Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mining Interests Drowned State Capitol, Legislative 'Process' In Cash

Wisconsin legislative Republicans are rushing companion Senate and Assembly bills to votes on February 6th that will enable iron ore mining in Wisconsin by weakening review procedures and environmental protections.

I doubt by February 6th that legislators will have finished compiling, let alone reading, the voluminous public testimony from last Wednesday's 12-hour public hearing on the measures, or the many comments sent in by email.

Assembly mining committee chair Mary Williams, (R-Medford) described the task ahead in an email to me Monday when responding to an an email I'd sent last week checking to make sure my comment had been received:

From: Rep.WilliamsM@legis.wisconsin.gov 
Subject: RE: Comments in Opposition to mining bills for the hearing record. Thank you. 
To: "James Rowen"  
Date: Monday, January 28, 2013, 1:13 PM 
Your email was received.  We are still working our way through the thousands of emails and registration slips. 
But tell me how any legislators can vote for this bill after the non-profit watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, using public records, issued this damning report Monday:
Madison – Special interests that back loosening mining regulations for a Florida company that wants to dig an open pit iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin have contributed $15.6 million to the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Governor Scott Walker who are likely to approve mining permit changes in the coming months. 
The Democracy Campaign review also found the campaign contributions made by mining deregulation interests swamped those of mining deregulation opponents – environmental groups – by a ratio of $610 to $1. 
Environmental groups which oppose the Republican mining proposal introduced in mid-January contributed only $25,544 to legislators between 2010 and June 2012 and to the governor between 2010 and April 23, 2012.
Do hearings have any real value? Are they taken seriously by legislators, or are they pro forma Kabuki theatrics that let legislators check off a box on a bill-writing form in the state that Walker opened for business?

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