July 31, 2014

Lawmakers want northern Wisconsin hearing on mining bill

As the debate over a proposed mining bill heats up at the state Capitol, two lawmakers are expressing concerns that the voices of residents in northern Wisconsin may be drowned out.

Sponsors of the legislation, which overhauls state mining regulations and could make it easier for a mine to open in Iron and Ashland counties, have indicated they plan to hold at least one joint hearing on the measure. State Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) is worried that hearing will take place in Madison, rather than near the proposed site of the mine.

Bewley and state Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), who represent the region, sent a letter to the chair of the Assembly committee handling the bill. In it, they urge her to hold a hearing in northern Wisconsin.

Bewley says having the hearing in Madison would result in many people who have a stake in the bill being unable to voice their opinions to lawmakers. She says it can six to seven hours for residents of the region to come to Madison, making a trip to the Capitol, for what would likely be a lengthy public hearing, very difficult.

Supporters of the bill say it’s similar to a version that almost passed last session, which received multiple hearings throughout the state. The legislation unveiled this week makes a number of technical changes, but is substantially similar to the bill that failed in the state Senate last spring by a single vote. Bewley argues it should still be treated like a new piece of legislation though and be subject to a thorough public review.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:14)