October 24, 2014

Mining bill comes up empty (AUDIO)

Compromise on a controversial mining bill fails in the state Senate. Senator Dale Schultz, the Republican hold-out on the bill rewriting state mining rules, says it’s not the day for the compromise, but his door remains open. “I can’t tell you that the Gogebic mining company is going to necessarily choose to mine here, depending upon what comes,” says Schultz. “And I will be saddened, because I would like to door to be open for every mining company here.”

 AUDIO: Senator Dale Schultz (5:05)

The bill, written to accommodate Gogebic’s proposed open-pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin, passed the Assembly in January. The legislature’s current session ends next week. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says he’s not closing the door either, but is less optimistic of an eleventh hour save. “I’m not giving up on the bill, but I do think we’re under a serious time crunch now, and I wonder whether Senator Schultz can get there,” Fitzgerald says.

AUDIO: Senator Scott Fitzgerald (6:45) 

The bill is now idle in the Senate’s organization committee. Representative Robin Vos, who offered the compromise amendment, blasted the Senate Democrats – but not Schultz. “Senate Democrats have failed Wisconsin,” says a release from Vos. I’m extremely disappointed that they refuse to see the clear need for jobs in our state. Some continue to say they’re willing to negotiate; they are not. Some say they’re for mining and jobs; they are not. Today’s vote in the Senate proves it.”

Schultz voted with Democrats to reject the amendment, and after comments by Schultz and Democrats Bob Jauch and Tim Cullen, the Senate voted unanimously to send the bill to the Senate Organization Committee. Janesville Democrat Tim Cullen says there may yet be hope for it. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this legislature pausing for thirty days,” says Cullen. “The governor can call us back into special session. I’m sure the governor would like to see a mining bill before there are any special elections. That’s fine with me.”

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” says Fitzgerald. “I think it is something that we’re going to have to go back and take a look at. But this evasive seventeenth vote is going to get harder and harder to find, because I just don’t know what these guys are looking for.”