LAST CHANCE! REGISTER FOR CITIZEN LOBBY DAY!
With all that’s going down at the Capitol this session, your voice–and your presence–is urgently needed. But beyond that–it’s FUN! Hang out with other DRA members, talk to legislators about issues, eat good food and participate in YOUR democracy.
Citizen Lobby Day begins with our gathering and training Sunday evening at Red Rossa, then starts up bright and early at the Capitol Monday morning. Then, Monday eve, join us for our SoDak Grown Legislative Mixer at Drifters Bar & Grille!
Riot Booster 2.0 Passes House–Heads to Senate Judiciary Committee
The bill passed the House Floor on a 45-25 vote with heavy debate. After passage, Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard made a highly unusual move to address a crowd of indigenous people standing in the gallery, saying he’d voted “no,” and attempting to reassure that the new law will support free speech and be enforced using “facts.” A young woman in the group then addressed House members about her false riot arrest in North Dakota, and law enforcement swooped in to quiet and remove her.
Once again, our position: “Riot and Incitement to Riot are illegal now, and will continue to be illegal once this bill is defeated. Attempting to create a new class of crime related to protest and free speech creates a chilling effect on exercise of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms when no one seems to clearly understand what constitutes ‘riot boosting.’”
The bill moves to Senate Judiciary Committee, and Chair Lance Russell has asked proponents and opponents to work together on scheduling (likely late next week) and other needs with Legislative Research Council staff. You can contact Committee members to express your opposition to the bill–check the LRC website for contacts or use your DRA Legislative Guide.
County Zoning Bill Passes Senate Floor–Moves to House Committee
Governor Noem’s bill to undermine public input in county permitting decisions passed the Senate Floor today with the usual corporate-backed language that it “protects local control” and will announce that “South Dakota is Open for Business.” Opponents spoke well to the lie of this narrative–it plainly undermines local control of the decision-making process and cuts the people who live here out of the process. See who voted which way HERE.
Senate Bill 157 entices counties to put industrial facilities in a class of “special permitted uses” which would circumvent the public notice and hearing typically required for Conditional Uses. Those uses can include everything from CAFOs to transmission lines, mining to man camps–and this new “streamlined” approval means a project could be approved by an un-elected administrator with no notice to neighbors.
An appeal of decisions would require the appellant to pay for the preparation of transcripts from the proceedings–a cost that can run into thousands. An amendment on the floor today removes the potential for losers of appeals to pay “compensatory damages” to the prevailing party; however, they may still be on the hook for attorney fees which, especially in the case of teams of corporate-backed attorneys, could run into the tens, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Additionally, the Governor’s bill seeks to mandate a simple majority of members present making decisions on permits–but any reconsideration of those decisions by boards would require a supermajority of all members. An amendment to address those concerns failed to gain traction on the Senate floor.
This is a disastrous bill that strikes at the heart of local control and county’s authority and responsibility to make those decisions that stand to most directly impact the health, safety, and welfare of their own residents. It also cuts the public out of the decision-making process that stands to impact them directly, and sets up a “pay to play” system where only the wealthiest dare to contest a decision.
We are watching for where this bill will be assigned in the House. While it properly belongs in Local Government, it was assigned to State Affairs on the Senate side. As soon as we have details, we will share them. In the meantime, consider a donation to DRA’s Legislative Fund to help with costs of getting the word out on this disastrous bill statewide, and if you’re able, attend DRA’s Citizen Lobby Day next week to talk to House members in person!
Ending Perpetual Easements Deferred–Testimony Overwhelmingly Opposed
Thursday brought the hearing on House Bill 1238 which would allow modification of a perpetual conservation easement “after the death of the person who granted the easement.” The initial line-up of opponents for Rep. Steven McCleerey’s bill included the SD Dept of Transportation, Ducks Unlimited, SD State Bar Association, SD Waterfowl Association, and a number of landowners (including DRA members) representing themselves.
The bill might not have survived the day, but it was heard at the end of the committee’s schedule, and Rep. McCleerey was unable to attend until the very end. Final Action on HB 1238 was deferred until next Tuesday, and we understand there are numerous other opponents who have yet to testify. If you are concerned with the possible removal of this option for landowners, contact House Ag Committee Members over the weekend.
Here Comes Crossover Day
If you thought things were moving fast before, consider that the House still has something like one hundred bills to consider before next Thursday’s deadline. “Crossover Day” is the date by which all bills must pass through a committee hearing and floor vote in their house of origin (if they make it that far).
There are three weeks left of session, and those will be packed with lengthy hearings and (unfortunately) snap judgements on the half-dozen or more bills some committees will consider in a brief two-hour hearing window. That makes calls and emails to legislators with brief but clear messages even more important.
Don’t hesitate to let them know what you’re thinking–your contact could be the tipping point between a good decision and a bad one. Track bills on the Legislative Research Council website (http://sdlegislature.gov/) or reach out to DRA’s lobbyist Rebecca Terk (firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-697-5204 x260) if you need current info on a bill.
Thank you for Taking Action–We Hope to See You at Lobby Day!