Sen. Shilling visits Ontario, Norwalk

Shilling meets with constituents at the Ontario Public Library on Monday.

By KAREN PARKER | County Line Editor

Ontario and Norwalk area residents had an opportunity Monday to chat with state Sen. Jennifer Shilling.

Until unseating Republican Dan Kapanke in a recall election last summer, Shilling served in the state Assembly for 11 years, representing the La Crosse area.

About seven people attended a listening session in the Ontario Public Library, and several others attended a Norwalk session earlier in the day.

Many of the questions centered on the proposed Badger Coulee Transmission Line, a high-voltage project that would run between Madison and La Crosse. Pewaukee, Wis.-based American Transmission Company, which would construct the line, has released a number of possible routes, including one that would bisect the Kickapoo Valley Reserve.

ATC expects to narrow the number of proposed routes to three before presenting the proposals to the Public Service Commission in 2013.

Though Shilling was sensitive to concerns that ATC had not produced justification for the line and that its proposed routes cut through environmentally sensitive areas, she pointed out that the Legislature had little control over the project. The PSC operates independently of the statehouse, and it would make the decision.

Dan Tucholke, a Town of Union Board member, said he was concerned that landowners would not be properly reimbursed for any land taken under eminent domain. ATC, rather than an independent agency, would do appraisals, he suggested.

Another concern brought forward was the new voter-identification law. Shilling agreed that many of the provisions in the new law do not accommodate small villages and rural townships, which often don’t employ full-time clerks. Shilling expected that the Legislature would need to make modifications to the law after it is tested for the first time in the April election.

Calling the atmosphere in Madison “toxic,” Shilling complained that the few days the Legislature remains in session are taken up with insignificant legislation while the real issues are ignored. One of those, she noted, is the $72 million cut to the technical colleges at a time when employers are scrambling to fill jobs requiring special training.

Wisconsin is trailing the nation in job creation, and nearly 250,000 have gone off the unemployment rolls and are no longer counted, she pointed out.

The boom in frac-sand mining also was a point of discussion. State Sen. Kathleen Vineout has introduced two measures designed to slow the permitting process, but Shilling did not give either much hope.

Another proposal to create a legislative study committee is likely to meet with more success, she said.

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