Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters: Scrap the mining bill part III — What ever happened to legislative process?

Contact: Tom Stolp, Field Director

Office: (715) 835-4248, Cell: (715) 225-3344

[email protected]

Since its introduction, the case to scrap AB 426, the Assembly mining bill, has been made repeatedly and with great reason. Yet, this bill that seeks to rewrite our laws for the benefit of special interests at the expense of Wisconsin families is still being considered by Wisconsin legislators. Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters has introduced the “Scrap the Mining Bill Series,” a regular report of the countless reasons that have surfaced in recent days and months of why legislators must scrap AB 426.

From the Scrap the Mining Bill Series— Part III: What Ever Happened to Legislative Process?

Far flung hearings, closed door discussions, defunct committees, citizen concerns falling on deaf ears…Actions by legislative proponents of AB 426 over the last several months have left Wisconsinites with more questions than answers:

* Who’s the author? This was the first question asked at the West Allis hearing. Because it couldn’t (or wouldn’t?) be answered, it was asked over and over and over again by those testifying that day. Technically, legislators had employed an infrequently used tactic of introducing the bill by committee to avoid having to name any legislative sponsors. After the hearing, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke the real story, “The bill was largely written by five Republicans and their staffs who huddled for months with different parties, including the business lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce and representatives of iron ore mining company Gogebic Taconite, which wants to construct a mine in northern Wisconsin.1

* Did they lose the phone number of the tribal governments? Local tribal governments have indicated that they weren’t consulted in the drafting of this legislation and that aspects of the legislation violate federal treaty. According to Legal Counsel for Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, “Weakening of environmental protections in the ceded territories of the northern third of the state substantively violate treaties that the various tribes have with the federal government.”2

* What’s up with the “Special Committee on Mining Jobs?” On September 22nd, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald created a Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs consisting of legislators with natural resource backgrounds and those representing local interests.3 In an October 3rd letter to committee members the Chair, Senator Neil Kedzie, wrote:

“As members of this committee, we have a monumental task before us, one which could greatly impact Wisconsin’s economy and environment for generations to come. As Chair, it is my intent to maintain certain guidelines and decorum for the fair, consistent and efficient conduct of committee work, similar to those I established for the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee. I believe such guidelines will facilitate good public policy on this issue by allowing meaningful discussion from all interested parties.”4

Senator Kedzie’s vision for the Committee sounds like the kind of process Wisconsinites are looking for, yet the Committee has met just once. And since that November meeting, there hasn’t been another peep from them as the Assembly proceeds with steamrolling AB 426 through the legislature.

* Is Ashland now considered a suburb of West Allis? Once released to the public, citizens had less than one week to read AB 426 (a X page bill), prepare testimony, and arrange travel and work schedules to attend the December hearing in West Allis, 350 miles away from the proposed mine in Northern Wisconsin. It was only after much public outcry and the tenacity of Senator Bob Jauch and Rep. Janet Bewley that the Assembly Jobs Committee scheduled a hastily thrown together hearing for January 11th with again, just one week’s notice.

* Is this thing on? At the December 14th, West Allis hearing those speaking against the bill outnumbered supporters 2 to 1. At the January 11th Hurley hearing those speaking against the bill outnumbered supporters 60% to 40%. Despite these staggering statistics, on the day of the Hurley hearing Speaker Fitzgerald announced a vote would be taking place with changes due from Committee members in 48 hours, giving away that they intended the hearing to be nothing more than a dog and pony show.

This week, be on the look-out for half-hearted amendments (meant to placate vulnerable recalled legislators) and worse yet, perhaps a full assembly vote.

One question still remains – will state legislators finally listen to the citizens of Wisconsin and Scrap this bill?

After months of legislative process getting the shaft, Wisconsinites don’t just want answers – they want AB 426 thrown out. Stay tuned for Part IV of the “Scrap the Mining Bill Series.” There are plenty more reasons why AB 426 must be scrapped.

* View “Part I: Voters Don’t Want It” here.

* View “Part II: Mine Games Will Cost Taxpayers Millions” here.

1. http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/legislators-worked-with-gogebic-taconite-on-mining-bill-593fk2n-135902053.html

2. http://www.wiseye.org/Programming/VideoArchive/ArchiveList.aspx?cm=201

3. http://www.ashlandcurrent.com/article/11/09/22/fitzgerald-announces-senate-committee-mining-jobs