After more than nine hours of debate, and the defeat of 17 amendments sponsored by Democrats, the Republican-controlled Assembly has passed a controversial iron ore mining bill.
The bill now headed for the Governor's desk paves the way for the largest mine ever proposed in Wisconsin. Opponents of the bill say it was written for the Gogebic mining company that plans a four-mile-long pit mine in Ashland and Iron counties. Democratic state Representative Nick Milroy lives near Superior and says he's seen the environmental damage caused by iron ore mines in northern Minnesota. He says the sponsors of the bill ignored the environmental concerns of people who live closest to the proposed mine.
"You failed to listen to the people who were most affected: instead you sold us out to the highest bidder. So this is going to be the process! I'm glad that Wisconsin's open for business; I'm sad that it's for sale to the highest bidder."
Milroy and the entire Democratic membership of the assembly who voted against the bill say it allows the mining company to fill in streams and wetlands and threatens to pollute Lake Superior. They also predict the mine will never be permitted because the Bad River Indian tribe will challenge it's constitutionality in court. But Assembly speaker Robin Vos says the bill will protect the environment and lead to needed jobs, both at the mine and for companies in other parts of the state that supply the mine.
"We do everything we possibly can to make the bill constitutional, to ensure it protects the environment and that it actually creates jobs. I think we accomplished all three goals. And I'm really proud that it will be signed into law."
Governor Walker released a statement last night applauding the passage of the bill, calling it good news for the thousands of unemployed skilled workers in need of jobs.