"This affects our entire state," said Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, one of the bill's authors. "The jobs and the job cycles that will be created ... will just be amazing."
Opponents already were circling. Democrats were angry Republicans didn't include any ideas a bipartisan mining committee led by Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, developed over the summer.
Cullen told reporters after the Republicans' news conference he plans to introduce his own bill on Friday. He said he believes the GOP's measure lowers the state's environmental standards, leaving it vulnerable to lawsuits that could delay any mining projects for years.
"This bill will not increase the chances of mining by one day," Cullen said.A coalition of conservation groups that includes the Sierra Club and Trout Unlimited released a statement urging lawmakers to reject any changes to mining law, calling Gogebic Taconite's mining plans "the most destructive industrial project the state has ever faced." "We remind legislators that they represent all of Wisconsin's citizens and the clean air and water we rely on, not one mining company with a hugely destructive proposals," Dave Blouin, chairman of the Sierra Club's Wisconsin chapter's mining committee, said in the statement.