January 21, 2013 by Barbara With and Rebecca Kemble
On January 14, 2013, failed Tea Party candidate for Wisconsin Assembly 74th district John Sendra issued a press release announcing that a meeting of legislators and business owners had taken place the Friday evening before in Hurley. The topic of discussion was SB1/AB1, the proposed mining bill that mimics last session’s AB 426 that failed to pass the state senate. (Check out this story for a brief review of the journey AB 426 took through the legislature last year.)
According to Sendra, present at the meeting were Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), co-author of the bill, Representatives Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford), Jim Steineke (R-Vandenbroek), Mary Czaja (R-Irma) and a “frustrated” Kelly Kline (sic. Klein), member of the Iron County Development Corporation.
Neither Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) nor Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) who represent people from the region were invited to the meeting. Both of their offices confirmed that neither had been aware of it until after the fact. Both Bewley and Jauch have been sharply critical of the closed process and rushed time frames outlined by legislative Republicans that excludes a hearing on the bill up north.
“We are capable of deciding for ourselves what is good and what isn’t. My constituents deserve the opportunity to speak out, both for and against, this bill,” said Bewely in a joint statement made with Jauch today.
“This is just another arrogant show of disrespect to the citizens of Northern Wisconsin, who have had to fight to have their voices heard throughout this process, despite the fact that they would be the ones most affected by the proposed mine” said Jauch. “Not only will this hearing be next to impossible for most north woods citizens to attend, those who are able will have their testimony limited. The chairs clearly have their minds made up about the future of the bill, making this a cruel hoax, not a public hearing.”
Also left off the invitation list was Mike Wiggins Jr., Chair of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa whose reservation is downstream from the proposed mining site and stands to be catastrophically impacted by a mountain top removal project in the Penokee Hills. Chairman Wiggins said this of the secret meeting: “Echo chambers are hardly inclusive of a diverse litany of voices, nor are they rarely inclusive of wisdom.”
According to Sendra’s statement, Scott Suder said, “As I listened to local leaders, I conveyed to them that their personal stories need to be told at the mining bill hearing and to my colleagues in Madison.” He added, “They have a great story to tell and contrary to what we have heard before, they want and need the mine and the thousands of jobs which come along with it.”
Kelly Klein confirmed that Sendra, Tiffany, Suder, Steineke, Czaja and himself were present at the meeting of “about seven or eight.” That means that the stories heard by Suder were from two or three unnamed “local leaders.” Perhaps they were among the group of hard-hat wearing folk that joined Scott Walker on stage for his State of the State address last week.