As Assembly Republicans rush their flawed mining bill to a premature vote, a prominent business executive writes that the hole being dug through an unfair process to produce an open pit mine near Ashland just might swallow the mine's supporters instead.
John Torinus, a SE Wisconsin business leader with a blog, says the state needs mining jobs but not the company and Assembly's one-sided process to grease the skids with fast-tracked legislation and permit approvals.
So, the politics surrounding this mine pivot around two deeply important priorities in Wisconsin: the need to rebuild the state’s damaged job base and its citizens’ reverence for precious lands and waters. Given the passion and complexity surrounding the proposed mine in the Penokee Range, an orderly and transparent political process should be paramount if consensus is to be reached.
The process so far has been anything but orderly and transparent.
Not surprisingly then, the bill lacks anything resembling consensus...
• The bill was put together behind closed doors by Republican assemblymen, some anonymous, with input from Gogebic and WMC. Democrats, Bad River native Americans and environmentalists had no voice in the draft. That one-sided process led to their outright opposition to the bill as proposed.
• A pre-draft hearing was held in Hurley, where signs around town read:
“Mining – Our History
Mining – Our Culture
Mining – Our Future”
A single post-introduction hearing was held in West Allis, a process blunder that infuriated locals on both sides of the mining issue in Iron and Ashland Counties. Pressure from two northern Democrats in the minority, who called their own hearing, prompted the Republicans to hurriedly call a much-needed second committee hearing in Hurley.
• Republicans, who, for now, control both houses of the legislature and governorship, plan to push the bill quickly to passage prior to almost-certain recall elections this spring.
That fast-track process may prove to be shortsighted. Building a mine is an elongated, multi-year project, and it is entirely possible that the GOP will not be in control of both houses and/or the governor’s chair come this fall. GTAC could run into many hurdles down the road raised by today’s opponents who have been shunted out of the process.