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GOP state senator defends sand mining bill at public hearing

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The state senator who wants to take away most local regulating power for frac-sand mining defended his measure at a public hearing Thursday morning. 

Republican Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst took his bill to the committee he chairs, the Senate's mining panel. 

It would bar local governments from using their court-granted police powers to regulate things like blasting and the hours that frac-sand mines can operate. Tiffany says companies have to deal with what he called hundreds of mini-DNR's -- local governments that set a hodge-podge of rules which are too restrictive. 

He said the companies need statewide uniformity. 

Communities could still use their zoning powers to regulate the mines -- but many towns with frac-sand mines don't have their own zoning. 

Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar said the bill removes the concept of local control.

It's not clear if there are enough votes in the GOP-controlled Senate to pass Tiffany's bill.

Republican Senate President Mike Ellis said he didn't like the idea of stripping local governments from having a say about the mines in their communities -- and he wouldn't favor the bill unless it's amended. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said his house would wait until next spring to vote on it. He favors the package, but he wants to issue to be thoroughly examined.