(UPDATE: As of 5:20 pm, the bill has been sent back to committee…this is the last gasp maneuver for the GOP Legislators to prevent the bill from dying after a 17-16 vote favoring rejection, with Schultz and all Dems voting to reject. The bill can remain in Committee until it is again calendared for a vote (should the GOP get a vote flipped), called out in a Special Session, or the regular session expires, at which point the bill would die.)
After passing out of the Joint Finance Committee with Vos/Darling Amendments in place late Monday, AB426 (aka The Mining Bill) will be taken up by the full Senate at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon. Despite some compromise by Representative Vos and Senator Darling, the current version of the bill does not allow for “contested case hearings” until after a permit is issued. The omission of public hearings in the contested case format, lack of local control, and environmental concerns continue to be the death knell for current mining legislation.
Over the weekend and into Monday, Democratic State Senators from the Milwaukee area faced a barrage of pressure from corporate interests in support of AB426 (Bucyrus, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce). New bill supporters emerged in some Labor Unions, after Gogebic Taconite committed to hiring union workers for mining labor. A report surfaced on Blogging Blue late Monday that Senator Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) was prepared to vote in favor of the bill. Speculation and concern has been rampant overnight on the vote to occur today – as Robin Vos expressed confidence in passage of the bill in an interview with Dylan Brogan on WTDY AM1670/FM 106.7
Dale Schultz held an impromptu press conference immediately after the Joint Finance hearing, where he stated:
“I would say that the compromise that they just offered is no compromise at all. In fact, it makes a bad idea worse. We would like to make progress towards making it easier to mine in Wisconsin, but we’re not willing to do that at the expense of the environment that we all love and cherish.”
Schultz also pointed out the weakness of the compromise in contested case hearings. Under the amendment, the burden of proof would shift to favor the mining companies, and could only occur after the permit is issued. Bottom line – Schultz will be voting against. What about the Democratic Senators?
In an interview Monday afternoon with State Senator Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee), Badger Democracy was told that the entire Milwaukee contingent of Democratic Senators are united in their opposition to the bill. Coggs confirmed he had been contacted by pro-mining bill corporate interests, but that calls from his constituents over the weekend in opposition ran 50-1 against the bill. Coggs stated that the caucus looks to Senator Bob Jauch as the leader on the mining issue, having spent a significant amount of time studying the issue in-depth. Coggs agreed that the corporate interests may attempt to “pluck” a vote out of the Democratic Caucus or Senator Schultz, but he felt the votes will not change, nor would the opposition from constituents and citizens statewide.
The GOP and Scott Walker will not have the votes – unless an outright theft of a Senator’s vote occurs. The hallmark bill of this Republican - controlled Legislature will not pass today. If it does, the reaction by citizens of Wisconsin should be at the level of the initial protests one year ago. After months of debate, hearings, and testimony, it has become clear the politic in Wisconsin is shifting centered around this bill. It’s demise will be a great victory for the people of Wisconsin – regardless of party or affiliation. The only losers in the defeat of this bill are out-of-state (and some in-state) corporate interests, who invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect politicians to push their agenda over the interests of Wisconsin. The defeat of this bill marks the first significant defeat of those corporatic interests and politicians.
It cannot and will not be the last. In a little over one week, this legislative session will come to a close – and the damage to progressive Wisconsin cannot be understated. There will be great work to reverse the damage, and elected officials must be held accountable by the people. The momentum of this movement must continue, as the people engaging in Democracy are the only counter to the millions of dollars set against them. Let this Mining Bill be the Waterloo of the Corporatic GOP in Wisconsin.
“Which shall rule – wealth or man; which shall lead – money or intellect; who shall fill public stations – educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?” Edward G. Ryan, Chief Justice Wisconsin Supreme Court, June 1873