Senate starts debate on mining bill

Bill would rework state mining regulations

Published On: Feb 27 2013 07:48:27 AM CST   Updated On: Feb 27 2013 05:15:34 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. -

Debate on the controversial, Republican-backed mining bill Wednesday has stretched several hours in the state Senate, where a similar measured died a year ago.

Senators heard Democrats' amendments early Wednesday afternoon. Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said the changes would better protect the environment and taxpayers.

But Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, who praised others for holding up last year's mining bill and is seen by some as a moderate on environmental issues, said he would vote for this year's version.

"This bill is good enough for me," Cowles said. In the same speech on the floor, he thanked Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, for "having the guts" to stop the 2012 bill.

Earlier, Schultz backed the Democratic amendments. Even without him, Republicans have a 17-16 vote advantage.

The proposal is designed to ease the regulatory path for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Republicans maintain the mine will create hundreds of jobs.

Republicans control the Senate, making passage all but inevitable. The Republican-controlled Assembly is expected to approve the bill next week and send it on to Gov. Scott Walker for his signature.

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