Lame Duck Senate Moving Forward on Mining

When outlining priorities for the coming legislative session, Gov. Walker and Republican leaders in the state legislature have indicated modifying Wisconsin’s mining law will be one of the first orders of business. Although the legislative session does not begin until January, the post-recall, Democrat-controlled Senate has been working on a mining bill since September, and there is talk of a bill being drafted before the end of the year.

Sen. Tim Cullen has been presiding over the Senate Select Committee on Mining since the Democrats took control of the Senate during this summer’s recall elections. The committee has now held five hearings. (Videos of all of the committee’s hearings are available on WisconsinEye.) The last being a sort of brainstorming session where Cullen summarized the ideas he believed should be included in future mining legislation based on testimony the committee heard and facilitated a committee discussion on those ideas.

Sen. Cullen has asked for a bill to be drafted based on the foundational ideas discussed at the latest hearing and intends to hold hearings on the draft. However, time is running out on getting this done as Sen. Cullen is presiding over a lame duck committee that will no longer exist come January when he will be in the minority party. Cullen said he plans to introduce the bill in the new session or offer it as a substitute amendment to any bill resembling last session’s AB 426. He went on to say that there is really no way to take half of one bill and half of the other and merge them into one as there are fundamental differences between the two.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has stated that last session’s AB 426 is the place to start on any mining legislation. The bill easily passed the Assembly and failed by only one vote in the Senate before session ended. Fitzgerald has appointed Tom Tiffany, a former member of the Assembly who was elected to the Senate in November, chair of the Senate’s Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue Committee. Tiffany was a strong supporter of the AB 426 last session.