Efforts to pass a mining bill that failed to win support from Wisconsin lawmakers last year, will be renewed in 2013 as republican lawmakers and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have made the bill a top priority.
At the heart of the bill is a mining operation in northern Wisconsin that supporters say will bring hundreds of new jobs, but failed to win support last year because of environmental concerns.
Walker stopped in Green Bay, Schofield and Milwaukee on Jan. 2 in an effort to gather support for the measure in the 2013-2014 legislative session. The bill still is in draft stages, but should include only “a few tweaks” to distinguish it from last year’s Assembly bill, he said at Valley Plating and Fabricating in Green Bay.
Meanwhile, in Madison, Assembly Republican leaders said the first bill they’ll introduce this session will reform Wisconsin’s mining laws, Gannett Wisconsin Media reported.
Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Scott Suder released a statement calling the bill a top priority. They said the measure will help create thousands of jobs but didn’t offer any details on what changes the bill might make.
Florida-based Goebic Taconite has been working with Republicans to open an iron mine south of Lake Superior. Company officials say the mine would create 700 jobs in the economically depressed region and Republican legislators are aiming to ease the regulatory path.
“Folks from outside of the state were trying to shut down (the bill) due to the politics of the recall,” Walker said Wednesday. “The environmental provisions had next to nothing to do with the passage of the bill. I think it was entirely politics. Fourteen senators were under tremendous pressure from Washington, D.C., forces not to pass legislation that would relate to jobs.”
With a GOP majority in both houses of the Legislature, Republicans should be able to push the legislation through.
Walker and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), both acknowledge a tradition of mining in the state, but Hansen said bringing the company to Wisconsin is not an “overnight solution” to the jobs situation in the state. Hansen said it will take several years before construction will begin on the mine.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), said in a statement that a bipartisan mining bill is an “important” priority for this session.
"We need to make sure the bill creates mining jobs and also protects our natural resources, as well as our tourism and agricultural economies that are so vital to Wisconsin,” Barca said.