MacIver News Service | March 11, 2013[Rhinelander, Wisc…] Governor Scott Walker signed the long anticipated and much maligned mining jobs bill into law in Rhinelander on Monday, with a second, ceremonial signing in Milwaukee.
It was the first bill introduced this session in both the Assembly and the Senate, after a similar bill was defeated last year. Both chambers passed the bill earlier this month.
Over that past two years in Wisconsin, mining has been a hotly debated topic. With a mining company showing interest in the iron ore that is located in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin, Republican legislators introduced a bill that they argued would help to create thousands of jobs for Wisconsin residents.
Assembly Bill 426 was introduced on December 14, 2011 and was passed in the Assembly on January 26, 2012. The intent of AB 426 was to add certainty to the permitting process for iron mining companies, along with reducing the amount of red tape companies must go through to receive a permit to mine.
However, AB 426 failed to pass in the Senate, and it looked like the future of mining in northern Wisconsin was gone. Gogebic Taconite, the company that has proposed a mining site in Ashland and Iron Counties, closed its office doors after the bill failed to become law.
Republican legislators did not give up on passing mining legislation, though. They introduced Senate Bill 1 this session on January 18, 2013, which was a similar bill to the one that failed during the previous session. Republicans did listen to opponents by adding multiple amendments that would uphold current environmental laws and provide more definitions for how the law would be applied.
With renewed support for mining legislation, Gogebic Taconite has kept their office in northern Wisconsin open, and has again proposed the opening of the mine that could lead to thousands of jobs in the area.
In the Governor’s statement about the mining bill, he was optimistic about the jobs that would be created by the proposed mine. “I would like to thank Legislative leaders in both the State Senate and State Assembly for their tireless commitment to move this bill forward. After making substantial changes to the legislation, aimed at protecting our state’s vital natural resources, the bill I signed into law today will preserve our tradition of clean land, water, and air.” Walker said. “I am hopeful today’s actions will result in the creation of thousands of private sector jobs in the coming years.”
Opponents to the legislation claim that the only jobs that will be created will be for lawyers to defend the law. “Now the only mine we can be certain will open will be a gold mine for Republican lawyers who can get rich defending their flawed law. This mining bill again falls short of assuring job creation,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a statement after the Assembly passed the bill.
The Legislature will now set its focus on the biennial budget proposed by Governor Walker, a debate which is expect to last into the summer.