Monday, March 5, 2012

Republicans Continue to Push Ideological Mining Bill But New Law Likely

In the pursuit of a few hundred union jobs six years from now, the Republican leadership in Wisconsin is dead-set on passing new mining legislation. The Republicans' only plan to stop the bleeding of our jobs is to get Gogebic Taconite to open a mine in northern Wisconsin with the promise of jobs in the future. Unfortunately, the Republicans are trying to force legislation down our throats that goes much further than Gogebic asked for.

The Republicans created AB 426 behind closed doors and passed it in the Assembly along party lines with little public input and no negotiation. Thankfully, one Republican Senator has his head on straight, Dale Schultz. Schultz and fellow Democrat Senator Bob Jauch created the bipartisan Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act which gives Gogebic Taconite what they want without going further and removing environmental protections as well as public input and taking money away from the local communities (bulletpoint overview).

The Republican leadership continues to offer "compromises" that move little by little to the WWMR Act, but don't have any real meat, the last one was offered this morning. The Republican leadership, think Scott Fitzgerald who is under recall, will stop at nothing to get a mining bill because they need it as a jobs bill. The WWMR Act is an actual compromise with opponents of the Assembly bill and the Republican leadership. It provides predictability and certainty, giving Gogebic the one thing they asked for, while keeping our current environmental protections instead of strengthening them as many would like.

The Joint Finance Committee met this afternoon to debate the two bills, and then to vote on the fake compromise revealed to the Democrats just hours before. The Democrats on the JFC, Represenatives Jon Richards and Cory Mason and Senators Bob Jauch and Lena Taylor, all pushed for the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act. The question kept getting asked, "Why not support the bipartisan compromise in front of you?"

Rep. Robin Vos's only response was that they have included "60%" of the WWMR Act in the fake compromise, and therefore it should be a sufficient compromise. The problem is that much of the missing 40% is more important than the included 60%. In particular environmental protections, real contested case hearings, and keeping the money in the local communities that they deserve.

Senator Jauch said Schultz and the Democrats have been getting a lot of hate email for supporting the WWMR Act. But he added that they've also been getting a lot of emails from Republicans who don't support AB 426 saying things like, "I'm a Republican and this bill needs to be changed."

Jauch said the WWMR Act is responsible mining. He added that the WWMR Act doesn't create "obstacles but efficiencies."

You can watch the debate in the archives at WisEye. If you see how the Democrats fight AB 426 and defend the WWMR Act, you'll know who's fighting for Wisconsin.

Unfortunately for Wisconsin, the JFC quickly shot down the WWMR Act on party lines. They wouldn't allow it to go to a vote in the full Senate for fear that it would pass. It probably would with Schultz and the Democrats in the majority.

There was little response to the Democrats questions about the fake compromise from the Republican leadership. The leadership just wanted to get right to the vote on their fake compromise.

Among other issues with the fake compromise, Rep. Richards said, "Citizens will basically be barred from using the contested case in any way."

Earlier, Rep. Cory Mason said in reference to language in the fake compromise, "Could this be drafted wrong?" As the language is "appalling" according to Sen. Bob Jauch. Unfortunately, I missed the specific language they were referring to, but I believe they were referring to the pseudo-contested cases defined in the fake compromise. Dale Schultz said the pseudo contested cases it includes "is no compromise at all. In fact, it makes a bad idea worse."

Senator Jauch said, "You cannot have us change the law every time a mine opens" so its tailored to the company opening the mine. He added, "It's going to have an impact on navigable waters, and there's going to be a lawsuit" from someone. It "invites a lawsuit." "It is completely the opposite for providing predictability and certainty." It "will provide jobs for lawyers."

The JFC passed the fake compromise, now known as AB 426/SB 488 on to the full Senate on party lines. The Republican leadership will now put immense pressure on Schultz, and even Democrats to cave for union jobs. They only need one to get it passed in the full Senate now and become law. What worries me is that I don't believe they would have passed AB 426 out of committee if they didn't think they could get the votes in the full Senate. Darling said, "If we don't have the votes tomorrow, we will keep working on it."

The Republicans won't settle for nothing, we will get new mining legislation and it won't be any better than the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act, because no one is pushing for anything better. If the Republican leadership wants jobs, we need to make them pass the bipartisan Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act. We can't afford to settle for anything less.

Why is the Republican leadership pushing so hard for totally unnecessary ideological goals when we need jobs? Why didn't the leadership allow the full Senate to vote on a bipartisan bill that gives Gogebic what they want and would probably pass? Instead, they move a bill that will take muscling to pass.

Senator Dale Schultz's passionate statement on why he crafted the WWMR Act with Jauch and how it compromises with the Republican leadership is a compelling read. I strongly encourage your indulgence.

Read A Plea for the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act for more information on why we need the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act, the failure of the Republican leadership to draft legislation in the open, and the pressure they've put on Schultz to cave. 

Give Schultz and the Democrats some love and tell the other Republicans to support the Wisconsin Way Mining Reform Act.

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