Two Republican members of the Wisconsin Legislature suggested making concessions on the state’s contentious mining bill late last week in an effort to promote bipartisanship.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, announced Thursday they will be proposing changes next week to the GOP mining bill.
“We’ve said all along we’re open for changes as we’ve gone through the process,” Suder said, stressing he and other lawmakers have been maintaining transparency.
Between the 12-hour public hearing Jan. 23 and input from numerous concerned groups throughout the writing and revising, Suder said he believes they have heard from and examined all perspectives. He added he hopes to make the bill even more balanced with the amendments he and other bill-writers plan to add.
Suder said they are still compiling a list of key points to add in the amended version but are considering many of the ideas put forth by the parties they have heard from.
Suder, however, did not address changes to the environmental aspects of the bill, which have been the main points of contention thus far.
Critics of the bill have expressed the bill rolls back environmental regulations by giving the Department of Natural Resources more liberty to exempt mining companies and grant permits.
However, supporters insist it does not change current environmental standards.
“We’re not going to retreat from anything reducing environmental standards,” Suder said.
Although doubtful many important changes will be seen, opponents such as Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Rep. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said they appreciate legislators are open to making some adjustments.
Cullen and Schultz, who drafted their own mining bill that does not change environmental regulations, chide the current GOP bill for making it easier for mining companies to harm the environment, according to Schultz’s spokesperson Todd Allbaugh.
Allbaugh cited Schultz’s main issues with the bill, emphasizing how it walks back on a previous bill’s promise to provide upfront tax revenue to locals, who would be most affected by a mine. With this proposal, communities would be guaranteed $1 million a year in tax revenue for five years following the implementation of a mine, allowing for investment in infrastructure, he said.
The current bill also increases uncertainty by implementing wetland reform laws and ignores a year’s worth of legislation and recommendations, according to Allbaugh.
“While refreshing, it doesn’t appear these proposals address any of the deep and real concerns held by Schultz,” Allbaugh said.
Anne Sayers, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters spokesperson, echoed these common concerns. She contended “all 206 pages” need to be changed, as environmental rollbacks are present throughout.
Sayers finds it comforting legislators admit to the fact the bill compromises environmental protections, adding future Wisconsinites should have access to clean water.
Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, recognized Vos and Suder’s proposed changes as a step in the right direction but also called the bill an attack on Wisconsin’s drinking water and environmental protections and a product of out-of-state mining company interests.
Hulsey added the proposed changes are still very vague, as lawmakers are still drafting a list of alterations.
Suder said the amendments will be finalized and written in Wednesday.