Mining at the top of the list when Wisconsin Legislature begins MondayRegional News
-- Republican Assembly leaders announced Wednesday that mining legislation will be the first bill they introduce when the Legislation opens the 2013-14 session Monday.
By: Kevin Murphy , Pierce County Herald
MADISON — Republican Assembly leaders announced Wednesday that mining legislation will be the first bill they introduce when the Legislation opens the 2013-14 session Monday.
“Mining reform is a top priority in the state Assembly. I’m hopeful all the interested parties can come together to protect our environment and make mining reform happen,” Speaker-elect Robin Vos, R-Burlington said in a prepared statement.
Details of the Assembly mining bill weren’t available Wednesday as it is in “continual drafting,” said Vos’ spokesperson Kit Beyer.
“They have been working off (last year’s) Joint Finance Committee’s compromise bill. There will be tweaks to the bill … the details are being worked over,” Beyer said.
Beyer was hesitant to say who had input into the bill saying she didn’t want to leave anyone out of a “laundry list” of names.
Vos won’t be an author of the bill that may take a few weeks before it’s introduced, Beyer said.
Gogebic Taconite’s interest last year in developing a several-thousand acre open pit mine in the Penokee Hills in Ashland and Iron counties set off a scramble to streamline mining legislation.
Republicans criticized the state’s 35-year-old mining law as outdated and that it amounts to a mining moratorium. Democrats countered that Republican-proposed legislation ignored the roles federal and tribal government have in the regulatory process and sacrifices environmental protection to job creation.
A Republican sponsored bill, AB 426, was approved by the Assembly and came within one vote of passing the Senate as the legislation session ended in June.
Florida-based Gogebic Taconite turned its interest from northern Wisconsin to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula but Gov. Scott Walker remains confident the firm would return to Wisconsin if the Legislature passes a bill similar to last year’s.
Walker was scheduled to visit Green Bay, Schofield and Milwaukee on Wednesday in a “Mining for Jobs” tour.
Iron ore mining in northern Wisconsin is projected to generate $2 billion in economic impact statewide including $20.6 million in local tax revenue during the two-year construction process. Once a mine becomes operational, annual economic impact could exceed $600 million in annual economic impact, according to an undated NorthStar Economics, Inc. study Vos’ office referred to Wednesday.
The study also concluded that renewed mining activity in northern Wisconsin would create than 700 mining jobs and 2,100 jobs in supporting industries and services.
Senate Democrats held four informational hearings on mining regulation last fall and will introduce a bill this month, said State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, a member of the Senate Select Mining Committee.
“The public should have a chance to compare two bills; a Republican bill written behind closed doors for and by a mining company that has twice left the state; and a bipartisan bill written after public deliberation,” Jauch said.
Jauch acknowledged that State Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, would likely be the only Republican sponsor on the Democrat bill making mining reform a “frustrating issue for everyone.”
“It remains to be seen what kind of bill they intend to introduce but their rhetoric has been the same over the past two years. I wish they were as transparent about the details of the bill as they are about the jobs that would be created years from now. It could be a bill that creates more litigation than job creation,” he said.