On mining in Wisconsin: Let's get the job done, and let's get it done right.
There should be no excuses, no wails of protest, no stalling and no gamesmanship when the state Legislature reconvenes today for a new session.
Instead, we need earnest discussion, reasonable deliberation and, ultimately, workable solutions to reform Wisconsin's mining permitting laws.
Many hundreds of good-paying mining jobs and thousands of other jobs in related occupations are at stake — jobs that would inject much-needed vitality into the state economy, and especially so in the economically challenged North Woods, which is prime mining territory.
Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leaders have pledged that jobs are Job No. 1 in this new session. There is no better way to "walk the talk" than working with Democrats to bring forth a bipartisan mining bill that removes unworkable requirements from the current permitting process while still holding a firm line on necessary environmental protections.
This is not rocket science or brain surgery. It is finding a way to preserve air, water and soil quality while opening the door to hundreds of millions of dollars of economic development.
Along with protecting the environment, the length of time required for the permitting process and the amount of public input allowed have been controversial. All three are very solvable.
A mining bill failed by a close margin last session when Republican Sen. Dale Schultz of Richland Center broke ranks with his GOP colleagues and voted against the bill, citing a lack of environmental protections.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, made some good strides when he chaired a special committee in late 2012 that explored options for a new mining bill. Cullen was in a leadership role for a brief period of time between the summer recall elections and the November election, when Republicans regained control of the Senate at 18-15.
Now, with a more solid majority in the Senate, Republicans could, in theory, push through any mining bill they wanted. But ramming through a highly contested bill would be the wrong approach.
Rather, let's build on Cullen's committee work and get the job done right, in a bipartisan way.