By Rebecca Kemble on February 15, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R – Juneau) adjourned the Senate yesterday afternoon only to reconvene a minute past midnight this morning in order to pass a controversial wetlands deregulation bill at the earliest possible opportunity. During the afternoon session, Senator Chris Larson (D – Milwaukee) objected to a third reading of the bill, which meant that the body couldn’t vote on it until the next scheduled business day.

The Senate did take up and debate several amendments to the bill in the afternoon. During the debate the bill’s author Neal Kedzie (R – Elkhorn) said he has been trying to get this bill, or some version of it, passed for a dozen years. He said that when Scott Walker came into office thirteen months ago, “the opportunity presented itself to revisit these initiatives.”

 

A key aspect of the bill creates something called “wetland mitigation banks,” allowing developers to fill in wetlands in one part of the state and mitigate the loss of wetlands elsewhere by purchasing land and creating a new wetland. The new wetland does not have to be in the same watershed as the one being filled in. All conservation and most outdoor sports organizations have registered against the bill.

In a public hearing on the bill last month, Kedzie asserted that deregulation was necessary to reduce the amount of bureaucracy involved with developer’s ability to fill in wetlands. Larson shot back at him, “Mr. Chair, I think you’re mispronouncing democracy. This is not bureaucracy, this is democracy.”

Although Kedzie claims that all stakeholders and interest groups were at the table for the crafting of the bill, Democrats pointed out that having a seat at the table is not equivalent to having your concerns met in the legislation. Senator Robert Wirch (D – Pleasant Prairie) said, “the manufacturers and realtors voices were heard on this bill, but not the sportsmen.” Bob Jauch (D – Poplar) added, “This bill places economic development ahead of protecting our resources, and uses mitigation as a means of convenience for developers.”

Senator Dale Schultz (R – Richland Center) who has been held up by Democrats as a potential swing vote on controversial issues came out solidly in favor of the bill. “There are few efforts I have made in legislature that I’ve enjoyed more than working on this bill with the Senator from the 11th (Kedzie).” He also asserted that he has, “made every effort to listen to everyone while writing a bill that would be a little more friendly to job creation.”

At the end of the Senate’s afternoon agenda, Senator Fred Risser (D – Madison) moved to withdraw a bill restoring collective bargaining rights to public workers from committee and put it on the Senate calendar for debate. That infuriated Fitzgerald, who launched into a bizarre tirade about Kathleen Falk and her ties with unions. Falk is a Democrat who has thrown her hat into the race for Governor once Scott Walker is officially recalled. At the end of his rant, Fitzgerald moved to adjourn until 12:01am to vote on the bill. His motion passed on a 17 – 16 party line vote. 

One year into the Walker-Fitzgerald regime, the people of Wisconsin know how to respond to outrageous political moves such as calling a senate floor session for midnight. As soon as it was announced shortly before 5pm, a pajama party was organized through on-line social networks.

About a hundred people showed up, some coming from as far away as Stevens Point, two hours away. One person was arrested for holding a cross in the gallery and allegedly resisting arrest. After a brief disruption of the proceedings by people in the gallery at the beginning of the session, the bill was passed within ten minutes. Only one senator, Chris Larson, stood to speak to the bill.

 

Democrats attempted more procedural moves to delay the messaging of the bill to the Assembly who are scheduled to take it up during their floor session on Thursday, to no avail.

Scott Fitzgerald abruptly moved to adjourn at about 12:25am. People in the gallery erupted with cries of, “Shame! Shame! Shame!” and, "Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Scott Fitzgerald has got to go!"

 

Rebecca Kemble is an Anthropologist who studied decolonization in Kenya. She serves on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and as the President of the Dane County TimeBank.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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