Assembly Passes Mining Bill: Are Votes There in the Senate?

The State Assembly Thursday on a 53-38 vote approved a bill that would allow gold and copper mining in Wisconsin again. But securing votes in the senate for an expected vote next week in support of repealing Wisconsin’s mining moratorium is proving to be difficult, even with the support of mining experts who say the bill is an environmentally and scientifically sound bill. Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader spoke with bill author, Senator Tom Tiffany,  Thursday prior to the Assembly vote. Tiffany said he still couldn’t definitively count the 17 votes needed, but is optimistic about getting enough votes by Tuesday’s expected senate vote. The bill would remove a moratorium on sulfide mining and revitalize an industry that has been dormant for the past twenty years in Wisconsin.

Media Trackers has covered much of the debate and path of the mining bill, and while the opposition from the fringe environmental groups has not changed, the bill has passed in the assembly and will head to the senate next Tuesday. Although there has been concern that the senate may not have enough votes to pass the bill, Senator Tom Tiffany told Media Trackers prior to Thursday’s vote that he’s optimistic about the situation and working with senators to get the needed votes:

 “I think we are getting there, I can’t say there is a commitment that there’s seventeen votes there yet, but I think it’s going to get there especially with the assembly passing it.”

“We’re working through a couple issues. I think you’re going to see a couple of amendments on the bill this afternoon from that assembly from Representative Hutton or Representative Spiros, and I think we get those on there and we may then be able to get that moving in the senate also.”

Republican Senators Jerry Petrowski, Sheila Harsdorf, Luther Olsen, and Rob Cowles’ votes have yet to be secured in favor for the bill. While Tiffany says Cowles is a no vote on the issue, he spoke optimistically about working the others:

“I think other than Senator Cowles, we’re trying to get all three of them there. There’s a couple of things that Senator Petrowksi office brought to us yesterday and those are reflected in the amendments that are going to be put on by the assembly today, so we’re adopting a few of those amendments and ideas that he had so we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to get there. He’s made no guarantees about that but I’m very hopeful we’re going to be able to get the votes at the end of the day next Tuesday.”


Tiffany also acknowledged the strong leadership in the assembly and their initiative in taking up the bill before the senate, and how it will bring focus in the senate to come to a decision after the assembly reaches their own. The Beloit Daily News also reported that Governor Walker voted for the bill as a member of the assembly. Tiffany spoke highly of the assembly leadership:

“Kudos to representative Hutton and leadership in the assembly site, Representative Steineke, Representative Vos, for taking the initiative to be the first house to take this up. We were under the understanding that the senate was probably going to go first, and then the assembly said last week that, you know what, it’s time to get this thing moving. I give a lot of credit to the assembly for that.”

“It doesn’t matter on a particular issue if it’s coming out of the senate or out of the assembly, when that bill comes forth from another house, then the house that has not passed it, they certainly have to put more focus on it, and that’s a really good thing that the assembly has done here.”


Although there seems to be indecision in the Senate in getting enough Republican support, Tiffany argued that this shouldn’t be a partisan issue to begin with since the bill has support from conservation groups and experts that state that mining can be done safely. He also pointed to liberal support in Minnesota on their similar mining project:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a republican or a democrat, when you have a quote from one of the leading conservation groups, and this a quote, this is an environmentally and scientifically sound bill, and that’s based on recommendations from one of the leading mining experts in Wisconsin, a man named Larry Lynch who worked his career in the department of natural resources, one of the three top mines in regards to mining policy here in Wisconsin, When that’s coming from somebody like that, it isn’t just republicans, it’s democrats that should be supporting it.”

“You’ve got governor Mark Dayton, as liberal of a democrat as possible, who is throwing his weight around the PolyMet project, the very first nonferrous mine that will be built in Northern Minnesota, this really should not be a partisan issue.”


One point of contention for some environmental groups continues to be their claim that the Flambeau mine wasn’t an example of a successful mine, although Media Trackers and numerous other sources have proven that statement false. Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty recently released a case study on the Flambeau mine that looked deeper into the mine’s history, and found that the mine was in fact found by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals to be “in compliance with the CWA (Clean Water Act).” Tiffany also spoke to Media Trackers on the Flambeau mine’s continued misconceptions:

“Stop Listening to all the white noise out there, come on up and see what actually happened in Ladysmith, because that makes the case for how you can safely do mining here in Wisconsin.”


Although there will be much debate in both houses, Tiffany(before the Assembly vote) spoke of the great impacts the bill will have on bringing back the mining industry and what that means for Wisconsin:

The assembly has a long day in front of them, we’re going to have our long day next Tuesday, but I really look forward to this bill coming out of the assembly, and it opens up an industry that has been sitting on the sidelines for 20 years.

We can do this safely. There’s a reason why we call it the “Mining for America Act”, this is good not only for Wisconsin but it’s good for the United States and I think this can help turn us. We’ve been the rust belt for thirty years, this can knock the rust out of the rust belt or help do that along with things like Foxconn to bring manufacturing and those middle class jobs back to the Great Lakes states and especially Wisconsin.

On Thursday, four Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the bill. The Republicans voting no were Reps. Jeffrey Mursau of Crivitz, Todd Novak of Dodgeville, Patrick Snyder of Schofield and Travis Tranel of Cuba City.


The full interview with Senator Tiffany can be found here: