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Assembly approves wetland bill without amendments

The state Assembly passed contentious legislation Tuesday night that will eventually help builders.

The Assembly passed Senate Bill 368, which makes it easier for developers to build in wetlands, despite amendments and objections from many democrats.

Senate Bill 368 creates a 30-day permit review standard for the state Department of Natural Resources when considering applications to build in or near a wetland. The bill, which was authored by Sen. Neal Kedzie, would also allow the DNR to consider mitigation as a first option when reviewing applications, rather than a last resort. Mitigation occurs when an applicant agrees to restore or create a wetland when damaging another.

State mitigation law requires restoration or improvement of 1.5 acres of wetland for every acre disturbed by a permitted project.

Democrats were not happy with the bill in its original form. An amendment proposed by Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, D-Appleton, would have made any project that builds in a wetland ineligible for any financial assistance or loans from the state.

Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, offered another amendment that would’ve required the DNR to analyze the risk of flooding of every individual permit building applicant that will affect more than one acre of a wetland in vulnerable areas.

“Quit kicking flood victims in the teeth every chance you get,” Hulsey told the Associated Press. “Because that’s all this bill does.”

The debate hit a lull in the Assembly after only a half-hour. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, called for a voice vote. Republicans control the chamber, reducing the vote to little more than a formality. No Republicans even rose to defend the measure.

Democrats demanded Republicans redo the vote with a roll call to get every lawmaker’s position on record. Rather than vote again on the floor, Kramer agreed to accept a list of how each Democrat would have voted and record it in the Assembly journal.

The proposal now heads to Walker, who has supported the measure, for his signature.

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