The iron mining bill has passed the Assembly on a 58-39 vote along party lines. Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Hartford, was not present and did not vote. The bill now goes to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.
Speaker Pro Tem has told the body that there are 20 people left in the speaking queue and that there are about two hours left in debate. Based on the speaking length up to this point, eight people are not going to get a chance to speak.
During the debate on final passage, several Dems decried the iron mining bill, saying again that the proposed GTAC mine is likely to cause environmental damage and that the DNR's hands would be tied to do much about it.
Several Democrats said that the bill violated the Public Trust Doctrine and would likely be subject to lawsuits.
"Admit that this is going to be in court for a long time, and stop calling it a jobs bill," said Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine.
Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, at one point offered a sketch of an alternative proposal, which he dubbed "Brett's mine" saying that a smaller, more responsible mining project could get approved in one and a half years under current law. But he warned that a new mining bill would do nothing to create a new mine.
"If you pass this bill, there will not be a mine and there will not be mining jobs," Hulsey said.
Rep. Jim Ott, R-Mequon, said that potential for lawsuits shouldn't detract from the need to create a bill that will create jobs and said that they should go ahead and "sue us."
"But that's not going to stop us from doing our job, which is to pass legislation that will be good for our state and improve our employment situation," Ott said.
Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, said there was a "false argument going on that there is business on one side and the environment on the other side." He argued that he would rather have mining companies extracting iron ore in Wisconsin, where proper infrastructure exists to support mining, than in a place like the Amazon rainforest, where mining companies are currently looking to excavate iron ore.
During a speech from Rep. Paul Tittl, R-Manitowoc, a man stood up and started yelling from the gallery.
When Tittl, describing a time at which presidents of manufacturing companies would set down to eat with local police and firefighters, he posed the question of what they had in common.
At that point, a man from the audience stood up and answered that question with a different answer. The man was removed from the gallery after shouting some more, pointing toward the person to his right and saying something about how it was a good thing he didn't have a knife on him and then yelling to the audience that he is just trying to make the world a better place. Much of his yelling was indistinguishable, including one mention about "the Palo Alto of Wisconsin."
"I'm not a criminal," the man shouted as he was taken away.
"You are now," responded Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer.
A group of leaders from tribes throughout Wisconsin voiced their support for the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s opposition to the mining bill during a Capitol press conference this afternoon.
Mike Wiggins, Jr., chairman of the Bad River Band, said he didn’t believe the event would change anyone’s vote in the Assembly today, but that his intent was, instead, to encourage all Wisconsinites to consider the long-term effects of the measure.
“AB/SB 1 sits as a piece of legislation that was essentially drafted to facilitate … environmental harm,” Wiggins said.
He added that each of the tribes represented today, like the Bad River Band, are “inextricably linked” to the waters and lands of the state.
Joseph Miller of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community asked why lawmakers would “present something that is so divisive to this state?”
“We know the majority of the state of Wisconsin stands with us against this mine,” Miller said.
We’re now onto simple amendment 13 after Republicans tabled four more proposed Dem changes.
They included amendments Dems said would restore the DNR’s ability to issue stop orders in the case of an “immediate and substantial” health threat, as well as move the contested case process to prior to the issuing of a mine permit.
Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said the contested case language as written would amount to trying to put “the toothpaste back in the tube.”
“The minute a permit is issued, the shovels will hit the ground, the hole will be dug,” Goyke said.
“Let’s allow the citizens of this state to have some rights left,” added Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.
During a debate on a simple amendment that would restore money for mining skills grants, Speaker Robin Vos clarified why the provision -- which was included in a compromise bill drafted last year -- was removed: the mine simply wouldn't get up and running that fast.
Vos, responding to a question from Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, Vos said that there is "no point in putting this money aside" for something that will happen well outside of the scope of the this budget cycle. Republicans said that debate over the timeline has made it clear that the project won't get under way until 3-4 years down the line.
While Vos did say that he believed money would be put forward in a future budget cycle for these skills training grants, that would not happen today.
On a separate note, Democrats are still being cut off at the two-minute mark by Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer. Democrats are starting to ask for a more courteous approach on the time limit.
The Assembly has tabled the second substitute amendment by a 60-38. Dem Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, voted with Republicans on the tabling of those amendments. We're now on to simple amendments.
The last debate included a maiden speech from freshman Rep. Katrina Shankland, who said that the bill would contribute to the "genocide" of the Bad River tribe in the area due to possible pollution of their watershed.
Right now, Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer has been strictly monitoring the time limit of speakers, with Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca being cut off near the end of his speech and Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink, D-Milladore, getting cut off at her two-minute mark.
While it looks like the Democrats are going to limit debate to about an hour on their first substitute amendment, Democrats came out of the gate saying that Republicans went about the mining bill the wrong way.
Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, said that the state Legislature seemed to go out of its way to appease a mining company at the expense of the environment, saying that it "started out by asking the wrong question."
"How far do we have to bend over backwards to get a mine, any mine, built here in Wisconsin at any price," Clark said.
Clark said that they'll be speaking throughout the debate about how the bill abdicates Wisconsin's responsibility to protect the environment.
Speaker Robin Vos countered that Republicans have made an effort to improve the original bill they started with two years ago and that the Department of Natural Resources is still empowered to enforce environmental standards.
However, Vos said that some members of the Democratic caucus were being unrealistic if they wanted standards that ensured absolutely no damage would occur as a result of mining.
"That's just impossible," Vos said. "So if that's the standard it's going to take get member to vote for this bill, I guess I can't expect people to change their minds."
The Assembly has concurred in SB 2 by a 59-37 margin, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.
The bill largely removes the secretary of state from the process of publishing enacted legislation, instead delegating that authority to the Legislative Reference Bureau.
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater and the bill’s author, said the decision by Secretary of State Doug La Follette with regard to publishing Act 10 in 2011 exemplified the archaic nature of the provision.
Nass said the current 10-day window for the secretary to publish legislation dates to a time before modern technology, but is “very, very arbitrary” today. He added that the bill would remove politics from the publication process, saying the measure was not meant to retaliate over how the collective bargaining bill was enacted.
“It treats all bills the same, equally,” Nass said.
Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, countered that the bill was “mean and vindictive,” proposed “out of spite for what happened two years ago.”
The state Assembly passed AB 15 on a 74-22 vote. The bill would allow employers to reduce their employees’ hours for six months out of a five-year span as an alternative to implementing layoffs.
Democrats praised the intent of the legislation, but said it should include language from most other states with similar programs that requires consideration of private sector unions. They sought to restore that aspect of the bill, arguing that the state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council had recommended a similar measure.
“Do what is required under federal law. Do what your constituents want you to do,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said.
“This is labor and management working together to do the right thing.”
Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, countered that such a measure would be redundant, since union members would be notified of such a plan if required under their current collective bargaining agreements.
During a press conference prior to session, Brooks called his bill “another tool in the toolbox of the state of Wisconsin to really be more worker-friendly.”
Rep. Christine Sinicki, D-Milwaukee, disputed the argument that the previous language was redundant.
“This language is there to protect every single worker,” Sinicki said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said prior to today’s Assembly session that Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, has not broken any laws and will not be disciplined by the body despite what he said was behavior that “could be described, fairly, as odd.”
News reports indicated that a Hulsey staffer went to leadership with concerns about her safety, and that the second-term lawmaker had discussed bringing weapons onto the Assembly floor.
Vos, R-Rochester, said that nothing Hulsey did rose to the level of requiring discipline, but that he hoped Hulsey would “look in the mirror” and act more carefully.
“Rep. Hulsey needs to answer to the people who elected him,” Vos said.
Vos also said that while he remains optimistic that school choice will be expanded in the budget, it is too early to begin discussing potential changes with Senate Republicans who were hesitant to embrace the expansion laid out by Gov. Scott Walker.
The speaker said today’s calendar, meanwhile, includes bills either eliminating unneeded regulations or attempting to keep people employed. He called a measure to establish a work-share program in the state “a great tool that we’ve seen work in other states.”
The state Assembly will be in today to vote on legislation that would strip the secretary of state of his role in publishing state laws.
The calendar also includes a bill that would allow employers to make full-time employees part-time to avoid layoffs. The legislation has prompted concerns from Dems that it’s anti-union, foreshadowing a potentially contentious debate on the Assembly floor.
The other measures scheduled for today -- changes to the responsibilities of the Legislative Audit Bureau and allowing the sale of alcohol at Peninsula State Park -- both passed the Senate on voice votes yesterday.
The Senate has passed the final bill on the day’s agenda, concurring in AB 35 to alter licensing requirements for electricians.
The bill -- the only one on today’s agenda that did not pass unanimously -- moved to the governor’s desk on a 18-15 vote.
Dems alleged the bill breaks a commitment to the state’s electricians that was passed in broadly supported licensing legislation five years ago. They also said changing the requirements jeopardizes license reciprocity in other states.
Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, called it a “slap in the face to all who worked on this bipartisan legislation.”
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, countered that the bill passed five years ago has drawn concerns from landlords, business groups and, among others, Habitat for Humanity.
“Apparently, like so many bipartisan things, both sides were wrong,” Grothman said.
Sen. Jauch, meanwhile, arrived in the chamber during debate and will be recorded with the majority on the previous votes.
The state Senate is scheduled to be on the floor later today to take up $15 million for workforce training grants that passed the Assembly last week.
Other bills on the calendar include licensing requirements for electricians, the responsibilities of the Legislative Audit Bureau, a TIF district in Marinette and permitting the sale of alcohol at Door County's Peninsula State Park.