The State Assembly has passed a contentious mining bill, sending it straight to the governor.
The passage Thursday evening followed a marathon day of more than nine hours of debate.
Supporters of the mining bill had a simple pitch all along—a new iron ore mine would bring a lot of jobs.
"It opens the door towards potentially thousands of jobs over the next several years," said Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday, hours before the bill passed the Assembly, 58 to 39.
"I'm incredibly proud of the fact that the Assembly, after over a year's debate on a really important issue for Wisconsin's working families, was able to pass a great bill," said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Burlington).
"I think if we were doing our job today we would have listened, we would have amended this bill, and we would have sent it back for some more work," said State Rep. Fred Clark (D-Baraboo).
The bill eases the path for a Florida company, Gogebic Taconite, to open a giant iron-ore mine, just south of Lake Superior.
But opponents say the mine will devastate the environment. Many Democrats spoke against the bill Thursday and tried many times—unsuccessfully—to change it.
"What this is is, the polluter lobbyists, Scott Manley, combined with a out-of-state strip mine company lobbyist, to weaken our drinking water, health care, environmental laws," said State Rep. Brett Hulsey (D-Madison).
"There's no guarantee that this mining company will hire Wisconsin workers," added State Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson). "In fact, they could set up shop without adding one job for the people of the north."
Tribal leaders held a news conference during the assembly debate, saying they'll fight the mine. But in the end, the bill passed.
"We do everything we possibly can to make the bill constitutional, to ensure that it protects the environment, and that it will actually create jobs," said Vos. "I think it accomplishes all three goals."
The measure now goes to the governor, who's promised to sign it. There's already talk about challenging the newly-passed mining bill in court.
The governor's spokesman said the governor plans to sign the mining bill early next week.
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