Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Work of legislature is work of committees

by Neal Kedzie - State Senator

October 06, 2011

There is an old saying, perhaps just among legislators, that it would take a year for the Legislature to make instant coffee.

It is adage that offers a glimpse of how the legislative process works, and how a slow, deliberative process is often necessary in our form of government. Within this legislative process is the laborious task of reviewing, discussing, revising, and potentially voting on literally hundreds of bills submitted to various Assembly and Senate committees. While seemingly tedious at times, it is an essential component in order to produce the most sound public policy.

Generally speaking, most of the work of the Legislature is done in committee. It is at the committee level where the public, organizations, state agency officials, and experts are all able to provide their thoughts and opinions expressing support or opposition to a bill.

Concurrently, legislators of both parties are able to gather information, ask questions, and weigh the merits of a bill, as they formulate their position. Committees are often a sounding board where legislation may be praised or criticized, and potentially changed or amended, if needed. Committees are vital to the spirit of open and honest government, and each play a role in the preservation of an individual's right to petition their government.

Recently, new Senate committee assignments were announced, including some new additions to my legislative duties. I will continue to serve as chair of the Natural Resources and Environment Committee, vice-chair of the Judiciary, Utilities, Commerce, and Government Operations Committee, and as a member of the Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education Committee. With the new assignments, I will also serve as the co-chair of the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems and vice-chair of the Energy, Biotechnology, and Consumer Protection Committee.

I was also just recently named chair of the new Senate Select Committee on Mining Jobs. The Select Committee has been charged with the task of reviewing Wisconsin law, specifically as it applies to a potential iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

The committee will examine Wisconsin's current mining regulations, and determine if revisions are in order to address any special circumstances relating to this project. The committee must consider how a potential future mine proposal could go forward, while also protecting our state's environment and natural resources.

At hand is the potential to create thousands of good-paying jobs in the short and long-term in an area of the state in dire need of both. It will be our mission to give Wisconsin citizens the opportunity to discuss issues relating to job creation, employment, and economic development, along with the protection of Wisconsin's natural resources.

As chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee — both past and present — I have had the opportunity and privilege to work on many significant pieces of legislation which seek to balance the needs of the economy and the environment.

Some of those include the 1999 Wetlands Mitigation Act, the 2001 Isolated Wetlands Act, the 2003 Green Tier Act, the 2003 Groundwater Protection Act, and most notably, the work of the Special Committee on the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact, which led to the enactment of the 2007 Great Lakes Compact Act. None of those legislative successes would have been possible without the careful scrutiny and labor-intensive work by committee members of both political parties. The Senate Select Mining Jobs Committee will be no different.

As the Legislature continues its work this session on economic development and jobs creation initiatives, it will be important to watch the work of the individual standing committees, perhaps as equally or even more so than the work of the Senate and Assembly as a whole.

While some may bemoan the number of times either House may meet on the floor, the legislative committees are continually meeting and lawmakers are constantly busy, shuffling from one committee meeting to the next. The goal being sound public policy which a majority of both Houses can support and advance to the desk of the Governor for his review. As noted, it is a lengthy, but necessary, process.

With the Fall session right around the corner, I look forward to these new responsibilities and am hopeful our ideas for a more efficient and effective government are the catalyst for stability and growth in our economy. A great deal has been accomplished to date by this Legislature, but we know there is much more to do. Legislative committees will be foundation for that work, as they truly are the work of the Legislature.

Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or on-line at