Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beware Those 'Mining Bill Dead' Stories

[originally posted at 10:15 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 29] It is true that the mining bill is still stalled in the Legislature - - principally due to the principled stand by State Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center) against the Assembly's version that gives away state water quality and Native American treaty-protected resources to an iron ore mining company - - but notices of the bill's imminent death in the Senate (where all Democrats oppose the Assembly measure, with Schultz's opposition being the keystone) in the waning days of the current Legislative session may be premature, or a tactical move by proponents to force a last-minute, flawed 'compromise.'

And remember these things:

* Walker is out campaigning hard for a bill, since jobs are being shed during his roiled tenure and he wants a victory with "jobs" in the headline.

*  The current legislative session ends March 15. Two weeks is a long time in politics, especially when one party controls all the machinery, is driven by a pro-industry agenda and has media-savvy wealthy allies among conservative advocacy groups..

Parliamentary barriers? Consider that State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, (R-Juneau), imperiously turned the Legislature upside down over mining proposals two weeks ago when, within a few hours, he and/or his staff:

*  Eliminated a special committee he'd created with Sen. Neal Kedzie, (R-Elkhorn) purportedly in charge, because Kedzie had rolled out a draft bill with too many environmentally-friendly, public-participation provisions - - and, horror of horrors, a minuscule per-ton mining fee for restoration work and mitigation costs borne by localities in the way of mining shovels and trucks.

*  Cancelled a public hearing that the special committee had scheduled.

*  Ended any possibility of a second hearing up North, where mining will have the most deleterious effects on tourism, water quality, everyday life and treaty-protected wild-rice harvesting by the Bad River band.

Redirected the Assembly's bill to the Joint Finance Committee for consideration, since by that time a majority of GOP Senators had turned their back on the special committee's draft and plan (their colleague Kedzie under the bus, notwithstanding) and signed on to the Assembly bill instead.

*  Set in motion a talk radio and media campaign against the special committee's draft and plan and in support of Fitzgerald's support for the Assembly bill, email records show. 

*  AM 620 WTMJ conservative radio talker Charlie Sykes got the information about the GOP senators' Fitzgerald-led support for the Assembly bill by email from Fitzgerald's office at 9:18 a.m. on Wednesday, February 15 - - and devoted time that morning to it - - after which other media began talking to Fitzgerald's office later that day about the change in legislative strategies, according to documents released to me on February 23 by Fitzgerald's office under an Open Records request.

Sykes teased the subject early in his show that morning of the 15th, and then discussed it in detail in the show's first 90 minutes, as his podcast indicates.

All this maneuvering, and changing of schedules and committees, and mindfulness of the Senate's arcane rules to breathe new life into the Assembly version was so deft and so swift that State Sen. Tim Carpenter, (D-Milwaukee), a member of the special committee that Fitzgerald had terminated, emailed Fitzgerald and other GOP Senators (Kedzie, State Sen. President Mike Ellis, (R-Neenah) on Wednesday, February 15, at 4:13 PM - - as Fitzgerald's coup against the Kedzie plan was well underway - - with this question - - that went unanswered, documents show:

My Esteemed Fellow Senators,

Can you please explain why this highly unusual maneuver was made? As [a] Senator who has tried to act in a Bipartisan fashion, I am deeply disturbed by this unfortunate act.

A deposed member - Select Senate Mining Committee
Tim Carpenter.
The point is that Fitzgerald, aided by his brother Jeff, the Assembly leader, could force a 'compromise' to the floor for a vote and transmission to Walker for a signature very, very quickly.

Best thing to do:

Tell Dale Schultz you appreciate his stance, urge him to be firm and urge your friends to do the same:


Dom said...

Right on, Jim

Say What? said...

Once again, the talking puppets get their strings pulled both ways.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points made here. And if you haven't emailed State Senator Schultz to thank him yet, please do so.

Jake formerly of the LP said...

Great rundown. I especially like the coordination you show between Fitzgerald and Sykes, and it makes you wonder who's the one calling the shots for both of them.

Referenced and retweeted, as this is good work that our "professional" media refuses to do.

James Rowen said...

@Jake -- Many thanks.