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Budget panel approves mining bill (UPDATE)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin Legislature’s budget committee has approved a Republican bill that would overhaul the state’s mining regulations.

The Joint Finance Committee’s 12-4 vote Monday sends the bill on to the full Senate and Assembly. The Senate is expected to take up the measure Wednesday. The Assembly is expected to follow next week.

Passage is all but certain. The GOP controls both houses and Republican Gov. Scott Walker has touted the bill as his signature job creation plan.

The measure is designed to clear the regulatory path for Gogebic Taconite’s plans for a huge iron mine near Lake Superior. Republicans maintain the mine would create hundreds of jobs for the region. Democrats and environmentalists, though, contend the bill would open the door for pollution that would devastate the pristine area.

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