Viewpoint: We?re losing local control, again
Big Government is at it again. Led by Senator Tom Tiffany, the State of Wisconsin is moving forward to limit our freedom to regulate ourselves on the local level.
Senator Tiffany’s newest attempt to thwart local governance is his proposed draft legislation that will prevent local governments from regulating nonmetallic mining.
Town government has been a hallmark of Wisconsin even before statehood in 1848. Presently, Wisconsin has 1,259 towns in which 30.1 percent of us live. The Wisconsin Town’s Association (WTA) website motto is “Lose Local Government, And You Will Lose America.” The WTA points out that “towns are the last refuge of direct democracy.”
Today this essential component of democracy in Wisconsin is under threat again by our State legislators.
Senator Tiffany has drafted a bill to severely limit local governments’ use of police powers. Police powers allow a local government, such as a town, to regulate conduct and property of some folks for the safety and property of all.
Zweifelhofer v. town of Cooks Valley (2012).
Bothered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision in Zweifelhofer to support a local town government’s right to regulate nonmetallic mining, Senator Tiffany has spent his time drafting legislation to prevent local governments from having an effective voice in deciding how nonmetallic mining works in their own jurisdictions.
Senator Tiffany’s draft legislation is titled LRB 2146/1. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau analysis of the bill, the bill limits the authority of local governments to regulate nonmetallic mining. For example, the bill:
Prohibits a local government from enacting or enforcing a nonmetallic mining reclamation ordinance that requires more restrictive standards than those of the DNR.
Prohibits a local government from establishing or enforcing its own standard of water or air quality. ?
Eliminates a county’s current right to administer an air pollution control program.
Prohibits a local government from, other than regulating blasting schedules, regulating the use of explosives in connection with mining and quarrying.
Limits the liability for damage to a highway that a local government is presently entitled to collect from a highway user.
In an email dated October 16, 2013, Senator Tiffany and co-sponsor Representative Joan Ballweg, urged legislative colleagues to contact them in regard to the proposed legislation by noon Oct. 21, 2013. The bill did not even have a number. As of Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, no committee hearings were scheduled to address the legislation.
Yet Senator Tiffany is attributed as saying that he hopes his committee, the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Forestry, Mining and Revenue, can hold a hearing on the bill next Thursday (10/24/13). Article, 10/17/13, WisconsinWatch.org.
Do not doubt that this piece of legislation is the end of a concerted effort by legislators to limit our right to govern ourselves on the local level. Today the assault is on local control of nonmetallic mining.
Tomorrow there will be legislation to prevent local control of metallic mining, both ferrous and nonferrous. Folks in the Town of Lynne, in Iron and Ashland counties – beware.
If you live in a town, village, or city, if you care about the county in which you live, become informed about this newest attempt to limit our freedom to govern ourselves. Then act.
Susan Sommer, Phelps