UPDATE: Senate approves mining bill - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Senate approves mining bill

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The state Senate approved the Republican mining bill on a 17-16 vote.

It took nine hours of debate and one Republican joined Democrats to put up quite a fight.

Last year, Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) was the only Republican to vote against a mining bill, killing it by one vote.

On Wednesday, he was again the only Republican senator to vote against a nearly identical bill, but this time he could only watch as his GOP brethren passed it on a 17-16 vote.

Sen. Tim Cullen (D-Janesville) offered the alternate mining bill he wrote with Sen. Schultz as a substitute to the Republican bill. Once Republicans tabled that, Democrats then offered 11 amendments to the Republican bill, which were also shot down.

Democrats still contend that the Republican bill strips too many of Wisconsin's environmental regulations just to appease one mining company, Gogebic Taconite. The company plans to establish an open pit iron ore mine just south of Lake Superior. 

Republican senators say they are proud to finally pass a bill that will allow them to do that.

"It just became so clear to me that we can do this. And we can do it in an environmentally safe manner. We have the technology, we have the know how," said Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst).

"The people of Wisconsin are really wondering who's priorities they're pushing? And I think the folks like WMC, the special interests again show by having a lot of money, you're able to get the bills that you want," said Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

WMC is Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, a strong proponent of the bill, which now moves on to the Assembly, where its passage is a forgone conclusion.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the measure next Wednesday.

Democrats say even once the governor signs the bill into law, it will be stuck in the courts for years as both environmental groups and Native American tribes are expected to file lawsuits.

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The state Senate is currently debating a Republican bill that would rework Wisconsin's mining regulations and ease the regulatory path for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior.

Republicans maintain the mine will create hundreds of jobs, but Democrats and Republican Sen. Dale Schultz take issue with how the bill relaxes environmental protections. 

WKOW Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann is at the hearing and says it appears Democratic Senators are trying to prolong the session as long as they can before voting.  

Democrats began debate on the Senate floor Wednesday as members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior, whose reservation lies just north of the mining site, gathered in a hearing room down the hall from the Senate chamber in a show of opposition.

Republicans control the Senate and the bill is likely to pass in that chamber, and then pass in the state Assembly next week before going to the desk of Governor Scott Walker for his signature. 

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