A controversial GOP bill that rewrites the state's iron mining laws is scheduled to go before the state Legislature's Joint Finance Committee for a vote on Monday, the proposal's final stop before it is forwarded for a vote by the entire Senate.
The Senate vote could come as early as the middle of next week in the wake of action Monday by Joint Finance, which, with its Republican majority, is expected to approve the proposed legislation.
Republican legislators are hoping approval of the bill will clear the way for Gogebic Taconite to spend $1.5 billion to build a 4 1/2-mile-long open pit iron mine in the Penokee Range south of Ashland.
The bill would establish a deadline for the state Department of Natural Resources to act on a mine permit application and allows the agency to approve exemptions for a mining company from some environmental regulations.
Public sentiment at public hearings has run mostly against the proposed changes to mining laws and the mine. At the only GOP hearing on the bill on Jan. 23 at the State Capitol, 815 people registered in opposition to the bill, 149 in favor and 12 "for information only."