Mining Bill Advances Through Committee

[Madison, Wisc…] Attempts to craft bipartisan mining legislation fell apart on Wednesday, as the Assembly and Senate held separate executive committee hearings on both the Senate and Assembly bills.

Republicans had announced numerous amendments to the Assembly and Senate bills on Monday. They said the amendments were based off of concerns from their Democrat colleagues.

“[The Republican Amendments] are baby steps in the right direction,” Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) said on Wednesday. “When you start at the bottom, there’s no other option but to improve.”

However, during the executive hearings, Senator Jauch and other Democrats voted against most of those amendments, and Republicans voted against amendments introduced by Democrats.

Both hearings began at 10 am on Wednesday. Democrats criticized that, stating that concerned citizens would have to pick which one to attend.

In the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economy and Mining, Rep. Fred Clark, Democrat from Sauk City, immediately moved adjournment as soon as the executive session started in an attempt to delay passage of the bill for a month.

Clark’s attempt to adjourn failed.

The main goal of any new mining law is to provide some certainty to the permitting process for mining companies. They specifically want time limits on how long the process can drag on for.

Democrats continued to insist the mining company, Gogebic Taconite, wrote the mining bill. They say it makes drastic changes to the state’s environmental standards, even though the nonpartisan legislative counsel told them it does not.

Democrats referred to a bill being circulated by Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville). It is much shorter than the Republican bill, but leaves many decisions up to state agencies’ rule making process.

Democrats insist that if the Republican bills become law, there will never be a mine in northern Wisconsin. They say it would allow the mining company to fill in navigable waterways and that, they say, will only lead to lawsuits.

Rep. Tod Ohnstad, Democrat from Kenosha, said this bill was not a true jobs bill, “the only jobs created in this bill will be lawyers.”

The Senate bill passed committee on a 3-2 vote. The Assembly version passed on a 10-6 vote.

Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) released a statement “I’m pleased with the progress we are making in returning Wisconsin’s tradition of mining. Today, we are one step closer to creating hundreds if not thousands of good-paying jobs in our state.”

It has not yet been announced when the bills could be brought up for floor votes.