Walker may call special session to discuss mining

MADISON -- The mining bill may not be dead after all, after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signaled that he may be willing to call a special session. Key lawmakers say they hope it can still get done.

The Wisconsin State Senate rejected the mining bill one week ago. "I think a week ago, the mining issue became a political civil war in which too many individuals were looking for political casualties instead of a responsible mining law solution," State Senator Bob Jauch (D - Poplar) said.

Gogebic Taconite, the company that would bring the mine to northern Wisconsin, and with it, jobs for the economically depressed portion of the state, said it would take its business elsewhere. However, one week later, hardened positions may be thawing. A key committee will discuss how to move forward next week. "There are a lot of people in this building continuing to discuss the issue, and I think people in this state aren't opposed to mining, they just want it done right," State Senator Dale Schultz (R - Richland Center) said.

In an interview with FOX6 News, Governor Walker said he would consider calling a special session. "We're only going to do things that have votes that actually have an impact. We're not going to do something to say we did it and not have an impact. Certainly with mining, I'm not going to call a special session just for the sake of having another vote, if the vote's not going to lead to a mine coming in and jobs associated with it," Walker said.

Democratic State Senator Jauch represents the district where the mine would be located. "We both agree that you don't need to tax the mining companies for the taconite, which saves them about $170 million. We agree there should be a more collaborative process with the regulatory agencies," Sen. Jauch said.

The Native American tribes in the area were concerned for environmental reasons. "They would like it to be an issue of jobs - okay, well let's put a nuclear waste dump there because 'hey, it creates so many jobs.' It's about the poison. It's about the environmental degradation," Mick Isham with the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission said.

Walker says Gogebic Taconite has reached its bottom line. "There was a misguided belief that they could take that vote and somehow the company would come back and weigh an alternative," Walker said.

Republican Senator Schultz says one thing will bring mining companies back to Wisconsin. "The ore is still here. It's 20 to 25 percent of this country's known reserves. As long as we can keep from choking each other over this issue, I think there's a bright future," Schultz said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Monday, March 19th to decide how they might deal with a mining compromise in a special session of the Legislature. The Legislature's regular session ends Thursday, March 15th.