“I’m Just a Bill”

Wisconsin_State_CapitolAfter two years, numerous stops and starts, threatened lawsuits, high unemployment, fears of environmental catastrophe, and promises of economic opportunity, at some time today, the State Assembly will pass Senate Bill 1 that seeks to change Wisconsin’s mining laws to allow for an open-pit, iron ore mine along the Ashland and Iron County borders.

The Republican leadership in the Assembly has indicated it will set aside nine and a half hours to debate the measure today, including a substitute amendment from Democrats that does not have the votes to pass. Shortly, this bill will become a law. That’s what happens when the majority party in a Legislature want legislation and the state’s chief executive does as well.

Wisconsin’s legislature has an 18-page memo on the process of how this works that’s specific to our state, but I find the 3-minute Schoolhouse Rock video I watched as a kid related to Congress to be more enjoyable.

In this particular case however, no one’s digging up dirt and turning over rocks any time soon. The measure, when it’s signed into law, will be challenged in court. A judge or set of judges will likely determine what actually happens in that beautiful, jobs-challenged, mineral-rich area of Wisconsin.

We’ve covered the issue substantially here at Wisconsin Public Television, starting with a report I did two years ago on the issues facing the area. At the time, I told my wife, and I’ve told others since, in many ways, it’s a fascinating issue for a reporter to cover–in that, there are two completely genuine, honest, conflicting viewpoints at its core. We may hear manufactured hyperbole from some representatives today on both sides of the issue, but travel north and you find a community that truly values and prides itself on its natural scenery, but sincerely worries about the fact it’s lost 80 percent of its population over the last 50 years because there are no employment opportunities.

Today marks the end of one story and the beginning of another. Maybe some creative type will come up with another video cited for decades to come and call it, “How a Law Gets Challenged in Court.”