January 28, 2016

Statement from Senator Chris Larson on Flint-like Water Bill Passing Senate Committee

MADISON – Senator Chris Larson issued the following statement regarding a destructive bill (Assembly Bill 554) that passed the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Public Workers, and Military Affairs today, which would pave the way for increased privatization of one of our most basic human rights: clean drinking water.

“Assembly Bill (AB) 554 lowers the barriers that out-of-state water companies face when purchasing the water services of Wisconsin municipalities. Ultimately, it will make it harder for citizens to stop the sale of their public water utilities to profit seekers. Wisconsin should be gravely concerned with these shortsighted efforts to sell off our water supplies because doing so often leads to lower oversight and less accountability. Stripping away local water control led to the tragedies in Flint.

“After being quietly ushered through the state Assembly, public outrage ballooned as the bill shifted over to the Senate. In just three days, almost 800 Wisconsinites signed an online petition affirming their opposition to this dangerous, undemocratic bill. Our neighbors across the state called on Committee members to reject this bill, and again the voices of our state’s citizens were ignored. With today’s Committee vote, where the bill passed along party lines, the bill could go to the full Senate for approval as early as February 9.

“The governor and legislative Republicans have a history of giving handouts to millionaire special interests and corporate buddies. Walker and the GOP have gone to great lengths to tear apart the fabric of our state’s tradition of good government. In order to maintain a basic level of transparency when it comes to our water services, I introduced amendments to the bill that would have made sure the state couldn’t sell control of our water to other countries, required companies who purchase our water services to be Wisconsin-owned, and created transparency around political contributions by companies who want to take over our water utilities. Unfortunately, all of these amendments were rejected by the Republican members who control the Committee. However, my Democratic colleagues and I are ready to fight against this bill on the Senate floor.

“Water is our lifeline, not a pipeline to corporate profit. If we don’t kill this bill before it passes the full Senate and heads to the governor’s desk it will be nearly impossible to ever quench the thirst for profits squeezed from our water use.”