Sunday, January 29, 2012

Assembly's Toxic GOP Majority Undermines Wisconsin's Credibility

If creating legislation is like making sausage, the shamelessly pro-industry mining bill served up last week by State Assembly Republicans on a party-line vote was made with extra helpings of contaminated offal and fatal levels of salmonella.

Thousands of hours of everyday peoples' time, and of taxpayer-paid state employees, all at incalculable cost, were willfully wasted by GOP Assembly members just to curry favor with business interests and stick it to environmentalists and Native Americans whom those legislators disrespect.

*  The bill was written by Assembly members behind closed doors - - but opened to company officials with a vested interest in digging a 22-mile long open pit iron ore mine on pristine lands near Ashland that are perilously close to the headwaters of the Bad River.

Pete Rasmussen photo
*  Once the tawdry legislative drafting process was finished, the Assembly held a poorly-planned hearing on the bill in Milwaukee County, hours away from northern Wisconsin residents whose waters and lifestyles would be most affected by the bill.

*  Then, after much criticism, the Assembly grudgingly set up a second hearing in Hurley, but that hearing was an overt and arrogant charade because the bill's basic tenets enabling the mine, minimizing permit review times and blocking rights to public participation in the process had been pre-arranged and locked in.

* So its approval in the Assembly - - with its pre-ordained give aways of public land, water, treaty rights and other legal provisions - - with all Republicans voting "Aye," and all Democrats voting "No," was a foregone conclusion.

This bill could have easily been coughed up behind the Kremlin walls in the pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union.

It was clear from the beginning of this bad but real-life theater that the Assembly bill was meant more to serve political agendas and less to dig a mine in Northern Wisconsin.

That fakery included helping the low-wattage, preposterous US Senate bid by Republican Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and letting Assembly Republicans tout their dependability on de-regulation and privatization to business groups and conservative financiers - - but all of them knew the bill would be ash-canned in the slightly less-radical State Senate.

There the GOP has only a one-vote majority, with Republicans having lost two seats last year in recall elections successfully run against GOP arrogance.

And where four more GOP senators are facing likely recall elections this spring, along with Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Kleefisch - - so watch the special State Senate mining committee chaired by the occasionally moderate Neal Kedzie, of Elkhorn, put on its hazmat gear and dump the Assembly's toxic bill, and try something different.

Even delaying its bill-writing, and bill reconciliation processes with the Assembly until the onrushing recall wave has broken.

A couple of additional observations:

The Assembly did its crude, exclusionary handiwork literally in the face of the public rebellion against the Walker administration's secretive ways.

The Assembly was willing to ignore public health and legislate a giveaway of state waters and lands, as well as long-standing Ojibwe treaty rights, to a special corporate interest even in the face of the paradigm-shifting awareness raised by The Occupy Movement - - and much of that came in response to the effects of special treatment handed by lawmakers to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class in the Wall Street bailouts.

Even Newt Gingrich sees a political opportunity there at Mitt Romney's expense, but the Assembly plowed on. You cannot get more tone-deaf than that.

A self-interested GOP majority in the State Assembly that hears only its own voice, and that of talk radio and right-wing advocacy groups, has played into the hands of the Wisconsin grassroots recall movement.

It is propelled by motivated people stung and marginalized by secretive policy-making on behalf of the 1%.

And those people are pushing back, and hard, with success in sight.


Anonymous said...

The proposed mine would be dug on private lands

James Rowen said...

All waterways in Wisconsin are in the public domain. Mining chemicals, tailings and contaminated dust migrate through water and air.

Me said...

The proposed mines will be dug on private lands. That is correct. However...
The effects of the digging and other mining activities DO NOT stay on that "private land".
This is my own main objection to mining.
Mining as currently practiced is counter to the notion of private property. The effects of sand mining, all types of mining as currently practiced DAMAGE the private property of others, decimate their property values and in many cases render the property unusable and the homes on it if any uninhabitable.
Big mining tosses the long-held institution of private property ownership in America to the winds.
it negates the private property rights of those within many miles of the mine.
You can not dynamite every day without destroying the structures for miles around. This happens near all mining ops. The mine moves in with lies and false assurances, the properties of those "near" the mines are destroyed. In many cases the word "destroyed is not exaggeration.
It is un-American to have a legal system that allows the activities on one privately owned property to destroy the proprieties around it. Yet, this is what we endure today

May I also say I am sick to death of anyone opposed to mining as currently practiced as "environmentalists". This is inaccurate as it conjures up an image of silly tree-huggers while completely ignoring people who have NO previous activity as activists, environmental or otherwise, but are simply PROPERTY OWNERS who are well aware that their own private holdings will be stolen out from under them by their new "neighbors". This post itself frames anti-mine folks as "Native Americans and Environmentalists". I am not up on environmental facts myself, I do not consider myself one of those. However I am strongly anti-mine for similar reasons that lead me to believe in the castle doctrine. I believe you all should stay the Frac off my land, the Frac out of my house and the Frac away from my body unless you have my expressed invitation. Barring that, you just keep right on movin', you're not welcome here. And stay the Frac off my friends lands too. We paid for our land, same as you. Our dollars are as green as yours, the size of the pile does not change THE LAW. Property ownership is property ownership. But not in this America anymore, right?
Miners have NO RIGHT to intrude on PRIVATE LANDS of those people for miles around them. If you can conduct your business to that it REMAINS on your own land then do so. God bless. But you don't, do you. Nope, you steal all the land for miles and miles around. Private property is pissed into the wind. There's some serious communism for ya. These people come and steal our land.

The mine property owners would not stand for another company moving in right next to the mine and engaging in a business activity that rendered that mine and all their investments in that piece of earth worthless, Nor should "small" property owners be expected to submit to such CRIMINAL behaviors.
Yes, I say criminal because that is what it is if someone steals your car" why yes it's a crime - why not your home too?

So if you want to play the "Private property card", then yes, by all means let's play that one.

Anonymous said...

If the Republicans want to abrogate the Indian treaties then fine, give them them their land back.

Rich Eggleston said...

The Assembly can't give away treaty rights guaranteed in treaties of 1837 and 1842. As the late Judge James E. Doyle Sr. (the ex-governor's father) ruled, the tribes understood they retained the right to hunt and fish on public land in the ceded territory. He never reached the issue of whether the tribes retained the right to clean water. But if the question came up, I bet federal court would rule that treaty rights include the right to clean water.

The key issue is what the Native Americans understood at the time they signed the treaties. I'd love to see J.B. Van Hollen's minions argue in court that the Ojibwe understood they were signing away their right to clean water.

James Rowen said...

@Rich. Taking on the tribes and treaties fits nicely with the Right's narrow, Tea Partyish narrative about federal influence blocking job creation and diminishing state's rights (read: "freedom.")