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Wisconsin Assembly passes controversial mining bill 58-39Submitted: 03/07/2013

Lane Kimble
Managing Editor/Anchor
lkimble@wjfw.com


MADISON - You can find the Republican's mining bill sitting on the Governor's desk Thursday night. The state Assembly passed the bill 58-39 just before 6:30 p.m.

Debate on the bill started around 9 a.m.

Lawmakers first had to get through 17 assembly amendments proposed by Democrats.

They have three big concerns with the GOP bill: making sure jobs are specifically created for Wisconsin workers, keeping the power to fight pollution in the hands of the taxpayers and maintaining the state's environmental protections.

Ashland Democrat Janet Bewley says she spoke with Gogebic Taconite's leaders about the mine. She quoted that conversation.

"I said, 'Do I have your word?'," Rep. Bewley said. "He said, 'Really. We don't want to change environmental law. We don't need to. Wisconsin has a strong tradition. We do not need to change environmental law,' and we shook hands.

We shook hands."

All 17 amendments were tabled on party-line votes, typically 59 to 39.

Republicans spent most of the day fighting the claims that they aren't concerned about people or the environment in the north.

"We also make sure you cannot fill in lake beds, you cannot fill in lakes," Abbotsford Rep. Scott Suder said.

"And again, you can't change the flow capacity of the stream. So, I understand the 'gotcha' amendments. But if you read the bill and talk to (legislative) council, you'll realize I'm correct, these statements are correct. Those are the facts behind the bill and to say otherwise is simply untrue."

The Governor likely will sign the bill soon, but Democrats and members of the Bad River tribe are promising to take the bill to court.

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"It's unbelievable, the way I put it," said logger Jaden Streu. "There are a lot, a lot of jobs and a lot of people that are retiring."

Streu graduated from Florence High School this spring and immediately went to work for his family's business, CTL Timber Harvesting.

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"I think the big thing is, this industry is changing, from some of the equipment [the students] saw that was working here today. It's highly technical equipment," Florence District Administrator Ben Niehaus said.

"My favorite station was the sawmill," said Florence fourth grader Hannah Holdaway. "I didn't know that they cut it with a machine. I thought they just cut it with a saw."

"I think they leave here with a whole different perspective of, 'Wow, this isn't just a chainsaw and something that looks like a bulldozer that picks wood up and decks it on a log truck. There's a lot more to it,'" Niehaus said.

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"We hope that they leave [saying], 'This ain't bad. This is a good thing,'" he said.

Hopefully, as Streu sees it, some of these learners will someday become his coworkers in the forest.

"We need the younger generation to come in, like me, to take it over and keep it going," Streu said. "It's a family business and I can have kids, hopefully, and be able to show them and bring them up in it and keep it going generations after generations."

Students from both Florence and Wabeno came to the Log-A-Load day.

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