February 5, 2016

Mining bill set for votes today

A pair of legislative committees will consider a Republican-backed bill today that would streamline the approval process for iron ore mining in Wisconsin. Committees in both the Assembly and Senate have executive sessions scheduled to start later this morning, which are the first step in bringing the controversial legislation to the floor of each chamber for a vote.

Lawmakers are also expected to consider several amendments that the sponsors of the bill unveiled earlier this week, which they say are intended to address concerns raised by opponents about weakening environmental protections. Those changes are being met with some skepticism though by some of the bill’s biggest critics.

State Senator Tim Cullen (D-Janesville), who has introduced his own legislation to reform state mining laws, described the GOP amendments as making it an “ever so slightly better bill,” but he believes the process still has a way to go. Cullen says the proposed changes will not get him to support the bill.

State Representative Fred Clark (D-Barboo) believes the amendments are not enough to get Assembly Democrats to support the measure either. Clark says “there’s really no way, short of starting over, that this bill can be made acceptable to members of our caucus and to a large number of people in the state.”

Republicans hold majorities in both the Senate and Assembly, making it unlikely Democrats will be able to keep the measure from passing. However, a similar bill was defeated during the last legislative session after a GOP lawmaker crossed party lines to vote against it.

AUDIO: Andrew Beckett reports (1:06)

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