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 3:36 PM 

Dem WEDC bill passes

AB 38, authored by Dem. Rep. Andy Jorgensen, passed on a 90-8 vote.  The bill would require WEDC to create a marketing assistance program, or establish grants for a program, for Wisconsin manufacturers and their products.

 3:12 PM 

Rules committee puts mining bill on Thursday calendar for special order

The rules committee special ordered the iron mining bill for Thursday's calendar, with Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder saying they intend to come in at 9 a.m. to start debate on the bill.

Suder also said they intend to come to the floor Wednesday to take up AB 36, 12, 15 and SB 2.  AB 15 is the work-share bill that has come under fire by Democrats because of the lack of a provision requiring private union representatives to sign off on a work-share program.

 2:49 PM 

Electrician licensing delay bill passed

The Assembly has passed a bill that would delay the implementation of licensing and training requirements for electricians until 2014. Current statute provides that the licensing provisions take effect  in 2013.

Democrats attempted to add amendments that would shorten or stop that delay, but all were defeated on party-line votes.

Democrats are now asking that they be recorded as voting no on the bill. Rep. Tom Larson, R-Colfax, also asked to be recorded with Democrats in voting against the bill.

 2:25 PM 

Back in session

We're on an amendment to AB 37, a bill that requires the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation set up trade and marketing forums for tier I, II and III manufacturers.

The amendment sets up a sunset provision that halts WEDC's work in setting up forums by 2016.

It looks like Democrats may have withdrawn that amendment.

 2:19 PM 

Workforce development training bill passes

On a 94-4 vote, The Assembly has passed a bill that would appropriate $15 million for workforce development training, downing several Democratic amendments in the process. The bill will now head over to the Senate.

Despite the overwhelming support for the bill, Democrats debated the utility of a provision requiring funding for a labor market information system. Democrats first proposed an amendment that would move funding for a labor market information system to the Wisconsin Technical College System. They then proposed the money for that system be shifted into the workforce development grants, boosting that amount to $20 million. Democrats have argued that the information system is unnecessary when agencies like the tech colleges have handled that role appropriately for nearly a hundred years.

"You guys are going to create another function in a state agency to duplicate what another state agency already does," said amendment author Rep. Corey Mason, D-Racine.

Mason also argued that the bill is a "half-measure to undo the damage we did last session" to technical college funding.

JFC Co-Chair John Nygren said that those systems for collecting labor market information are outdated and that the spending was justified to better connect employers and those looking for work. Bill author Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said the tech colleges and other workforce development partners are on board with creating the labor market information system.

Other amendments from Democrats -- including one requiring an audit of the program by 2015 -- all failed on party-line votes. Those votes resulted in Rep. Gary Hebl, D-Sun Prairie, arguing that the majority was "belittling the minority." That prompted Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, to "take umbrage" at the comments, noting that three of the proposed amendments came after an deadline for amendments agreed upon by both caucuses. He also pointed out that the bill passed both JFC and its Assembly committee unanimously.

"It's a great idea that not just Republicans have supported, but a great idea that Democrats have supported," Suder said.

The only representatives voting against the measure were Reps. Nick Milroy, Erik Severson, Dave Craig and Chris Kapenga.

 8:57 PM 

Senate backs mining bill

The Senate voted 17-16 this evening to approve legislation revising the state's iron mining standards, with Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, joining Dems in opposition.

Schultz said the likely outcome of the bill would not be a prosperous Ashland County, but a cycle of “boom-and-bust and environmental degradation.”

“That’s the history of these issues, and it is the height of arrogance to believe ... that it will be different this time around,” Schultz said.

Dems slammed the legislation as flawed environmentally, economically and legally.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, charged that the Legislature was about to “sell Wisconsin’s birthright” for the promise of jobs, adding that the mining company’s jobs forecast for the potential site hasn’t inspired confidence.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said the bill could have been bipartisan, but that the majority failed to strike a balance between the need for jobs and the environment. Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, called it a “joke” that the company would pay the state based on profits.

“I venture to guess we won’t see a dime for a very, very, very, very, very, very long time,” Erpenbach said.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, countered that the bill reflects Wisconsinites’ values as a “proud manufacturing state” concerned about the environment, arguing that the miner reflected on the state’s flag has “been laid off” for most of the last 40 years.

“This is the first step in the rebirth of the mining industry,” Tiffany said.

Debate was interrupted briefly by outbursts from the gallery near the beginning of debate on passage, and again when Tiffany said he took offense at remarks that he was “not an environmentalist.”

“We can have both. We can have a strong tourism economy and we can have a very strong manufacturing economy,” Tiffany said.

 7:42 PM 

Dem amendments tabled

All 13 Dem simple amendments have been turned aside on 17-16 votes, with Sen. Dale Schultz, once again, joining with the minority.

We’re now onto final passage.

 7:06 PM 

Two more Dem amendments added

Three more amendments have been turned aside by 17-16 margins, but two more are now in the queue.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, has submitted a proposal to establish training grants for mining-related jobs, and another to require that any company participating in ferrous mining “hire only Wisconsin residents to work at the mine site."

 4:31 PM 

Debate on the bill shifts to wetlands language

With the first simple amendment, the body is debating whether the portion on whether wetlands impacts should be presumed necessary or unnecessary. Democrats are arguing that the portion in the bill is a clear change to environmental regulation.

The current amendment under debate would eliminate the lines in the bill that note that iron mining will have adverse impacts on wetlands because of the fixed location of iron ore deposits.

"It's one of those cases where you're really limiting the discretion of the DNR," said Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, argued that his provision simply reflects current administrative rules. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald clarified, saying that no one believes a mining project won't impact environmental standards, but that the bill still requires standards for handling those impacts.

 3:43 PM 

The substitute amendment has been tabled

After about three and a half hours of debate, the substitute amendment has been voted down on a 17-16 vote with Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, voting not to table the amendment. We are now moving on to single amendments. We have 11 amendments to go through. While it looked like there were 17 amendments to get through, the first six other amendments were previously downed on the Joint Finance Committee.

 3:16 PM 

Debate continues on the substitute amendment

Most of the debate has been on the Democrat side, with Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, now making the point that clean water is becoming more scarse and that they need to make sure that they don't do anything to jeopardize existing water. He also said the state should not sell off state resources to an out-of-state company without recouping a decent amount of tax revenue.

"For us to do that, to put up on the auction block something so precious and have the opening bid be a quarter is absurd," Carpenter said.

Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, took issue with a previous claim made by Democrats about how much Republicans have taken from mining company interests. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign said in late-January report that backers of the mining bill had given a total of $4.25 million to legislative candidates from 2010-2012. Grothman, who was listed as receiving $52,000 in that time frame, said their computation of that amount included everything from Tavern League members to transportation interests and that it didn't only represent the contributions of direct mining interests.

He labeled Wisconsin Democracy Campaign a "shady organization" and asked the senators to ignore anything they say in the future.

 2:14 PM 

Quick detail about mining deabte

We're still on the substitute amendment, a quick note of interest: Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, just gave a lengthy floor speech explaining his opposition to the mining bill and saying that he doesn't believe the GOP bill was responsible but that the substitute amendment was. Following the speech, several tribal members in the gallery gave motions indicating clapping. Schultz was turned around and pointed to a member of the gallery -- one of the onlookers was giving him a thumbs up.

 1:16 PM 

Cowles says he'll support GOP bill, thanks Schultz for concerns

Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, said that while he understands the objections of Sens. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, he'll support the amended version of the GOP bill.

Cowles had once been thought to be a potential wild card in the mining debate because of his environmental credentials and concerns over the bill's impact on certain groundwater quality standards.

Cowles said on the floor that he was not paying as much attention to the bill last session because of a focus on personal issues in his life, but that he did have concerns about water quality that have been addressed through the amendment process.

Despite his support for the bill, Cowles said that he appreciated the "intestinal fortitude" of Schultz in holding up the bill based on his concerns. He added that he hoped his fellow senators would finally pass the GOP measure.

"It still may not be good enough for him, but I believe this bill is good enough for me," Cowles said.

Schultz previously spoke on the bill, saying that while bill author Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, may say the bill doesn't change environmental standards, his definition of those standards is "too narrow."

"I have two daughters and when it comes to assessing the men in their lives, my assessment doesn't stop at their measurable attributes such as height and weight," Schultz said to some laughter.

Schultz also decried additions of the recently passed wetland regulations to the bill, saying the lack of administrative rules for the new regulations will slow up any work on a mine. The Legislature passed an overhaul of wetland regulations last year that would allow creation of an "in lieu" system of payment for mitigation efforts and set certain ratios for mitigation banking credits. It also revised the regulations for building on wetlands to place an emphasis on mitigation of damage to wetlands over sheer avoidance of those wetlands in certain cases.

Tiffany has argued that all the changes in the bill are necessary to produce certainty in the DNR permit review process, something that mining companies need to be assured of to proceed with their plans.

 12:45 PM 

Cullen starts debate on his mining substitute amendment

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, began debate from the Democrats by touching on every major flashpoint in the bill -- including timelines, mining waste and the contested case hearing process.

"If you've got to figure out where to put 29 million tons of waste in an area that has an enormous amount of water ... where do you put the waste without putting it in the water," Cullen said. "That is the core, simple issue of this legislation."

Cullen also highlighted his substitute amendment, which is currently being considered, as relying upon the input of mining experts and environmental advocates and providing a more measured way of conducting iron mining in the state.

Cullen said that his substitute amendment's timeline -- which allows about two years for the DNR to go through the permit process -- was based upon an agreement from the George Meyer of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and Tim Sullivan of the Wisconsin Mining Association. He argued that the memorandum of understanding included in the GOP version of the bill doesn't make sense if it happens before the process has started.

"It makes much more sense to have the timeline decisions to be able to be agreed upon as the timeline unfolds," Cullen said.

Cullen is now explaining the merits of the contested case hearing.

 12:15 PM 

Winston approved as head of WHEDA

Despite separating him from the rest of the pack, Wyman Winston's appointment has been approved unanimously.

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, made a little joke afterward asking that the vote be applied to approval of his sub amendment to the iron mining bill.

 12:12 PM 

WHEDA head to be voted on separately

All but one of the appointments have been approved en masse. The appointment of Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority Executive Director Wyman Winston will be taken separately.

 12:00 PM 

Dems have amendments ready

This looks to be a lengthy debate on the Senate floor -- we have 17 amendments drafted already, in addition to a sub amendment that looks like Sen. Tim Cullen's version of the bill. Senators are not yet returning to the floor as of noon.

 9:00 AM 

Senate to take up mining bill

The state Senate will be on the floor today to take up legislation overhauling state iron mining regulations.

Today's agenda also includes 19 executive appointments, including the re-appointment of Wyman Winston as WHEDA executive direction.

The session is scheduled to convene at 11 a.m.

 2:06 PM 

Transportation resolution passes Senate

The Senate approved AJR 2, which prohibits raids on the state transportation fund, on a 25-8 vote.

The resolution has now been approved twice by both houses of the Legislature. The question will be put to voters on the November 2014 ballot.

 1:44 PM 

Transportation fund resolution turns into debate on Walker's budget plans

The substitute amendment proposed by some of the Democrats prompted a debate on Gov. Scott Walker's plans to pour general purpose revenue into the transportation fund.

Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said the Dem amendment would seek to block GPR from being poured into the state transportation fund. He said that he wanted to make sure that the state was putting education before transportation and said that the transportation fund is supposed to be self-sustaining based on the gas tax and registration fees. He added that the Walker administration did not have the "intestinal fortitude" to look at those funding sources.

Cullen also criticized any plan to sell off state power plants and place those funds and other GPR funds into the transportation fund. He claimed that the state would likely have to pay to upgrade outdated plants before they would be sold off.

"If you think they're really going to buy these power plants and take a loss, I think you've got another guess coming," Cullen said

Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, said he agreed with every point made by Cullen, but that shouldn't be inserted into a resolution to protect the fund from further raids.

"I will be along side him making sure we put kids ahead of transportation," Schultz said. "Everything he said makes sense, but it's not the issue today."

Sen. Jerry Petrowski, R-Marathon, added that the sub amendment would simply take the resolution back to first consideration.

That substitute amendment was tabled on a 19-14 vote, with Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, joining the GOP.

 12:47 PM 

Erik Johnson confirmed to Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board

Erik Johnson has been confirmed to serve on the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board, on a 30-3 vote. Sens. Tim Carpenter, Robert Wirch and Nikiya Harris all voted against confirmation.

Carpenter said that while Johnson was qualified, the fact that he resided outside of the sales tax area for Miller Park forced him to vote against confirmation. Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, said that the board's composition requires someone outside of that five-county region.

 12:43 PM 

Hall confirmed by the Senate

Reed Hall has been approved as the permanent CEO of WEDC, with only two senators (Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, and Sen. Robert Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie) voting against the appointment.

Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said he hoped that Hall could turn the organization around after some very public problems with its loan portfolios.

"We should not be tolerating fraud, waste and abuse and its prevalence showing up in the newspapers every week is unacceptable," Larson said.

 12:36 PM 

Senate will be taking up Reed Hall appointment seperately

WEDC CEO Reed Hall's appointment is being taken out of the en masse appointment vote. As has Karen Schroeder's appointment to the Educational Communications Board and Erik Johnson to the Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District Board.

We're starting with discussion of Hall, and Sen. Joe Leibham, R-Sheboygan, is speaking to his qualifications.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

 2:33 PM 

Assembly adjourned

The two bills on today’s Assembly calendar -- measures to extend a Marinette TIF district and exempt veterinarians from the state’s prescription drug monitoring program -- have been quickly passed on voice votes, and the chamber has adjourned.

 2:18 PM 

Assembly passes transportation fund amendment

The state Assembly has passed second consideration of a constitutional amendment that would ban transfers from the state transportation fund on a 82-13 vote.

The measure, if passed by the Senate unamended this session, would go before the voters in a statewide referendum.

Dems largely supported the resolution, but not before taking some shots at Republicans over other funding issues.

Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Milwaukee, offered an amendment to add other funding sources -- including the Earned Income Tax Credit, the state’s pension fund and money from a national foreclosure settlement -- before withdrawing the proposal.

Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, said the amendment “doesn’t solve all raids,” sending the signal that “highways are more important than schools; highways are more important than health care.”

Rep. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, argued pending mining legislation directs taking seg fund money for GPR just as lawmakers choose to “enshrine” the transportation fund.

“I think it’s insulting to the good judgment of people who make budgetary decisions,” Bewley said.

Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, said the public has overwhelmingly supported the measure through advisory referendums, noting the bipartisan support the amendment received last session.

“They want these funds to truly be used for what they were told they were going to be used for,” Ripp said.

 12:48 PM 

Vos says he wants to see details on MA expansion, other budget provisions

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said prior to today’s floor session that he’s withholding support of potential changes to the Medicaid program until he sees the details in a likely announcement from the governor tomorrow.

But the Rochester Republican said he likely agrees with Walker about the need to “maintain the maximum flexibility for the state.”

“I have always been very leery about taking a promise from the federal government at face value,” Vos said in a press conference. He said Walker has not indicated to him which way he is leaning in his decision about accepting federal funding to expand Medicaid.

Vos also said he wanted to see more details about new budget proposals for law enforcement and the UW System, though he conceded that incidents like the $33 million in overpayments by the UW “really weakened my confidence.”

The speaker also touted a constitutional amendment to ban transfers from the state transportation fund as a first step in protecting infrastructure funding.

Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, added he would like to see other segregated funds similarly protected, but that the transpo fund is “the largest fund, and it’s been abused the most.”

And Rep. Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, highlighted a bill to exempt veterinarians from the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. Knudson, himself a veterinarian, said the current requirement only serves to hinder veterinary practices and undermine data collected from other prescription sources.

“Including veterinarians does nothing to protect the public,” Knudson said.

 8:58 AM 

Assembly to take up transportation fund amendment

The Assembly will be on the floor today to vote on a constitutional amendment that would prevent future transfers from the transportation fund

The amendment, which is up for second consideration, cleared a Senate committee last week.

Other bills on today's calendar include measures to exempt veterinarians from the state's prescription drug monitoring program and to extend a tax incremental district in Marinette.

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