MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A state Senate committee has approved a Republican bill designed to make it easier to open a massive new iron mine near Lake Superior.
The bill passed the Senate mining committee on a 3-2 party line vote Wednesday. The Assembly mining committee passed the same bill on a 10-6 party line vote earlier in the day. The votes send the measure on to the Legislature's finance committee, the last stop before the measure goes to the full Senate and Assembly.
Republicans insist the bill will help create hundreds if not thousands of jobs. Democrats counter the legislation is moving too quickly, relaxes environmental protections and won't create the jobs Republicans say it will.
Republicans made a number of revisions to the bill they say address critics' concerns.
Democrats are planning their own public hearing in northwestern Wisconsin on a Republican bill that would overhaul the state's mining regulations.
The only public hearing Republicans have held on the bill came last month in Madison. Sen. Bob Jauch of Poplar and Rep. Janet Bewley say people who live near the mine site haven't been heard. They've planned their own hearing Saturday at an Ashland hotel.
Republicans maintain the bill's provisions have been thoroughly vetted in multiple hearings over the last year and a half.
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