This Week’s Wins and Losses
It was an action-packed week for DRA in week six of the legislative session! On Wednesday our Cottage Foods Law bill, HB 1322, passed the House Commerce and Energy committee with a unanimous 10-0 vote.
However, this was only after a surprise hurdle on Monday, when another group unexpectedly showed up in opposition during the initial hearing leading to the hearing’s deferral to the next meeting. Major kudos to all involved, especially our own Rebecca Terk, for tirelessly working on the bill and on our legislators to see its unanimous passage!
SB 166 sought to repeal the 4.5% state sales tax from grocery items. South Dakota is one of only three states that applies the full state sales tax on food items without any tax breaks or rebate programs for low income households.
This issue has a long history dating back nearly two decades to a time when the state was streamlining taxation in an effort to grandfather online sales into the tax structure. Since then there have been groups seeking to repeal food items from taxation, as studies have shown food taxes to be among the most regressive tax systems out there. A regressive tax is one whose burden falls more heavily upon the low income members of a community than the high income, leading to inequitable impacts upon groups linked to income, and often race.
The bill died in committee, but momentum around the bill seems to be growing – and as South Dakota’s state revenue continues to grow the argument that ‘Now is the time!’ will only continue to increase in volume and strength.
SB 204, the bill we’ve worked on regarding pipeline abandonment, had its hearing on Thursday. With only a day’s notice, a hoghouse amendment was posted by the prime sponsor on Wednesday (whereby the bill ‘envelope’ remained the same, but the ‘letter’ was completely different). The amended bill jettisoned everything about abandonment, easement revocation, and the requirement for financial securities for post-abandonment land remediation. In its place were two short sections dealing exclusively with easements, which were largely preexisting rules along with some complicated additions.
After many urgent conversations with attorneys, DRA staff, and the prime sponsor of the bill, we ended up testifying in support (nominal support) of the bill, as one redeeming quality was that it would have laid out a process by which easements from the canceled Keystone XL project could be nullified.
After being the lone proponent for the bill, I had the pleasure of listening to representatives from Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures explain how terrible the bill would be and how unfair it was. A surprise came when a representative from TC Energy (think Keystone XL!) showed up in opposition, clearly showing they still have strong interests in the easement corridor they own through the state.
From what I’ve gathered, the amendment came after the prime sponsor met with the PUC and unnamed ‘interested parties’ (read: likely the groups listed above). After being pummeled by these groups and others the bill was overwhelmingly defeated.
I (Chase) joined DRA in November of 2021, which gave me only a few months of organizing before switching into Lobbyist mode. I worked almost exclusively on carbon pipeline organizing until heading to Pierre, and so it has been an issue of special interest to me throughout the legislative session. Those reading this newsletter have probably noticed the defeats and disappointments surrounding our attempt to introduce legislation related to these pipelines. As I drove home on Thursday after the hearing on SB204 where our last bill was defeated, I was feeling some kind of way!
While driving I saw something far ahead suspended in place only twenty feet above the road. As I drew near I saw it was a hawk flying hard into the wind but getting nowhere. I laughed to myself and muttered, “Brother – you and me both!” Though its wings worked furiously, the bird was stuck in mid-air, pressing against forceful unseen winds, neither advancing nor giving ground. My spirits were lifted as I closely observed the fight this bird waged, when turning around and sailing with the winds would have been so much easier.
I proceeded to pass five more birds in the same situation, and as I contemplated what I saw I felt convinced of the importance of the work DRA often engages in. So often our work is connected to projects or systems that may seem invisible or out of the public eye, and it can feel as though we are among the few birds in the sky working against these forces. Being one of the few voices in a room full of opposition is not a comfortable place to be.
Yet, just as the hawk’s struggle gives the observant passerby awareness of the strength and presence of unseen winds – so also can our voices and presence cast awareness on important issues. Even when we feel we are making no ground.
Many of the bills we have tracked either died or passed this last week, and our list continues to grow shorter as we head into the final stretch of the session. We will continue to watch the Cottage Food bill as it heads to the House floor next week. A new bill to highlight is HB 1321, an act ‘prohibit frivolous or vexatious complaints against commercial pesticide applicators and to provide a penalty therefor [sic].’
This bill is a ridiculous attempt to intimidate or discourage people from suing aerial pesticide applicators for pesticide drift onto their properties. It will likely be killed by governmental agencies opposed to it, but DRA will be watching and opposing.
HB 1096, which prohibits the enforcement of mandatory RFID tagging, passed its first committee even after the state Animal Identification Board opposed it on the grounds that such a ruling was under their jurisdiction to make. We also saw the death of SB 181, which sought to assemble a task force to study the adoption of a watershed ecosystems management approach.
Updates From Our Watchlist
Get involved with our legislative work!
A group of interested members from across the state meet every Thursday evening by zoom at 6:30pm CT (5:30pm MT) to talk through bills we’re watching, negotiations we are involved in, and strategy on various issues. Contact Lobbyist Chase Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (605) 697-5204 x250 with questions or to serve on the legislative committee.
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