GOP Assembly Approves WMC, Koch-Backed Wetlands Bill

February 16, 2018

A controversial Republican bill that would loosen state protections and allow development of up to one million acres of Wisconsin wetlands was approved by the state Assembly.

The measure, Assembly Bill 547, approved the bill 58-39 with four Republicans voting against the measure with Democrats. The Republicans are Joel Kitchens, of Sturgeon Bay, Todd Novak, of Dodgeville, Kevin Petersen, of Waupaca, and Travis Tranel, of Cuba City. The bill now goes to the Senate, which GOP lawmakers also control.

The proposal is backed by a host of powerful business, agriculture, construction, and real estate interests, including Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state largest business group, and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity. WMC and Americans for Prosperity spend millions of dollars to elect Republican legislative and statewide candidates.

The bill provides a general exemption from state permitting requirements for the discharge of dredged or fill material into state wetlands, which are isolated wetlands not connected to waterways, like rivers and lakes.

Under the measure, wetlands of an acre or less in or near urban areas would be exempted in most cases from state permits for construction projects. Landowners who fill these areas would not be required to create wetlands elsewhere. In addition, wetlands that are three acres or less and located in rural areas would also be exempt from state permits, but the landowners would be required create new wetlands elsewhere if they fill 1.5 acres or more.

WMC secretly raised and spent an estimated $18.6 million since January 2010 on outside electioneering activities to support Republican and conservative legislative and statewide candidates.

WMC also represents more than a dozen special interests, including business, real estate, and construction, which contributed $16.7 million since January 2011 to current Republican legislators.

Americans for Prosperity, a rightwing electioneering group created by billionaire conservatives David and Charles Koch, has spent $5.7 million in Wisconsin since January 2010 to elect Republican and conservative candidates in legislative and statewide elections.