds go toward paying for abortions -- it is already prohibited by state and federal law. Additionally, clinics who receive Title X funding must provide other preventive health care services, such as blood pressure evaluations, breast exams, and colo-rectal cancer screenings.

This isn't the first time Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans made a political attack on Wisconsin's health services for women. The 2011-2013 state budget eliminated all state funding for health centers that provide all-options family planning services. These funding cuts affected at least 50 health centers throughout the state, some of which acted as the sole provider of family planning and preventive care services for low-income women. As a result of the irresponsible decision to cut funding, Planned Parenthood was forced to close five locations, all in counties where they were the only women's health care provider.

Many women have shared their own stories about how Planned Parenthood was there for them when they didn't have anywhere else to go. As one woman shared, "I was 24, working at a low-paying job and barely getting by. I hadn't had a gynecological exam since I was in college. My friend told me to go to Planned Parenthood because they didn't cost much, and would work with me on what I could afford. I went in, got my exam, and thought that was the end of it.

I got a call a few days later to come back into the office for an appointment. The results of my PAP were back, and it was abnormal. Subsequent tests confirmed that I had cervical cancer, and I was panicked. The people at Planned Parenthood got me into a treatment program and referred me to an oncologist, they had counselors who talked to me and helped me, and ultimately, saved my life."

Christy, from Hartford, Wisconsin, had a similar experience, "If I hadn't gone to Planned Parenthood, I may not have lived past my 25th birthday. I went to Planned Parenthood and they found my cervical cancer."

Now, imagine for a minute that Wisconsin women like Christy did not have a Planned Parenthood or other women's health care provider near by. The results would be devastating, perhaps even deadly. Also, consider the fact that no medical or health association supports these bills because of the devastating consequences losing family planning health providers in communities across the state would have, including restricting access to birth control and lifesaving preventive care.

As a state legislator, I stand on the side of best practices that promote healthy communities, save taxpayer money, and give all Wisconsinites an opportunity to receive basic health care services. In fact, for every public $1 spent on preventive family planning services taxpayers save, on average, $4. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Wisconsin's publicly funded family planning centers helped to avert over 21,000 pregnancies in 2013, which would have likely resulted in 7,200 abortions. Further, by reducing unintended pregnancies and other negative reproductive outcomes, these providers helped save the state and federal governments $171.5 million each year. Providing women in Wisconsin an opportunity to seek preventive care services, regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status must be a priority in our state.


 

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 recently read an article about the pending sale of state land to a Walker donor, do you have any additional information about this?


A: This week we saw yet another possible pay-to-play scheme from the governor, which continues to reinforce this administration's culture of corruption. Just a couple 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.

 

Now, another huge financial supporter of the governor is working to seal a deal with the DNR to receive hundreds of feet of prime lakefront property.

The agreement calls for the DNR to sell 765 feet of frontage for $275,000 -- the "friends and family" low end of the land's appraised value -- to Walker donor, Elizabeth Uihlein. Uihlein currently owns an adjacent 11-unit condominium complex that does not have direct access to the lake. When the land near the lakefront property was sold in 1994, state officials opted to keep the part of the property that had access to Rest Lake, leaving it open to the public for fishing and other recreational opportunities.

The sale was set to be reviewed by the Natural Resources Board at a meeting on Wednesday, September 23. Up to that point, the deal was negotiated largely in the dark, with no public input. After receiving a lot of criticism during the days leading up to the meeting, the Board ultimately decided to put the deal on hold until February.

Read an in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for more on what happened at the Board meeting on Wednesday, by clicking here.

Last month, the DNR received backlash from trout anglers after posting 13 properties that contain spring ponds for potential sale on their website. The ponds are important for trout anglers as they are home to significant populations of native brook trout. Selling the land that contains these unique ponds could not only shut out the public from enjoying the prime trout fishing, but also jeopardizes the entire ecosystem in those areas.


These deals are just two of a series of large-scale sales of public land. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the DNR has so far identified 118 properties totaling 8,300 acres that could go up for sale. That's because the 2013-2015 Republican budget directed the DNR to sell off 10,0000 acres of land by 2017. This was just part of the anti-conservation budget passed in 2013, which also included cutting the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Fund by $18 million. Wisconsinites recognize the importance of preserving Wisconsin's wildlife and public lands. In a nonpartisan poll conducted by the Nature Conservancy, nearly 90% of Wisconsin voters agreed that even in tight fiscal times this program should be a priority.

Wisconsin has a deep history with protecting our shared, public lands and waters. Over the past several years, we have witnessed Walker and Republican leadership chip away at our conservation tradition. The DNR, through programs like the Stewardship fund, once helped Wisconsin retain its identity as one of the best states for conservation by protecting thousands of acres for outdoor recreation for current and future generations. Unfortunately, under Walker's leadership the DNR seems to be more interested in paying back debts to donors than promoting our state's shared values and interests. Thankfully, the lakefront deal is on hold for now, and I will continue to monitor this issue and provide you with updates.


 

Public Hearings on Long-Term Care Changes
The 2015-17 state budget included dramatic changes to Wisconsin's long-term care system. There is still a lot of uncertainty on what these programs will look like, however, the Department of Health Services (DHS) is hosting a limited number of public hearings about the changes.

During the budget debate, I was contacted by people around that state who were concerned about their livelihood or the livelihood of their loved ones. Additionally, thousands showed up at the budget public hearings to voice their concerns about the changes. Now, it's time for individuals to once again share their stories about their experiences with programs like IRIS and Family Care. Below is information about the public hearings.

September 28, 2015
12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
LaCrosse Public Library Auditorium
800 Main Street
LaCrosse, WI 54601

October 6, 2015
9:30 am - 12:30 pm
Wilson Park Senior Center
2601 W. Howard Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53221

October 7, 2015
5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Goodman Community Center
Evjue Community Room D
149 Waubesa Street
Madison, WI 53704

Other things you should know:

  • You can participate in person or via a Webcast.
  • If possible, bring a written copy of your testimony. Be prepared to speak and have your comments recorded. You will have three minutes for spoken comments.
  • If you cannot attend the hearing, you can email Family Care and IRIS comments to DHSFCWebmail@wisconsin.gov
  • You can also mail comments to:
    Department of Health Services, Division of Long Term Care, Family Care and IRIS 2.0
    P.O. Box 7851, Room 550
    Madison, WI
    53707-7851

*Note: written testimony to DHS is due by October 30, 2015. If you miss the deadline or are otherwise unable to participate in the public hearings, please feel free to send your personal stories and/or comments to me at Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Pope Francis Visits the U.S.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis landed on U.S. soil, launching a six-day visit that will highlight economic justice, climate change, and his willingness to tackle significant political, social, and economic controversies.

About two dozen state lawmakers from around the country were present for an address by the spiritual leader on the White House lawn on Wednesday. Two Wisconsin state legislators were invited to the address, Rep. Christine Sinicki and Rep. Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee and Rep. Cory Mason of Racine.

Francis is only the fourth pope to visit the United States while in office and the third to visit Washington. On Thursday morning, he also became the first pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. The demand for tickets has been so high that congressional officials imposed unusual limits on many who normally have access to the House floor.

During his time in the U.S., the pope will visit a variety of places, from the 9/11 Memorial Museum, to several Catholic churches, to Curran-Fromhold Correction Facility in Philadelphia.

Click here for a full schedule of Pope Francis' visit to the U.S.

Recently, I circulated LRB 2699 that applauds and echoes faith leaders, like Pope Francis, in taking strong positions on reducing and eliminating climate change.

View a copy of LRB 2699, here.

 

September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month
Obesity is the second leading behavioral contributor to death in the U.S. Likewise, childhood obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed by as much as 3 times the rates of the 1980s. In fact, one in three children in the United States is overweight or obese. This puts our community's children at great risk for many negative physical, emotional, and behavioral outcomes.

This is both dangerous for our youth as well as costly for everyone. The estimated medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was about $147 billion in 2008. This is due to chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis and obesity related cancers.

Though these statistics may be shocking and dramatic, there is much we can do as a community to fight this serious health concern. While there is no single or simple solution, the good news is that childhood obesity can be prevented. Here are some of the healthy lifestyle changes you and your family can make to help combat childhood obesity:
  • Get active outside: Walk around the neighborhood, go on a bike ride, or play basketball at the park.
  • Limit screen time: Keep screen time (time spent on the computer, watching TV, or playing video games) to 2 hours or less a day.
  • Make healthy meals: Buy and serve more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain foods.

In doing all we can to stimulate learning and awareness around childhood obesity, the Senate recently passed a Joint Resolution to acknowledge September 2015 as Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in Wisconsin.

View the Joint Resolution, here.

To learn more about what you can do to promote health and wellness among our youth, click here.

 

Share your Thoughts on State and Community Issues!
With 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.

My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door-to-door as possible during the next couple months. Additionally, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to take the survey online.

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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