Bills to protect water in Wisconsin receive budget committee approval

By: Briana Reilly, The Cap Times 

The Legislature’s powerful budget committee has signed off on a slate of bills seeking to safeguard water across Wisconsin, clearing the way for them to be taken up in the state Assembly next week.

The legislation, part of a $10 million plan from the state's Water Quality Task Force, won largely bipartisan support before the Joint Finance Committee Wednesday.

Introduced officially last month, the bills come as more attention has been paid to emerging contaminants across Wisconsin, such as PFAS, a group of chemicals, which are linked to cancer, reproductive problems and a host of other health issues.

Included in the package is legislation that would send $2.9 million annually to support county conservation staff; allocate $150,000 for biomanipulation projects to adjust species within a body of water to improve its quality; form a “nitrogen optimization pilot program” to award grants to ag producers that reduce nitrogen use; provide $250,000 in one-time funding for the collection of firefighting foam that contains PFAS and more. 

All 13 bills are scheduled to be voted on in the state Assembly next week Tuesday, according to a copy of the chamber's proposed calendar.

The task force's co-chairs, Reps. Todd Novak and Katrina Shankland, late last month said they were “hopeful” the bills could get also through the Senate, where other bills have been hung up and faced scrutiny over their price tags. That chamber is planning to meet next week as well. 

Next week's Assembly session will take place after the annual State of the Tribes address, which will be delivered this year by Forest County Potawatomi Community Chairman Ned Daniels, Jr. 

Meanwhile, the Joint Finance Committee is expected to meet again next week as the Legislature wraps up its work for the year.