Mining committee finale expected to be productiveMADISON — Although Democrats and Republicans have defined “responsible mining legislation” differently, State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, anticipates a productive final scheduled session Thursday of the Senate Mining Committee.
By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
MADISON — Although Democrats and Republicans have defined “responsible mining legislation” differently, State Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, anticipates a productive final scheduled session Thursday of the Senate Mining Committee.
Control of the Senate changes from Democrat to Republican in January along with the ability to set the agenda; even so, Jauch says the bipartisan committee should be able to reach consensus this week on some keys issues needed in new mining legislation.
“Our goal is to reach in a transparent fashion ... some modifications in the 35-year-old mining law, to streamline the process, make it more defined and predictable while protecting our resources and improving the economy,” he said.
How much streamlining and what degree of protection a new bill would have has been a sticking point between the parties that may not be resolved but result in each party producing its own bill.
The lobbyist for Gogebic Taconite’s, which proposed a $1.5 million iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties, still favors the mining bill that was defeated in the Senate in March by a 17-16 vote.
At the time, Democrat legislators said the bill was too rushed, unreasonably imposed shortened times to review a permit and failed to acknowledge the roles of Native America and federal agencies.
If two bills are written next year, he doesn’t necessarily think the outnumbered Democrats won’t get their bill passed, at least in the Senate, Jauch said.
“I don’t think there’s enough votes to pass AB 426 (the Assembly-passed bill that died in the Senate),” said Jauch.
Jauch pointed to statements Tim Sullivan, a former Bucyrus International chief executive officer who heads the Wisconsin Mining Association, made to the senate committee last week that the permitting process realistically would take five years.
“Even mining industry representatives realize the need to protect the environment,” said Jauch.
Jauch sees the committee recommending a bill that provides revenue to local government based on gross and not net proceeds from mining operations has “off-ramps” built in to allow further study during the permitting process and protect public participation.
“What we’ll do is be open about what we’re doing and how it be done. You haven’t seen that in the GOP’s legislation,” he said.
State Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, said he doesn’t even know if he’ll continue to work on the committee and would vote again for AB 426.
“The committee will act but the mining company isn’t at the table, the governor isn’t at the table, but I remain optimistic that a bipartisan bill can be produced,” he said.