Wisconsin Republicans have thus far failed to revive their state's jobs economy, but fear not. They have a plan, if only the summer's recall elections hadn't made it difficult for them to get the Senate votes to roll back their state's pesky mining regulations at the behest of one mining company. Gogebic Taconite wants to set up a 22-mile open-pit iron mine that it says will create hundreds of jobs—but it won't do that until the state basically guarantees it won't face problems in the permitting process. The mining company spent nearly $115,000 on lobbying in early 2011 alone, and Republicans responded with a bill that would require the state Department of Natural Resources to reach permitting decisions within a year. And:
It also would eliminate contested case hearings, quasi-judicial proceedings environmentalists and members of the public often use to challenge steps in the permit process, limits mining-related lawsuits, calls for the DNR to issue mining water withdrawal permits if the agency decides the mine's benefits would exceed the harm and allows for mining structures on flood plains.Any guesses about what would happen to worker protections in a mine set up by the state government gutting environmental regulations and citizen input?
Republicans and Gogebic Taconite face a hold-up, though, in the person of Republican state Sen. Dale Schultz. Schultz was the one Republican vote against Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget repair bill, and, following last summer's recall elections, a key swing vote in a Senate that Republicans control just 17-16. Schultz was on a committee designated to deal with mining, and when Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald threw out a bill that committee produced, Schultz said no. They made some concessions, but not enough, and he said no again.
Republicans cannot pass their bill without Schultz, and he will not pass a bill that doesn't include contested case hearings. In response, Republican leadership is doing something they haven't shown themselves to be big fans of: They're negotiating. That wouldn't be happening if Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper hadn't been recalled in favor of Jennifer Shilling and Jessica King.
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