Initiative & Referendum Task Force Final Meeting Wednesday–Contact Members NOW

No fewer than twenty bills are on the docket for consideration in the final meeting of the Initiative & Referendum Summer Task Force on Wednesday, August 23rd in Pierre.

And there’s no time slated for citizen input.


A number of these bills were already discussed in the last meeting. However, the July meeting agenda provided for up to two hours of public comment on the draft bills; this final meeting agenda provides no room for citizen input on the plethora of new bills under consideration–many of which would undermine the citizens’ tools for direct democracy in this state.

This is the final meeting of the task force, where bill drafts will be recommended for consideration during the 2018 legislative session.

The more bad bills we kill now, the fewer bad bills we’ll have to fight in committee and on the House and Senate floor come January. That means you should contact Task Force members BEFORE Wednesday!

The Legislative Research Council has prepared a summary of all of the bill drafts under consideration, accessible here.

Contact information for the members of the task force is here:
Initiative & Referendum Task Force Contacts (PDF)

Dakota Rural Action’s stance is first and foremost to protect the initiative and referendum process. South Dakota was the first state in the nation to enshrine these tools for direct democracy, and they have been invaluable in dealing directly with issues the legislature won’t touch, as well as checking the legislature when they go in directions we don’t agree with.

Here’s a run-down of the bills under consideration. The numbers are the Legislative Research Council’s draft numbers. Our comments are in italics, and our stance is in boldface:

  • #77–Board of Elections can determine petition size and font size. Members of the task force who are on the Board of Elections have indicated this is already under their purview. NO.
  • #82–Requires initiated measures being circulated now for the 2018 ballot to go back to the LRC for a fiscal note. Last session, the requirement for IM’s to have a fiscal note passed, but did not go into effect until July 1st. So, this is basically cluttering the process for ballot measure committees who’ve already gone through the LRC process and are collecting signatures now (as well being a pain for the LRC). NO.
  • #83–Revise the attorney general’s recitation of “yes” or “no.” This may actually have some benefit, as previous initiators have indicated concern over the AG’s ballot wording of what a “Yes” or a “No” vote does. This bill would simplify (and potentially neutralize) that language. YES.
  • #84–If two ballot measures on the same subject but with conflicting language pass in the same election, the measure receiving the most votes supersedes. Seems reasonable. MAYBE.
  • #87–Moves the filing deadline for initiated measure petitions from one year to the second day of May prior to the next general election. More time for circulating and gathering petitions=more opportunity for direct democracy. YES.
  • #96–Allows petition circulation to begin 30 months (rather than 24) prior to the next general election. Again, more time for circulation means more opportunity for grassroots groups to gather signatures. That’s a YES.
  • #97–Allows the LRC to provide substantive assistance as well as style and form assistance to petition sponsors. This could be useful, so long as sponsors retain the right to say “no” to comments they disagree with. MAYBE.
  • #99–Removes the requirement for the full text of the measure to be on the petition form; allows circulators to provide the full text in a separate document. The measure would still require the attorney general’s summary to be printed on the petition itself. This could be helpful in terms of the costs associated with the printing of petitions, since the law now requires the petition and full text to be contained on a single piece of paper–leading to what Secretary of State Krebs referred to as “beach towel petitions” in cases of more lengthy measures. YES.
  • #80 & #81 (Constitutional Amendments)–Requires initiated constitutional amendments to pass with 55% and 60% of the vote, respectively. Proponents of these amendments argue that the constitution is too easy to amend (though to our knowledge none of those folks have been involved in an attempt to get one on the ballot). Initiated constitutional amendments already require double the number of signatures to get on the ballot, which on the ground (in order to account for a margin of error) means about 40,000 signatures. And then a majority of the voters actually have to agree. NO.
  • #95 & #96 (Constitutional Amendments)–Same as the two above, but with the addition of a 2/3 vote requirement for legislature-proposed constitutional amendments. For the reasons stated above, NO.
  • #73–Deadline for LRC comments on ballot measures determined by the length of the ballot measure. Due to a number of factors (including the possibility of an initiated measure that creates or amends several similarly worded sections), the contention that a lengthier ballot measure is necessarily more complex is false. NO.
  • #100–Provides for the automatic generation of a fiscal note for ballot measures. Since the requirement for ballot measures to have a fiscal note passed last session, this is a way to make that automatic rather than a separate step for initiators. YES.
  • #110–(Constitutional Amendment) Limit of two constitutional amendments per ballot. This actually limits to four total–two from the legislature and two from the people. It also sets up a situation where those with the most money to hire paid circulators get their petitions in first and claim those two spots. NO.
  • #113–(Constitutional Amendment) Initiated amendments passed in multiple legislatures/multiple elections. Requires that initiated amendments be passed in two consecutive general elections and that legislature-proposed amendments be passed, passed again in the next session after the general election, and then referred to voters. This overly complicates the process and puts too much time lag on issues that are of immediate concern. NO.
  • #114–(Constitutional Amendment) Initiatives may not be amended except as provided for in the language of the initiative. This blocks the legislature from repealing or amending initiatives passed by the people unless the language of the initiative itself allows for it, or the legislature has a 3/4 majority vote of both houses on an amendment or repeal. YES.
  • #101, #107, #108–Citizen review panels for initiated laws and initiated constitutional amendments. All of these unnecessarily complicate the process by setting up yet another hoop to jump through and a potentially biased one at that. There is nothing that currently blocks folks from having public discussions about what’s on the ballot, so it’s of dubious merit to have the legislature setting up a forum that forces initiators to go through a process they make up. NO.

Dakota Rural Action lobbyist Rebecca Terk will be at Wednesday’s hearing in Pierre to report on the task force’s decisions. The members of the task force should hear from YOU before then with a strong message about protecting the process, and specific input about the bill drafts that should be scrapped.

Our work in Pierre is 100% backed by member contributions.
Please consider an investment in our legislative fund today!


Report Out: Initiative & Referendum Task Force July Meeting

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum met for a second time last week in Pierre to discuss research reports and draft legislation prepared by the Legislative Research Council (LRC) at the request of task force members.


By the time the Task Force reconvened on Wednesday, July 19th, no fewer than twelve bill drafts were posted to the LRC’s website–some of which were simply different iterations of similar ideas. For example, Senator Jim Bolin submitted two joint resolutions on raising the percentage of votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment–one that raised the percentage to 55% and one that raised it to 60%.

Proposed Changes to LRC’s Role

Another topic raised by multiple bills was the amount of time the LRC has to comment on proposed initiated measures and the types of comments provided. One such bill changed the LRC’s comment deadline from fifteen days to fifteen working days; another bill draft proposed that the LRC would not provide comment on initiated measures during the legislative session.

A third bill suggested a time frame based on the number of words in the measure, and a fourth bill dealing with the LRC’s role made provision for substantive comments on initiated measures to “minimize conflict with existing laws.’ It should be noted that in current statute (and none of the bill drafts amend this), the sponsors of initiatives “may, but are not required to, amend the initiative or initiated amendment to the Constitution to comply with the [LRC] director’s comments.”

Otten’s Unpopular Proposals

Roundly rejected by the task force (including by its own author–Senator Ernie Otten) was a measure to limit the number of ballot measures (initiated laws, referred laws, and constitutional amendments) that could appear on the ballot. None of the members could get behind what would likely turn out to be a race–most likely to be won by the biggest monied interests hiring the most paid circulators–to be the first to collect signatures and submit them to the Secretary of State.

Otten also brought forward a bill to back-date the requirement for fiscal notes (passed last session and effective July 1 of this year) on initiated measures and amendments to include those already in process before July 1st of this year. Technically, it’s possible to do this–if the bill passed without an emergency clause in the next session, it would become effective July 1, 2018, but one wonders if legislators would risk a legal challenge by telling ballot question committees that got out of the gate early this year to go back to the LRC a few months before the election for a fiscal note.

More Time for Petitioners?

A draft bill introduced by Senator Reynold Nesiba would push forward the due date for signed petitions on initiated measures (not constitutional amendments, which require twice as many signatures as proposed laws) from one year prior to the next general election to the last day of June prior to the election. Secretary of State Krebs was adamantly opposed to moving the date forward because of local elections and other requirements of her staff’s time, but did suggest that allowing the submission, comment, and petition process to start earlier might be an option she could get on board with.

Streamlining & Conflict Resolution

Two draft bills appearing the day before the task force met embodied ideas of attorney Will Mortenson, who in 2016 led the campaign to defeat Amendment V (non-partisan races and open primaries). Mortenson’s contributions to the raft of bills included a measure to resolve conflicting initiated measures on a single ballot (if both are passed, the one with the most votes takes precedence), and another to change the ballot recitation (the language developed by the attorney general describing what a “yes” vote and a “no” vote does) to, in the simplest of terms, indicate that a yes vote passes the measure and a no vote rejects the measure.

A full list of the draft bills and research information from the Initiative & Referendum Task Force’s July 19th meeting are available on the Legislative Research Council’s website here.

The Task Force will reconvene for what is likely its final meeting on Wednesday, August 23rd, 9am, in Room 362 (Appropriations Committee Room) of the State Capitol. Discussion at the July meeting indicated that members will consider new bills as well as those already posted and make final decisions on which to recommend to the 2018 legislature.

We hope to see you there.

ALL our work in Pierre is funded by YOU, our members and allies.

Invest in DRA’s legislative fund to keep citizen voices strong.

Initiative & Referendum Task Force: Take Two

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum meets again at the State Capitol, Room 414, on Wednesday, July 19th to discuss draft legislation and take public testimony. Dakota Rural Action’s lobbyist will be there, and we invite members to join us at the Capitol, and to contact task force members.


Since the first meeting of the task force in June, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) has drafted no fewer than ten bills at the request of committee members, as well as fulfilling several research requests. You can read the compiled research and full text of bill drafts on the LRC’s website by clicking here.

The members of the task force need to hear from South Dakotans (that means YOU!) that these tools for Direct Democracy should not be weakened or undermined. Contact them using the link below.

Initiative & Referendum Task Force Contacts (PDF)

Here is a short summary of the ten bills drafted thusfar:

  1. Lengthens the amount of time the LRC has to review initiated laws and constitutional amendments from fifteen days to fifteen working days.
  2. Ties the amount of time the LRC has to review initiated laws and constitutional amendments to the number of words in the initiated measure.
  3. Exempts the LRC from reviewing citizen-initiated laws and constitutional amendments during the regular legislative session–reviews of any initiated measures submitted during the session would be due 15 days following the close of session.
  4. On initiated measures submitted to their office, directs the LRC to provide comments not only on style and form (required at present), but on the “substantive content” of initiated measures, “in order to minimize any conflict with existing law and to ensure the measure’s or amendment’s effective administration.”
  5. Limits the number of initiated measures, referred laws, and constitutional amendments that can appear on the ballot.
  6. Directs the State Board of Elections to promulgate rules concerning petition size and font size.
  7. Moves the dates for completed petitions to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office from one year ahead of the next general election to the last day of June prior to the general election (increasing the amount of time petitioners have to collect signatures).
  8. A resolution increasing the number of votes required to pass an initiated constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60% (if passed, this resolution would go to the voters for approval).
  9. A resolution increasing the number of votes required to pass an initiated constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 55% (if passed by the legislature, this resolution would go to the voters for approval).
  10. Requiring initiated laws and constitutional amendments submitted before July 1 of 2017 to include a fiscal note (this covers those measures submitted before SB77 went into effect).

Remember, Task Force members need to hear from you!

And, so do we!
Dakota Rural Action’s work at the capitol is 100% funded by members.
We help bring the voice of the people to Pierre.
Donate to our legislative fund TODAY!

ACTION ALERT: Protect Initiative & Referendum

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum is Meeting This Week.


Today was the first meeting. Tomorrow, public testimony is being heard in Room 413 at the State Capitol.

Contact the members of the Task Force NOW and tell them South Dakota’s Direct Democracy is important to all of us. They must PROTECT our right to initiate and refer laws–NOT weaken it or make it more difficult to access.

There are plenty of problems in South Dakota’s government, but the initiative and referendum process is not a problem–it’s a solution–a tool for voters to fix what’s not being addressed by the legislature.
Contact the Task Force TODAY to say you want Direct Democracy protected!

Initiative & Referendum Task Force Roster:
Legislator Members:
Senator Jim Bolin

Representative Don Haggar

Senator Reynold Nesiba

Senator Ernie Otten

Representative Tim Reed

Representative Karen Soli

Non-Legislator Members:
Dr. Emily Wanless (Chair)

Pam L. Lynde

Linda Lea M. Viken

Yvonne Taylor

Duane Sutton

Will Mortenson

James W. Abbott
(Jim Abbott was absent from the initial meeting)

Access the agenda and documents for the Task Force via the Legislative Research Council here.

Amplify Your Voice at the Capitol!
Click HERE to Contribute to Dakota Rural Action’s Legislative Fund!

2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

Dakota Rural Action 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up


The 2017 session was a whirlwind. While there were fewer bills in total than many previous sessions, much was at stake in protecting tools for direct democracy and our ability to exercise constitutionally-protected rights to assemble. Member’s voices were heard by legislators through phone calls, e-mails, testimony, and cracker barrels, and in many cases, it made all the difference. Read on for a synopsis of our work in Pierre.

The Full Frontal Attack on Direct Democracy

Following the repeal of Anti-Corruption and Government Accountability Act (IM22), legislators proceeded to bring a multitude of bills to undermine citizens’ ability to legislate through Initiative, Referendum, and Constitutional Amendment.

  • SB59–Delay effective date of initiated measures to July 1. PASSED
  • SB67–Increase the number of petition signatures required. TABLED
  • SB77–Require a fiscal note for ballot measures. PASSED
  • HB1074–Cap out of state contributions to ballot question committees. TABLED
  • HB1130–Public comment period and hearings for ballot questions. FAILED
  • HB1141–Legislative task force on the initiated measure process. PASSED
  • HB1153–Require 50% of petition signatures from no fewer than 33 counties. 41ST DAY

The Down-Low: We will be watching the legislative task force on the initiative and referendum process closely, as well as looking for ways to protect that process for the people of South Dakota as initiative, referendum, and constitutional amendment drives take shape in the coming months.



DRA members Kristi Mogen & Kathy Tyler traveled to Pierre to testify against HB1187, which would have undermined citizens’ ability to appeal Conditional Use Permit decisions by their local Boards of Adjustment.


Agriculture & Land Use Bills–A Mixed Bag

Some of the good bills that we wanted to see pass ended up failing, but NO bills that we opposed made it through the process.

  • SB9&10: While DRA did not take a position on these bills, we closely followed their debate. These bills drew river basin natural resource districts along more accurate watershed boundaries, created subdistricts based on population, and provided for an election in the Red River/Minnesota River Watershed District. Both died primarily due to the exclusion of Class I municipalities from the process. FAILED
  • SB66–Creates a riparian buffer strip tax incentive program. PASSED
  • SB114–Spearfish Canyon land swap bill (and $2.5 million appropriation) was tabled for lack of support from constituents in addition to a lack of funding in the budget. TABLED
  • SB135–Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for beef. Hard fought, but SD Retailers Association has a lot of pull with some high-powered legislators (although many actual retailers said, “no problem” to using placards to indicate beef origin). FAILED
  • SB154–Encouraged the use of native vegetation in DOT rest stop remodeling projects throughout the state. Passed the Senate and House Transportation Committee only to fail on the House floor due to concerns about “weediness” and rattlesnakes. FAILED
  • HB1187–Would have undermined citizens’ right to appeal Conditional Use Permit decisions by local Boards of Adjustment. This bill was considered twice on the House floor and failed both times. FAILED
  • HB1188–A hoghouse vehicle that tied state funding for counties and municipalities to their inclusion of agricultural development (read CAFOs) in their comprehensive plans. FAILED
  • HB1204–Established an industrial hemp pilot program in South Dakota. FAILED

The Down-Low: While Rep. Jason Kettwig (R-Milbank) was the prime sponsor of both HB1187 and HB1188, he clearly had the backing of House Speaker Mark Mickelson (R-Sioux Falls), who attended committee hearings on both bills–even though Mickelson was not a sponsor of HB1188. Speaker Mickelson handed off the gavel to pitch HB1187 on the House floor, and after it failed, he brought it back for reconsideration. When it failed a second time, he warned that the legislation would make a reappearance in the 2018 session.



Rep. Oren Lesmeister brings the case for an industrial hemp pilot program on the House floor.


The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program bill seemed to have a good chance this year, after a very strong showing (9-2) in the House Ag & Natural Resources Committee and garnering the ⅔ House floor vote needed to establish a new program. Representative Liz May (R-Kyle) pitched the bill in committee and on the floor for the fifth year, joined by freshman Rep. Oren Lesmeister (D-Parade) who made a strong case based on language in the Farm Bill. The failure of the bill in Senate Ag Committee seemed largely due to the fact that it was the last piece of legislation heard in that committee on the last day bills had to pass through committee–and it came up in the last few minutes of the meeting–never a good time to consider implementing a new statewide program, especially one that the overseeing agency (Dept. of Agriculture) was not keen on dealing with.

Pipelines & Energy

As usual, the South Dakota legislative majority continues to support dirty & disastrous policy on pipelines, tar sands, and fracking. At least there was support for oversight of nuclear waste.

  • SB158–provided for a tariff on foreign steel used in pipelines built in South Dakota, and set up an oil spill clean up fund in the state. FAILED
  • SCR10–Protect waters of the Missouri River and oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline. TABLED
  • SCR13–Require payment into the federal oil spill liability trust fund for the Keystone One Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline and to recognize dilbit (diluted bitumen, or tar sands oil) as oil. 41ST DAY
  • HB1071–Previously, only the governor’s approval was needed to store or process high-level nuclear waste in the state. This bill required additional legislative approval to do so. PASSED
  • HCR1013–Urged the State Department to approve the Keystone XL permit. PASSED

The Down-Low: Senators Frerichs, Kennedy, Killer, and Heinert all worked hard to protect natural resources and hold TransCanada accountable for their pipelines and products through bills that a created a state clean-up fund, supported American steel manufacturers, and urged the federal government to recognize tar sands oil (“dilbit” or “synbit”) as oil for the purposes of paying into the federal oil spill liability fund. Sadly, NONE of these bills even got through committee–many of whose members seemed incapable of saying anything but yes to what pipeline companies want and anything but no to even common sense protections for people and the planet.

Senator Wiik (R-Big Stone City) and Representative Schaefer (R-Kennebec) sponsored the resolution to urge State Department approval of Keystone XL, and Senate Republicans (with the exception of Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Maher, of Isabel) said yes to that, but no (again) to adding language clarifying that what the proposed oil pipeline would carry (dilbit) is actually oil.



Senators Sutton, Heinert, Frerichs, Kennedy, Nesiba, and Killer signify their support for resolving that tar sands oil (dilbit) is, in fact, oil for the purposes of payment into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.


Use and Abuse of the Emergency Clause

This session was all about emergencies. Legislators tacked emergency clauses on all kinds of legislation, even when there was no clear threat or concern that warranted their use. According to the South Dakota Constitution, the only acceptable uses of an emergency clause are a) the law is necessary for immediate preservation of public peace, health, or safety of the state or, b) the law is necessary for support of state government and its existing public institutions.

If a bill passes with an emergency clause, the legislation goes into effect immediately after being signed by the governor, and the law cannot be referred to the ballot by voters. However, if an emergency clause is included in a piece of legislation, the bill needs a ⅔ majority vote in both chambers to pass. But, legislators found ways to get around this hurdle as well. Governor Daugaard’s anti-protest bill (SB176) could not pass either chamber with the ⅔ majority required, so the emergency clause was stripped on the floor of both chambers, the bill passed with a simple majority, and the emergency clause was re-added during conference committee.

The Initiated Measure 22 Repeal bill (HB1069) also included an emergency clause, even though IM 22 had already been enjoined by a judge and never actually went into effect due to a lawsuit filed by a number of legislators immediately following the bill’s passage. Another inappropriate use of an emergency clause was on SB67, which would have increased the number of petition signatures required for constitutional amendments by an estimated 88%. Thankfully, the bill was tabled by unanimous consent in Senate State Affairs Committee.


Hoghouse Vehicles, Carcass Bills, and Other “Shell” Games

Technically speaking, a “hoghouse” is a bill that is amended in its entirety during the legislative session–throwing out all the previous language of the bill and replacing it with contents that may be entirely contrary to the bill’s original purpose. A “vehicle,” “carcass,” or “shell” bill is one that is introduced with a title and virtually no content for the express purpose of filling in the contents later than the deadline for introduction of new bills. Legislators defend their use of these shell bills by saying that “things come up” during the session that cannot be predicted–though the fact that these bills have titles germane to their eventual contents tends to make that argument somewhat questionable. Over a dozen of these carcasses were introduced this session–some of which were abandoned, and some of which made their way through initial hearings without any contents.

A group of legislators led by Senator Stace Nelson (R-Fulton) appealed to Attorney General Marty Jackley about the perceived abuse of these vehicle bills, but Jackley determined their use is legal. In the case of SB 176, introduced as “An Act to accommodate legislation relating to the protection of the public safety,” it seems likely that Governor Daugaard communicated with North Dakota officials about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests prior to the legislative session and could have submitted his anti-protest bill by the regular deadline rather than nearly two weeks after. The question on the use of vehicle bills remains: how often are they used as a stopgap measure for necessary legislation, and how often are they used to hide the sponsor’s true intent until late in the session? And, is there a way to allow for the former and prevent the latter?



Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-Aberdeen), a law enforcement officer, testifies against the Governor’s Public Safety Bill (SB176), stating that laws already exist to deal with protesters who may trespass, commit violence, or destroy property.


Public Safety? Or Fear-Based Propaganda?

Almost forgotten after what came later, the first “public safety” bill of the session was HB1145, entitled “An Act to define a no-go zone and create a procedure to manage no-go zones.” Sponsored by Representative Tim Goodwin (R-Rapid City) and Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) on the Senate side, the legislation was modeled on a failed 2015 bill from Tennessee based on false claims that Muslims were creating areas within municipalities where Sharia law was in force and police feared to tread. In addition to its clearly anti-Islamic roots, the language of the bill called into question how many other groups might be targeted by its vague definition suggesting that community organizers seek to “intimidate,” rather than empower the public: “a no-go zone is a contiguous geographical area consisting of public space or privately owned public space where community organizing efforts systematically intimidate or exclude the general public or public workers from entering or being present within the area.” Thankfully, the bill was withdrawn by its sponsor.

In committee hearings on the Governor’s Public Safety Bill (SB176) administration officials admitted that it was developed in talks with North Dakota’s administration during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, and they admitted that it was targeted toward those who would demonstrate against Keystone XL. However, officials claimed that the bill, which would allow the governor what amounted to war powers to declare a “public safety zone” anywhere, of any size in the state, was only targeting outside agitators and law-breakers. The initial hearing brought opposition testimony from tribal leaders from Cheyenne River, Crow Creek, and Yankton Sioux Tribes, as well as the ACLU and Dakota Rural Action. Legislators representing districts encompassing tribal lands were in attendance as well, and when they asked if any tribes were consulted in the drafting of the legislation, the answer from Governor Daugaard’s staff was simply, “no.” Landowners along the path of the pipeline were similarly ignored in the bill’s drafting.

DRA Board Chair John Harter (whose land is crossed by KXL’s proposed path) arrived at the Capitol to testify during the bill’s second hearing in House State Affairs on a Monday morning at 7:45am. Without warning to Harter and others who had traveled to testify, the governor’s staff introduced a comprehensive amendment that almost entirely overhauled the bill, removing the “public safety zone” language, and whittling down its scope to gatherings of 20 or more people on school and public lands and blockades of posted highways or highway right-of-ways. The amendment also removed the Senate version’s mandatory jail time for persons convicted of trespassing within a public safety zone, and an automatic felony charge for those previously convicted of trespassing within the past eighteen months. As previously written, because the Senate (first) and House (second) versions were radically different, the bill was sent to conference committee, and what finally emerged (and passed) was the House version which, with an emergency clause included, is not eligible for a referendum by voters, and was enacted into law as soon as signed by Governor Daugaard.

While we would have preferred to kill the bill entirely, the process that whittled this bill down from its truly chilling original language was an important fight for Dakota Rural Action and its allies. And, as the lobbyist during this session, and a frequent guest at Oceti Sakowin Camp last summer and fall, I can say that of all the bills we worked on this session, this was the one that affected me the most deeply and personally. I heard legislators repeat propaganda about “outside agitators” and “paid protesters” on the House floor, but I also heard calls for understanding, for wisdom, and for listening and learning from our Native neighbors. In a session that seemed like a never-ending fight, that is what gave me hope.



Flags at sunrise. Oceti Sakowin Camp, Fall 2016


Thank you for your support during the legislative session!

Rebecca Terk, DRA Lobbyist & Organizer


Weekly Legislative Update

This was the final legislative week, and most of our focus has been fixed on Senate Bill 176–the Governor’s Public Safety Zone bill–that arrived on the legislative scene late in the session as a hoghouse of a vehicle bill “to enhance the public safety.”

The hoghoused Senate version of the bill was incredibly concerning, almost certainly unconstitutional, and a direct affront to farmers, ranchers, and tribal members concerned about pipeline construction across the state. It allowed the governor virtually unlimited powers to create “public safety zones” anywhere, of any size in the state, and to control movement of people within a mile surrounding the zones–including those who live and/or own land in those zones. Additionally, the bill contained an emergency clause, allowing it to take effect immediately, and with no recourse for voters to refer the measure to the ballot.



Representative Shawn Bordeaux (D-Mission) testifies about the lack of tribal consultation and the likelihood of leaks on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route.


Tribal leaders, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Dakota Rural Action (DRA) all showed up to testify against the bill in Senate State Affairs Committee. Representatives from Governor Daugaard’s office testified that the bill was a direct response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests in North Dakota, crafted in anticipation of protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline in South Dakota, and that NO tribes or landowners affected by the proposed KXL Pipeline had been consulted in the crafting of the bill. Despite the admission of a complete lack of communication or consultation, the bill passed Senate State Affairs 6-3 with Senators Heinert, Maher, and Sutton voting no.

On the Senate floor (and thanks to citizen outcry), the measure was unable to garner the ⅔ majority vote required of a bill with an emergency clause attached. But, the bill did have support from a simple majority, which allowed immediate reconsideration. Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Maher (who voted against the bill in committee), moved to amend (remove) the emergency clause, and the bill then passed.  Click here for vote roster.



Representative Dan Kaiser (R-Aberdeen), a sergeant in the Aberdeen Police Dept., testifies that South Dakota already has statutes to deal with violent or destructive protesters, and that SB 176 is redundant and unnecessary.


The early Monday morning House State Affairs Committee hearing on the bill brought many of the same opponents to testify, some of whom traveled from more than an hour away. Therefore, it was a surprise that the governor’s office immediately introduced substantial amendments to the bill without having informed those affected and concerned. Because of the radical nature of the amendments, opponents were testifying nearly blind to what the bill now contained (or didn’t contain). One thing we did seize on right away was that an emergency clause had been added back onto the bill, so DRA’s testimony focused specifically on that issue. Again, the bill passed through committee, this time on a party-line vote (Representatives Bartling and Hawley voting nay).

By the time the bill emerged on the House floor the next afternoon, landowners and tribal members had had a chance to digest the contents of the new bill and were substantially less concerned, though there were still questions about the process by which this bill came to the legislature (that is, with zero consultation with affected parties) and the need for an emergency clause. A lively debate ensued, and the bill again failed to pass with the ⅔ majority needed to retain the emergency clause. On reconsideration without the clause, the bill passed with a simple majority (click here for the roster).



Representative Karen Soli (D-Sioux Falls) objected to the continual vilifying of “outsiders” in proponent testimony on SB 176, noting that representatives of her ancestral people traveled from Norway to attend the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests in North Dakota.


Because of the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, and because the Senate did not concur with the House version, the bill was sent to conference committee. We were watching for the results of that committee (and what the bill would look like coming out of it) through Thursday evening. What emerged is the House (MUCH less concerning) version, but with the emergency clause tacked on yet again. Click here to see those amendments.

After being considered twice, the House passed the conference committee version of the bill, and that same version passed the Senate earlier today. We’re not ecstatic about the final version of this bill, but we are very happy with the intense pressure from citizens that took the teeth out of an initially horrifying and chilling piece of legislation.

Watch for our Legislative Wrap Up for an overview of the entire legislative session–including an analysis of the IM-22 replacement bills, hoghouse vehicles, and ag-related legislation.

Many thanks for supporting our work in Pierre this session, through your calls, e-mails, testimony, and donations! We couldn’t do it without you!

Weekly Legislative Update

Weekly Legislative Update

It has been a tough battle in Pierre this week. We have had some wins, but there have also been some last minute losses. Next week is the last week of session, though, and there is a very concerning bill coming up in committee Monday morning which is imperative to defeat either in committee (preferable) or on the House floor. Read about it below.

ALERT: SB176 Hearing in House State Affairs Early Monday Morning!

SB176 is the Governor’s “Public Safety Zone” bill–a piece of legislation enabling the governor to create a “public safety zone” of ANY size ANYWHERE in the state (including on private property) in order to control the movement of people in and out of that zone. Additionally, it creates a new crime–that of “aggravated criminal trespass” for those who enter the zone unauthorized–a charge that comes with an automatic, non-suspendable 10-day jail sentence if convicted. If they do it more than once (or they have been convicted of trespass in the previous two years anywhere in the country), the charge is immediately increased to a felony.

The bill was developed in collusion with North Dakota’s administration following the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. It is specifically targeted against farmers, landowners, and tribal members who may protest the future installation of pipelines (including Keystone XL)–even on their own land–though with these kind of unlimited powers to violate First Amendment rights, anyone who challenges the use of eminent domain for private gain or any other administration policy could be targeted. We already have laws to deal with protesters who turn violent or destructive; creating a new charge of “aggravated criminal trespass” is simply a way to chill freedom of speech and assembly and further cripple private property rights in the state.

This is not just a bad bill, it is an unconstitutional and deeply disturbing bill. Contact members of the House State Affairs Committee THIS WEEKEND, and ALSO contact your Representatives individually (in case it gets through committee) to tell them to deny this unconstitutional over-reach of executive power. If you have a legislative coffee or cracker barrel in your district this weekend, talk to them in person!


Senate Democratic Caucus supporting a floor amendment to require TransCanada to pay into the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of this Week at the Capitol

SB 66 The Governor’s bill to establish a tax incentive for planting of riparian buffer strips passed its last hurdle on the House floor and will be signed into law.

HB 1130 This was a bad bill to establish a series of hearings and public comment period for ballot initiatives (though with no actual process for revisions)–basically just inserting the legislature into a process where they don’t belong. It was amended in committee to remove a thirty-day delay of petitioners’ ability to gather signatures, but that delay was added back in later in the process! However, the bill was soundly defeated on the Senate floor.

HB 1071 This bill requires the legislature’s approval to store or process high-level nuclear waste in the state. Previously, the governor was the sole decision-maker on this issue. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor.

SCR 13 resolved, “To require the payment into the federal oil spill liability trust fund for the Keystone One Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline and to recognize dilbit as oil.” The resolution, brought by Senators Frerichs (D-Wilmot) and Kennedy (D-Yankton) was tabled in committee; however, Senator Frerichs attempted to bring it back as an amendment to another, pro-KXL construction resolution (HCR1013) on the Senate floor. The move was unsuccessful, but it was greatly appreciated by those who think TransCanada should participate in a fund to help clean up their potential messes.

SB 59–This bill delays the effective date for initiated measures and referred laws until July 1st. An amendment brought in House State Affairs Committee by House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley would have prevented legislators from repealing any voter-initiated measure with an emergency clause (as happened with IM22) was discussed and supported by many members. However, after the bill was deferred NINE times in the House, that support dwindled and the bill passed un-amended.

SB 154–A bill encouraging the State Department of Transportation to use native vegetation on rest stop remodeling projects in the state. Here is one where more education for our legislators is definitely in order. It died on the House floor amid concerns of “weediness” and the misperception that native vegetation is more attractive to rattlesnakes.

HB 1204–The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program bill made it through the House side with flying colors (and a ⅔ votes on the floor) only to be killed in Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee after SD Department of Agriculture officials cast doubt on states’ ability to continue such pilot programs with so much uncertainty coming from the new federal administration.

Our Legislative Work is Funded 100% by Member Contributions!
We are behind on our goal for this session, and we are asking for YOUR help.
Please consider making a contribution to our legislative fund today.
Thank you for your ongoing support!

Weekly Legislative Update



Rep. Oren Lesmeister (D-Parade) testifies on the House floor in favor of the Industrial Hemp Production & Processing Bill


Yesterday was crossover day–the day on which all bills must be heard on the floor of their house of origin. That makes for a long day, and possibly even a groove in the hall carpet between House and Senate Galleries as lobbyists run back and forth, tracking the progress of each chamber’s lengthy calendar and firing off final messages of encouragement or opposition.

We want to emphasize again how much your calls and e-mails can turn the tide. Following yesterday morning’s Action Alert, the blitz of phone messages opposing two bills allowed us to kill one bill in the House and strip the emergency clause (which denies voter referral) from a very bad Senate bill. Thank you!

HB1187–Dakota Rural Action members worked hard to oppose this bill in committee last week, and yesterday’s calls sealed the deal on the House floor. The thrust of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jason Kettwig (R-Milbank), was to undermine citizens’ right to appeal Conditional Use Permit applications in all but the most egregious cases of fraud or negligence. During floor debate, one representative remarked that he hadn’t gotten many e-mails on this bill, but he sure received a lot of phone messages that morning from constituents opposing it, and for that reason, he could not vote for it. Immediately following the failed vote, Speaker Mickelson (R-Sioux Falls) called for reconsideration. It came up again at the end of the calendar; it failed again (by one vote), and Rep. Mickelson stated that legislators will be seeing this again next year.

HB1188–This was last-minute hoghouse bill that tied state funding of county and municipal projects (including road and bridge repairs!) to their prioritizing value-added agricultural development projects in their planning process. While DRA supports value added agricultural development that benefits family farmers and ranchers, the clear objective here was to force communities to plan for CAFOs and large-scale processing facilities. The bill encountered strong opposition from the Dept. of Transportation in committee, but made it through Appropriations with half-hearted support. It then died on the House floor yesterday evening.



Unfortunately, the “fools” prevailed…


SB135–SD Stockgrowers’ Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) bill was hard fought and strongly supported by organizations like Dakota Rural Action and Farmers Union, as well as many cattle producers across the state.  However, the Chamber of Commerce, Retailers Association, Pork Producers, and Farm Bureau undermined that effort on the Senate floor, and the legislation failed there this week. Click here to find out how your legislators voted.

SB176–the Governor’s last-minute bill to give himself power to create “Public Safety Zones” of any size anywhere in the state encountered vigorous debate on the Senate floor. Opponents strongly discouraged this likely unconstitutional overreach of executive authority which, based on various news reports quoting the Governor’s own staff, was developed in response to tribes’ and landowners’ protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and the use of eminent domain for private gain. The bill, which contained an emergency clause (blocking voter referral) failed to gain the ⅔ support the emergency clause necessitates in its first vote. However, Senate rules dictate that because the bill did have a simple majority of the vote, it was due immediate reconsideration. Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Maher (R-Isabel) offered an amendment to remove the emergency clause, and the bill passed. It will now proceed to House State Affairs Committee. (Click here to see how Senators voted.)

The Industrial Hemp Production and Processing bill (HB1204) finally cleared its first chamber after a five years of attempts. Dakota Rural Action testified in favor of this bill in House Ag & Natural Resources Committee, and it passed there with strong bipartisan support. Rep. Oren Lesmeister (D-Parade) gave strong testimony on the House floor about provisions in the 2014 Farm Bill for state pilot programs for hemp production such as the one this bill creates, and it passed with the ⅔ vote required of legislation that sets up new state programs. It now crosses over to Senate committee.

Thank you again for all your calls, e-mails, and support this week!

We could not do this work without our many dedicated members.

Please consider making a contribution to our legislative fund, which allows us to continue to have a presence in Pierre, fighting for you!

ACTION ALERT: Free Speech & CUP Appeals


HB1187–Undermining Citizens Right to Appeal CUP Decisions–House Floor TODAY

This bill, pitched as “local control friendly” actually removes the right of citizens to appeal Conditional Use Permit decisions by their local Boards of Adjustment. If you’ve ever seen a permit approved even after everyone in the community spoke against it–this bill ensures you don’t have any recourse in the courts.

CALL THE HOUSE LOBBY FROM 7:45AM-1PM TODAY AND LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOUR REPRESENTATIVES. Tell them “NO” on 1187–local control means citizens should retain full rights to appeal CUP decisions.

House Lobby: (605) 773-3851

SB176–Undermines Free Speech–Senate Floor TODAY

This last-minute hoghouse bill gives the governor the power to declare a “public safety zone” anywhere in the state with NO parameters on size or location (it could be your own land!)–and creates a new, “aggravated criminal trespass” charge for those who enter that zone. It is SPECIFICALLY targeted against Native people, landowners, and others who protest pipelines and eminent domain for private gain, and it is an attack on the First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.

CALL THE SENATE LOBBY FROM 7:45AM-1PM TODAY AND LEAVE A MESSAGE FOR YOUR SENATORS. Tell them this bill is a direct affront to Freedom of Speech, is Unconstitutional, and should be killed.

Senate Lobby: (605) 773-3821

It is especially important that you CALL today rather than e-mail because these bills are moving fast, and e-mails may not get read in time!


If you appreciate our Action Alerts & Weekly Legislative Updates, please consider donating to our legislative fund!

ACTION ALERT: “Public Safety” Bill Makes Protesters Felons

“Public Safety” Bill Gives Governor War Powers; Makes Protesters Felons


SB 176 started out as a “shell” or empty bill entitled, ”Accommodate Legislation Relating to the Protection of Public Safety.” It has become a bill giving the governor enhanced powers when dealing with protests.

This desecration of the people’s First Amendment right to peaceably assemble will be heard in Senate State Affairs Committee this Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 10am in Room 414 at the Capitol. We urge members and others to show up and pack the meeting room to testify against this chilling bill.

An article posted in the Argus Leader alerted us to an amendment proving that this is a move to enhance the governor’s powers to declare a “public safety zone” during protests wherein protesters could be charged with “aggravated criminal trespass”–a Class 1 misdemeanor–and is specifically targeted against the potential for protests against the KXL pipeline. If that protester has already been charged for trespass within the last two years–even in another state–the charge automatically increases to a Class 6 FELONY.

Another good description of the potential effects of this bill can be found on the Dakota Free Press blog (click here).

If you can’t come–contact members of the Senate State Affairs Committee and urge them to vote NO on this bad bill.

Senate State Affairs Committee

(click on the name to see contact information)

Bolin, Jim

Curd, R. Blake

Ewing, Bob (Chair)

Heinert, Troy

Langer, Kris

Maher, Ryan

Netherton, Jenna (Vice Chair)

Novstrup, Al

Sutton, Billie