By Rebecca Kemble on February 13, 2012

Members of the Senate Committee on Mining Jobs from both parties have been telling the public that the mining bill passed by the Assembly in January was dead. They also assured the people of Wisconsin that a Senate version of the bill would move through the legislative process more deliberately and have more accessible public hearings before going to a vote.

So it came as a great surprise this afternoon when the committee announced it would be holding a hearing this coming Friday, less than four days away, in Platteville, WI, 350 miles away from the proposed mine site.

A 191-page draft of the bill was released today, along with a three-page Legislative Council memo comparing this proposal to AB 426, the bill that passed the Assembly on January 26, 2012 on a party line vote. According to the memo, the senate version, “retains most of the provisions of the bill” passed by the Assembly.

Four of the five changes identified by Legislative Council are relatively minor and have to do with tweaking language around timelines and processes. A 30-day extension of the 360-day deadline for the DNR to decide upon an application was added, and the possibility for contested case hearings was re-inserted, though they are not required as part of the process.

The fifth change involves adding a production tax of $2 per “long ton” of ore extracted to be applied after the third year of a mine’s operation and split 70/30 between local impact committees and the state’s general fund. During a public hearing last month, mining advocates from the local area raised concerns about negative economic impacts on their communities. They opposed provisions of AB 426 that funneled tax revenues to the state’s general fund instead of keeping them in the local area to build and maintain local infrastructure required to support mining operations. The addition of a production tax would likely remove their opposition to the bill.

In a Wisconsin Radio Network interview last week Chairman Neal Kedzie said he was consulting with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe in writing the Senate version of the bill. Bad River tribal officials confirmed today that they were not consulted in the writing of this draft bill. Indeed, none of the changes from the Assembly version of the bill reflect the environmental and procedural concerns raised by Bad River or the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission.

This is the second time in a week that Sentaor Kedzie and his staffers have been caught in a lie. Last week Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Kedzie’s chief of staff repeatedly told constituents that Kedzie had not signed a secrecy agreement with the law firm retained the Republican legislative leaders to draw up new legislative and congressional redistricting maps last year. The agreements were made public last week as part of a legal challenge to the maps, including one with Kedzie’s signature on it.

In a memo from the law firm Michael, Best and Friedrich enumerating talking points for Republican lawmakers as they engage the public about the maps, one stood out: “Public comments on this map may be different than what you hear in this room. Ignore the public comments.”

Ignoring public comments seems to be the guiding principle for the Republicans in all of their endeavors this year. Senator Kedzie’s broken promises do not bode well for relations between the tribes and the State of Wisconsin. Before the Assembly vote on AB 426 last month, Bad River tribal members vowed to fight any bill that would allow for the pollution and environmental destruction of the Penokee Hills and the headwaters of the Bad River upon which the tribe depends. This fight will escalate with the release of this bill and the continued disregard of public comments, treaty rights and the Public Trust Doctrine by Republican lawmakers.

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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