Vote On Great Lakes Water Bill Delayed Up To Two Weeks
Legislators working behind-closed-doors with administration officials to cobble together a Great Lakes Compact implementation bill are now saying that Thursday's special session to approve a new bill will be delayed one or two weeks.
That's good - - because the process to produce a new bill by amending State Senate bill 523 - - which passed in March with a bi-partisan majority of 26-6 - - has been taking place in secret.
And too many people around the Capitol are being told that the amendments will be mere technical clarifications, when in fact, Republicans want to use the Compact's implementing bill in Wisconsin as a way to restrict water conservation planning.
And to also make some diversions of Great Lakes water easier to achieve by using as legal precedents past diversions that were approved with questionable or incomplete procedures in Menomonee Falls and Pleasant Prairie - - procedures that the Compact will eventually forbid.
What the Assembly is trying to manipulate through the implementing bill undermines seven years of regional work to negotiate, write and then adopt an eight-state agreement - - the Great Lakes Compact.
Creating Wisconsin's implementing law must take place in the open to prevent the approval of a bill that is significantly weaker than what the State Senate had approved, and weaker than what the citizens of the state and region deserve.
Earth Day is April 22nd.
Let's truly honor it with a good bill, and not turn it it into a second April Fool's Day by enabling the Wisconsin GOP-led Assembly to foist a weak bill onto the State Senate.
A bill being negotiated right now with the participation of some conflict-averse Democrats, and the Department of Natural Resources - - the very agency that will be hamstrung by the implementing bill when it comes time to write administrative rules, or issue interpretations.
The same DNR that will be relatively powerless to seek strong conservation-minded diversion applications from the cities of New Berlin and Waukesha when they come in for Lake Michigan hookups - - either because the bill heading for approval in the legislature doesn't spell out the standards they have to meet for conservation planning, or because the bill will reference those earlier diversions in Wisconsin as grand-fathering precedents that would not have taken place if the Compact had been in force.
More details are available in a week's previous postings, with this a good place to start.
Let me also agree completely with the comment left by "Betsey," who, in part writes:
"And the public should be allowed a hearing for more input. Yes, there was a hearing on SB 523 and another on the Assembly NRC [Natural Resources Committee], but with so many substantive changes afoot--on the issues of conservation, public trust doctrine and public enforcement--the public should have every opportunity to comment, esp as the 3 issues mentioned are so critical to THE PUBLIC."
As I recall, the Senate bill was crafted in "secret" as well. There were many ammendments added at the last minute that many lawmakers never had a chance to digest.
Both parties could stand to be a little more open.
I agree completely with Anonymous.
This is especially important right now since both parties, the Governor and the DNR all say they are working together - - suggesting that a deal is closer than it was when the Senate bill was adopted.
They also need to involve more of their house members, namely those legislators in the Senate who worked so hard to pass a Strong Compact, and those in the Assembly who also worked hard behind the scenes on this legislation and who have now been cut out of the process.
And the public should be allowed a hearing for more input. Yes, there was a hearing on SB 523 and another on the Assembly NRC, but with so many substantive changes afoot--on the issues of conservation, public trust doctrine and public enforcement--the public should have every opportunity to comment, esp as the 3 issues mentioned are so critical to THE PUBLIC.
According to Sen. Miller, there will be no public hearing on the new Compact bill. So please be careful when you chide Republicans for doing things "behind closed doors". The Democrats are also hiding behind the door.
I agree that the sunshine on this process absolutely needs to include a public hearing.
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