State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.
The past two years have been remarkable in many ways. The Legislature and Governor balanced the budget, held the line on taxes, and signed into law countless bills about issues ranging from tort reform to voter photo ID. However, there is one critical bill from last session still on the table.
The mining bill, originally introduced last winter, would reform Wisconsin’s archaic and burdensome ferrous mining regulations to attract mining operations to northern Wisconsin. The economic benefits of an iron mine include thousands of quality jobs for some of our state’s poorest areas near Lake Superior, as well as new business for Milwaukee-area mining equipment manufacturers. In all, the mine would bring over $1.5 billion in initial investment to the state. The mine would function for decades.
Last winter the legislature held hours of committee hearings at multiple locations. Amendment after amendment was proposed, and many adopted. The legislative process was on display for all to see, and legislators heard from all sides. The result was a quality bill that balanced legitimate environmental concerns with economic feasibility.
Unfortunately, after passing the state Assembly on a 59-36 vote, the mining bill was defeated 17-16 in the Senate. It was frustrating seeing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars evaporate based on a razor-thin majority margin.
Now, the issue is back. Democrats control the Senate and have called three hearings about mining legislation. At first this may seem a positive step. However, they have publicly stated that last session’s bill will not be used as a starting point. And I say: why not?
As far as I am concerned, the bill that passed the Assembly by 23 votes and had 16 of 17 votes in the Senate is the way to go. Governor Walker was ready to sign it, and the mining company was poised to begin construction. There is simply not a reason to completely throw it away.
When billions of dollars and thousands of Wisconsin jobs hang in the balance, we don’t have time for a dog and pony show. We need action.