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Proposed bills put our public drinking water at risk

Jan 22, 2016

Drinking water is too important to allow special interests to fast-track Assembly Bill 554 and Senate Bill 432 without meaningful public involvement. Assembly Bill 554 has already passed the state Assembly. Senate Bill 432 has not come to the floor of the Senate for a vote but is anticipated soon.

This legislative proposal takes away the rights of a community to be fully informed about the sale of their public drinking water supply to a profit-making corporation until it is practically too late to be heard. Water is considered the next big money maker for private corporations. That helps explain the acceleration of industry-backed state laws that handcuff citizens’ rights in favor of national and international corporations.

Current Wisconsin law (66.0817 Wis Stats), requires a proposal to sell public drinking water facilities to be put before voters in a referendum that must include information about the costs and conditions of sale. The procedures in current law are needed to ensure the public owners of these facilities know about and agree to the selling or leasing of their drinking water facility.

For most of our Wisconsin history, an issue as important as selling off publicly-owned drinking water supplies would have sparked statewide, inclusive dialogue prior to becoming law. There are too many unanswered questions to let this proposal sail through the state legislature. How is it possible that our state elected officials would even consider something as important as drinking water to be acted on without full and meaningful participation of the public whose rights are at stake? Who asked for such a dramatic change in state law? And what’s the rush to pass it without meaningful participation by those with the most to lose?

Senate Bill 432 has been heard in the Committee on Energy and Utilities but has not been voted on. It is likely SB 432 will make it through the committee and to the Senate floor sooner rather than later. I urge the Wisconsin Senate to slow down SB 432 and give their constituents a chance to at least know what’s at stake rather than prioritizing multi-national corporate profits over all our rights in our public drinking water systems.

The Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Public Works and Military members are; Roth, Gudex, Stroebel, Larson and Lassa.  Larson and Lassa don’t support the bill. The Senate sponsor is Sen. Lasee with co-sponsors August, Zepnik, Sanfellipo, Murphy, Kleefisch, Knodl and Skowronski.

Thanks to the Milwaukee Riverkeeper, it's easy to take action today. Visit their website to tell your state Senator about your opposition to this bill.

/ tagged: government, drinking water