MADISON, WI (WSAU) - Senate Bill #1, better known as the mining bill, was passed in the State Assembly early Thursday evening with no amendments. That means it will advance to Governor Scott Walker for his signature. The Assembly passed the bill by a vote of 58-39.
The bill was supported strongly by Republicans and business organizations. It was opposed just as strongly by Democrats, Wisconsin's native American tribes, and environmentalists.
Democratic legislators introduced 17 amendments and two substitute bills. All of them failed to get majority support.
Governor Scott Walker commented after the vote, saying "On behalf of the unemployed skilled workers in our state who will benefit from the thousands of mining-related jobs over the next few years, I say thank you for passing a way to streamline the process for safe and environmentally sound mining in Wisconsin."
A couple of central Wisconsin State Representatives have weighed in on the vote so far.
Democrat Katrina Shankland from Stevens Point says, "This mining bill is the most destructive bill to our shared natural resources in our state’s recent history. Proponents of this bill say it provides certainty to the mining company, but the only certainty it provides is the certainty of lawsuits. The mining bill prioritizes a mining operation over injury to public rights, public health, and public interests. This sets a dangerous precedent that it is acceptable to strip away our most important environmental protections – the ones that keep us alive – for the interests of an out-of-state company. This bill is about minimizing responsibility to maximize profits."
Republican John Spiros of Marshfield supported the mining bill, saying, "When I was campaigning I was asked about the mining bill and I said I would support it provided it protected Wisconsin’s natural resources. This bill does that, it does not change the DNR’s responsibility to the citizens of this state, it follows federal proceedings by having the process approved by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency. While this bill does not approve or permit a mine, it does allow companies who are willing to invest in Wisconsin to have some predictability in the permitting process. Should a company choose to mine in Wisconsin, they will have to work under the same drinking water standards, the same air quality standards, the same surface water quality standards that we have now.”
Governor Walker has not indicated exactly when he will sign the bill into law.