Thursday, March 7, was the last day for a bill to be acted on by both chambers of the Legislature. Debate went well into the evening as the House gave every remaining Senate bill a final hearing. Here are some highlights.
SB176 is the governor’s request for seed money for a “Second Century Habitat Fund.” The fund would be held in the South Dakota Community Foundation, where the dollars the Legislature put in now would be leveraged to encourage matching contributions and grants. This bill had a rough go in the House.
While legislators recognize the value of habitat for wildlife, and the economic impact that pheasant hunting in particular has in South Dakota, there were legitimate concerns about priorities for limited dollars. The bill’s original request for $1 million was pared down to $500,000 in the Senate, but even that proved a hurdle in the House.
It took multiple amendments, several rule reviews and seven votes to finally get the bill passed – with only $1 being allocated. Because the House version doesn’t match the Senate’s, the bill will go to a “conference committee.” That means the dollar amount will likely change and the bill will be considered again!
There were two bills introduced this week relating to the Keystone pipeline. Gov. Noem wants to be ready when construction starts, which could be as early as this spring. In the two months since she took office, her team has been working to avoid the mess that North Dakota experienced. The protests over the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota included violence that cost North Dakota millions in law enforcement and millions more for clean-up costs for the environmental damage the protesters did. There were 661 “professional” protestors arrested in North Dakota. These people were paid to be there. The largest of this group came in from California. Less than 7 percent were from North Dakota.
SB189 and SB190 are groundbreaking legislation. SB189 would create a fund that “the state or a political subdivision” could use to replace extraordinary costs associated with a pipeline project. Money for the fund would come from the pipeline company through cash contributions and bonds. SB190 provides the ability to recover extraordinary costs from individuals or organizations that are paying protesters – if the protestors they fund cause property damage or violence. I believe these two pieces of legislation are fair and appropriate. They protect and preserve our right to free speech and peaceful protest, while holding those who intentionally damage property and insight violence accountable. They also rightly help protect the finances of the state and our counties. I commend Gov. Noem for being proactive on this.
Only one week remains in the legislative session. Wish I could say the same about winter!
In service to God and you,