ACTION ALERT–Three Initiative-Undermining Resolutions on Wednesday

Three Bad Bills–One Committee!

While we try not to overload our action alerts with multiple bills–this one’s an easy call (or email). Let members of the House State Affairs Committee know that all three of these bills undermining the citizen-initiated amendment process should be voted down. They’re all up for hearing early Wednesday.

HJR 1006–Ends Multiple-Subject Initiated Amendments to the Constitution

HJR 1007–Ends Citizen-Initiated Amendments to the Constitution

HJR 1008–Requires all Citizen-Initiated Amendments to the Constitution to be approved by the Legislature

House State Affairs Committee:

Julie Bartling:
Arch Beal:
Lynne DiSanto:
Steven Haugaard:
Spence Hawley:
Leslie Heinemann:
Isaac Latterell:
David Lust:
Mark Mickelson:
Kent Peterson:
Lee Qualm:
Larry Rhoden:
Tona Rozum:

You can also call the House Lobby and leave a message for individual House members:
(605) 773-3851

Why are these bills so bad?

Multiple-subject amendments are often needed to update or change various parts of the Constitution. If each change needed a separate initiative, each would require the entire process of petitioning and gathering 28,000 or so valid signatures, as well as fundraising and a campaign to educate voters on each part.

Requiring all citizen-initiated amendments to be approved by the legislature means that even if voters approved an amendment by overwhelming margins, legislators hostile to those changes could simply nullify the will of voters.

And, getting rid of citizen-initiated amendments entirely? Even if it makes it out of committee (which it shouldn’t), keep in mind that this is a bright, shiny distraction to take our attention off all the other bills being brought to undermine the process of initiative & referendum. Legislators need to hear from YOU that associating with this attack on initiative will have clear repercussions come the November elections.

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Dakota Rural Action Weekly Legislative Update

Members of the Community Energy Development Committee along with Black Hills staff pose with our bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls

PACE Bill Heard in House Commerce & Energy
This Wednesday, members from our Community Energy Development (CED) Committee presented a strong defense of our Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) legislation in the House Commerce & Energy Committee. It was a tough sell with several other complex bills ahead of us on the agenda, but we had some good input on our bill and support in unexpected places! This is a real opportunity to bring back the legislation next year with a stronger sponsor base, as programs such as this often take several years to get through the legislative morass.

The final vote (taken nearly half an hour after the committee regularly adjourns) was 10-3, with opposition testimony coming from SD Bankers Association, SD Association of County Commissioners, and SD Electrical Association. Sadly, it appeared that the opposition hadn’t really digested the bill, and they came with testimony that dealt mostly with residential PACE programs, which our bill did not include. Supporters of the bill were Reps. Hawley (D-Brookings), Johnson (R-Rapid City), and Steinhauer (R-Hartford). Our prime sponsor was Rep. Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls).

“Zombie” CUP Appeal Bill Nearly Squeaks By–Pulled From Consent
Sometimes a bill nearly gets by us. As part of last week’s Action Alert on PACE legislation, we also sent word of a bill killed twice on the House floor last session. That bill is back this year in its original, un-amended form as HB 1292. The legislation undermines local control by changing the way circuit courts review Conditional Use Permit appeals.

Because this bill was heard in House Judiciary Committee at the exact same time as our PACE bill was heard in Commerce & Energy, we weren’t able to have a presence in the room. Despite outreach and emails from members, it passed unanimously and was placed on the House consent calendar. Bills on “Consent” are passed as a batch the day after their passage out of committees unless any legislator requests that a bill be pulled off that calendar. Thankfully, we were able to touch base with legislators and get that bill pulled–and with the four-day weekend, that means we (and you) have got LOTS of time to get in touch with House Reps. to remind them to KILL THIS ZOMBIE AGAIN when it comes up for floor debate.

In case you’d like to review how your Representatives voted last year (in order to remind them to do the same this year), here’s the 2017 bill information page with both House floor votes. (Click on the “Do Pass Amended, Failed” lines for individual votes.)

House Floor vote on CAFO manure pipes bill this week. The bill will move next to Senate Transportation Committee

CAFO Manure Pipes Bill Squeezes Through the House

HB 1184 grants CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) special privileges to use the right of way along roads and through ditches–across private property and without permission of landowners–to run pipes to pump their manure to non-adjoining fields. By and large, CAFOs are not even a permitted use in agriculturally-zoned areas (they’re a conditional use, and require a hearing process), but proponents are claiming their waste pipes are a public utility and should be treated as such in state law. An amendment in committee adds that counties “may authorize and regulate” them–not “shall”–meaning that in some counties, good neighbor relationships will be out the window as some CAFO operators ride roughshod over the private property rights of adjoining landowners with no real protection from local government. The bill passed the House on a 45-20 vote (5 excused) and heads next to Senate Transportation Committee.

Initiative & Referendum–When Will They Get the Message?
Despite calls to end the attacks, more initiative and referendum bills made their way through committee and their houses of origin this week. Among them are:

HB 1275–Speaker Pro Tempore Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) sponsored this bill that requires petition circulators to gather signatures from ⅔ of legislative districts. The bill’s own supporters seem confused about its contents, as their testimony repeatedly swapped the word “districts” for “counties” in attempting to explain how this process would work. That might be because a similar bill last session attempted to require a certain number of petition signatures from a certain number of counties, and was summarily killed in committee as an unworkable objective. The idea was also brought up (and dismissed) in the Summer Task Force, and during Wednesday’s committee hearing on the bill, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs repeated how unwieldy this system would be for her limited staff. Despite the clear signals that the bill is entirely unworkable, it passed out of House State Affairs and will be debated on the House floor next week.

HB 1216–Representative Gosch’s (R-Glenham) bill that limits out of state contributions to ballot question committees is likely unconstitutional, as some legislators pointed out in House floor debate. That’s likely why it failed on its first vote. However, Speaker of the House G. Mark Mickelson (whose dim view of the initiative & referendum process is widely known) worked hard to revive the bill, saying that the constitutionality question is a 50/50 toss up, and apparently enough House members were willing to take the chance of a lawsuit to vote for it when it was reconsidered the next day. It moves next to the Senate State Affairs Committee.

SB 124 attempts to place a Level 5 Felony Conviction on anyone who knowingly breaks rules of the petition-circulating process. This is the same level of offense as incest, selling half a pound of marijuana, or having multiple DWI charges, and it carries the penalty of 5 years in prison and up to a ten thousand dollar fine. Senator Jim Bolin’s (R-Canton) attempt to get tough on petition circulators was hampered, however, by his inability to answer questions in Senate Judiciary Committee like, “What are all the rules of petition circulation?”

Admittedly, that’s a hard question to answer at this moment considering that legislators like Bolin are attempting to make so many more of them. Instead of sentencing this bad bill to the 41st Day, Committee Chair Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) gave Bolin and Speaker Mickelson (who arrived after the testimony period and simply walked up and took Bolin’s seat to answer committee questions) another week to “fix” their clearly sloppy legislation. We’ll see this bill back in front of Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday.

Take Action! What Bills To Talk About This Weekend:

HB 1292–Undermines Local Control in the CUP Appeal Process
Vote No–this was killed on House floor twice last year and for good reason!
Contact: State House Members

HB 1184–Gives CAFOs Special Privileges & Violates Private Property Rights
Vote No–CAFO manure pipes are not a public utility!
Contact: Senate Transportation Committee

SB 124–Felony for Petition Rule Circulators
Vote No–Clearly an attempt to intimidate citizens engaging in their right to initiate!
Contact: Senate Judiciary Committee

HB 1275–Sets Up an Unworkable System for Collecting Ballot Signatures
Vote No–the Secretary of State calls this impossible!
Contact: State House Members

HJR 1007 & HJR 1008–Ending or Curtailing Citizen-Initiated Constitutional Amendment
Vote No–Clear, Unabashed Attacks on Citizen Rights!
Contact: House State Affairs

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ACTION ALERT: Conditional Use Permit Appeals & PACE

Two Bills Up in Committee Tomorrow–We Need Your Support!

House Bill 1292 Undermines Citizen Appeal of Conditional Use Permits
Hearing in House Judiciary TOMORROW at 10am–Contact Members for “No” Votes Today!

House Judiciary Committee:

This bad bill sets a higher standard for review of Conditional Use Permit (CUP) appeals when citizens feel their County has not made the right decision based on all facts. The current “de novo” standard allows courts to go over the full case, while the proposed “de certiorari” standard would simply assume counties had followed the correct process.

We killed this bill on the House floor TWICE last year–now the exact same bill is back. Your calls can help stop this in committee and send a clear message that CUP reviews should get a full and fair hearing!


House Bill 1301 Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) in House Commerce & Energy
Contact Committee Members and Tell Them to Support Local Jobs & Development!

House Commerce & Energy Committee Members:

DRA’s Community Energy Development (CED) Committee has brought legislation to enable counties to create financing districts allowing long-term loans from local banks for commercial energy efficiency & renewable energy projects. This is a good economic and workforce development bill that deserves committee support!

Thank You For All Your Calls & Emails This Session!
Your Voice Makes a Difference!

DRA Weekly Legislative Update

Gavel In; Gavel Out–No Floor Action on Manure Pipes, Other Bills Until Monday

The threat of heavy snow sent legislators home early; no action was taken on House or Senate floors Thursday

It started snowing early Thursday, and by noon, legislators and lobbyists alike were fleeing the Capitol to head home for the weekend ahead of a projected 6-8” of accumulation. No action was taken on House or Senate floors (they “gaveled in” and promptly “gaveled out”) during the last legislative day of the week, so we will have some extra time to build the case against House Bill 1184, which had been scheduled that day.

The bill would allow Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to run force-main manure disposal pipes through the right-of-way along roadsides and through ditches and culverts as if they were a public utility–and without the permission of affected landowners along the route. On Tuesday, three Grant County DRA members traveled to Pierre to testify in opposition to the bill, which squeaked past the House Transportation Committee on a 7-6 vote. Contact your House members this weekend to tell them, “No Way on HB 1184!”

Aerial Applicators Bill Killed in Senate Ag; Dept. of Ag Pushed to Promulgate Rules
DRA member-producers Angela Jackson and Glenn Pulse brought SB 179  to the Senate Ag Committee this week that would have required aerial pesticide applicators to observe buffers around sensitive sites, including organic farms and apiaries, as well as to carry liability insurance in case of damages.

The bill came out of an incident last summer, where Jackson’s Prairie Sun Organics operation (including a just-completed federally inspected organic poultry processing facility) near Vermillion was hit by spray drift of aerially-applied restricted use chemicals. They lost their organic certification as a result; however, despite the SD Dept. of Ag finding that the applicator broke the law, they have been unable to recover financial damages. The bill met stiff opposition from SD Agribusiness, SD Assoc. Of Co-ops, and a long line of individual aerial applicators who claimed they operate safely. While the bill was ultimately killed, committee members pressed the SD Dept. of Agriculture to promulgate rules for aerial applicators, and to quickly adopt the Field Watch program for registry of sensitive sites.

Lobby Day, Part 2? Members from Northeast and Southeast South Dakota came to testify on bills Tuesday morning. Black Hills members (not pictured) came too!

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Bill Gets a Hearing This Week!
Dakota Rural Action Community Energy Development (CED) Committee looks to have its day in committee this week, as we’ve been told HB 1301 will be scheduled in House Commerce & Energy this Wednesday or Friday.

Members do expect some resistance to the bill, although much of that resistance is likely based on residential PACE programs in other states that have had some problems. This bill focuses on commercial projects and is permissive–it creates a framework for counties to set up programs helping commercial enterprises finance energy conservation and renewable energy projects through local banks. The longer-term payback period with PACE loans keeps the energy cost savings above the cost of the payments.

HB 1007 Raised From the Dead as Part of Initiative Onslaught
Although the Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum brought forward some bills that, in our view, undermine direct democracy, at least Task Force members immersed themselves in the history, context, and legal issues surrounding the citizen initiative process. That cannot be said for the sponsors of many other initiative bills introduced recently, many of whom seem to have little understanding of the law and the process (or they do, and they want to get rid of it).

If this seems like hyperbole, consider the fate of HB 1302, which would have entirely outlawed paid petition circulation in South Dakota. None of the sponsors of the bill were on the task force, and maybe for that reason they were unaware that it was unconstitutional. DRA’s lobbyist and the lobbyist for Represent US pointed that out in testimony, but the majority of House State Affairs Committee members still seemed ready to vote for it–that is, until LRC Attorney and Summer Task Force Staffer Wenzel Cummings was asked to comment. Mr. Cummings affirmed the unconstitutionality of the bill, and cited case law. Finally, the bill was killed. Unfortunately, Mr. Cummings is not often in the hearing room, and as LRC staff, is likely unable to testify unless asked directly by committee members.

House Bill 1007 WAS a Task Force bill on creating a Citizen Initiative Review Commission, and it was defeated soundly back on January 17th. However, Rep. Tona Rozum (R-Mitchell) brought the bill back this week in order to hoghouse it (that is, strip and entirely replace the contents of the bill) as a single-subject citizen initiative bill that will be heard on Monday. In the afternoon House State Affairs Committee hearing where the hoghouse took place, Rep. Rozum attempted to bring the bill carcass back without commenting on the hoghouse amendment–it was only after Rep. Isaac Latterell’s (R-Tea) insistence that he ought to know what he was voting for that Rep. Rozum indicated her intention.

There are many more of these bills, and we are fighting them as they come. The MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO to help fight this fight is to send a clear message to your legislators–through emails, phone calls, cracker barrels, and by showing up to testify in Pierre–that the citizens of South Dakota will not tolerate these attacks on our Constitutional Right to initiate–not now, and not at the ballot box in November.

DRA’s lobbyist Rebecca Terk takes a break from floor and committee action to hop on a staff meeting call

Public Notice & Hearing on Temp. Water Permits Dies; Proponents Still See Potential
House Bill 1225 would have set up a public notice and hearing process for temporary water permits that are currently issued by a sole DENR employee with no public input. Senator Kevin Killer (D-Pine Ridge) pitched the bill in House Commerce & Energy Committee this week, and four Black Hills Chapter members traveled to testify in support as well. The public notification process is particularly important as a tip-off for residents about mining exploration and other potentially damaging projects, as well as a way to protect water resources, particularly in times of drought. The bill encountered stiff resistance from DENR and Associated General Contractors, but testimony and supportive questions from the committee helped shape ideas for future legislation that could differentiate between types of permitted projects or amounts of water requested.

Are We There Yet? Nope, Only Halfway Through–
This week marked the halfway point of the 2018 Legislative Session. Dakota Rural Action’s work in Pierre is only possible with your support! Your dollars go toward helping members get to the Capitol to testify, mailing our newsletters and updates, and covering the day-to-day expenses of keeping our lobbyist right where the action is. Invest in our legislative fund today!

ACTION ALERT: CAFO Manure Pipes as “Public Utility”–House Floor Today

CAFO Proponents Want Manure Disposal Pipes Treated (But Not Regulated) Like Public Utilities

HOUSE BILL 1184 on the House Floor TODAY. CALL OR EMAIL NOW!!!

Call or Email Your State Reps NOW! Tell them NO WAY on HB 1184! Leave a message in the House Lobby by calling (605) 773-3851 or email them.

CAFO Manure pipe running in road in Grant County, right beside a wetland

House Bill 1184 Seems like a pretty innocuous little bill. It’s short, but it’s not sweet. It allows Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to lay manure disposal pipes in accordance with CL 31-26–that is, in the right-of-way as if they were a public utility. After compelling testimony by several members of our Rural Vitality Committee, as well as water quality and sportsmens groups, the bill barely made it out of House Transportation Committee on a 7-6 vote.

Proponents claim that these force main manure disposal pipes are a “public utility” and should be allowed to use the public right-of-way (the road in front of your house, your ditches) to lay their above-ground manure pipes without notice or permission of affected landowners. But CAFOs are private businesses and corporations, their pipes lie above the ground, and they are a safety and environmental hazard. Proponents also say the pipes are safer and do less road damage than trucks, but there’s no leak detection mechanism other than a big plume of manure in the ditch (and waterways), in your yard, or on the road. Road damage needs to be compensated for in the permitting process–and not used as an excuse to take private property rights!

Damage done to culvert on private property as a result of CAFO manure pipes forced through 

CAFO manure pipe running through creek in Northeast SD

Even if you do not live in a rural area or if you live in an area without CAFOs–ESPECIALLY if you don’t live there (because these reps might not understand the full impact, but they DO understand private property rights being taken for corporate use), CALL or email your State Representatives NOW.

ACTION ALERT: Manure Pipes, Oil Spills, Water Permits TUESDAY


BAD! Call to Defeat:

  • An Act to Provide Certain Provisions Regarding Waste Disposal Lines along or under highways (HB 1184) would allow CAFOs to lay manure pipes in the right of way on private property using the same provisions as public utilities. This bill will be heard in House Transportation at 10am, Room 423 of the Capitol. Contact House Transportation members HERE or call the House lobby and leave them a message at (605) 773-3851.

GOOD! Call to Support:

  • Require Public Notice & Hearing for Temporary Water Use Permits (HB 1225) for construction, testing, or drilling purposes. This bill will be heard in House Ag & Natural Resources at 7:45 am Tuesday in Room 464 of the Capitol. Email Committee Members here, or call the House lobby at (605) 773-3851 and leave them a message.
  • Provide Certain Provisions Regarding Aerial Applicators of pesticides (SB 179)–puts in place some common sense liability and setback requirements that are currently completely lacking in the state. Contact Senate Ag Committee members here, call the Senate Lobby at (605) 773-3821, or show up in support in Room 412 of the Capitol at 10am.
  • Require Certain Reports in the Event of an Oil Spill (SB 163) makes publicly available a chemical analysis on the contents of the spill. It will be heard in Senate Commerce & Energy Committee, Room 423, at 10am. Contact Senate Commerce & Energy members here, of call the Senate Lobby ay (605) 773-3821 to leave them a message.

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DRA Weekly Legislative Update

There’s a lot on our plates for next week–and this weekend is a good time for you to get in touch with your legislators at Cracker Barrels and Coffees or down at the local cafe!

CAFO, Water Use Permit, and Aerial Applicator Bills Scheduled Next Week!

At LEAST four bills we’re watching are scheduled in committee next Tuesday the 6th, and we’ve got ONE lobbyist. If you’re thinking of making a trip to Pierre to testify, you’ve got your “pick of the litter” on which bill to choose from.

Let Rebecca know you’re coming ( and we’ll coordinate testimony.

  • Requiring Notice & Hearing for Temporary Water Use Permits (HB 1225) will be heard in House Ag, Room 464, at 7:45am
  • Manure Pipes in Ditches (HB 1184)–a huge breach of private property rights–in House Transportation, Room 413, at 10:00am
  • A bill to require certain reports in the event of an oil spill (SB 163) is scheduled in Senate Commerce & Energy, Room 423, at 10:00am
  • New Rules for Aerial Applicators–Senate Bill 179 seeks to remedy a stunning lack of regulations regarding the aerial application of pesticides. It will be heard in Senate Ag Committee, Room 412, at 10:00am

A few of the members attending DRA’s Lobby Days listening in committee

Buffer Bill Win This Week!

We saw a win this week on expansion of the Buffer Bill program (HB 1119) to allow counties to add waterways to the program. This bill was deferred from its initial hearing in order to amend the language so that counties must add the waterways by resolution, which creates an avenue for citizen appeal of those decisions. It passed House Local Government Committee and a unanimous vote, and was placed on the consent calendar for passage on the House floor.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Bill Sponsored!

DRA’s Community Energy Development (CED) Committee has worked hard to bring a solid piece of legislation to the 2018 session. We have that in House Bill 1301, which has been assigned to the House Commerce & Energy Committee (but not scheduled as of this writing).

Property Assessed Clean Energy is a program utilized by several states to finance the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on commercial properties, utilizing capital from local banks and investors and local workers to complete the projects. The property owner pays back the PACE financing as an assessment on the property. For more information on the program, visit

Initiative & Referendum Attacks Keep Piling On

It’s clear that we’re past any pretense that this tidal wave of bills is designed to improve the process of direct democracy. Clearly, it’s about making the process more difficult, time-consuming, and unwieldy for citizens exercising their constitutional right to initiative and referendum.

HB 1196 requires petition circulators to submit information on (among other things) their last three residential addresses, what town their library card is from, where their immediate family lives, and whether their cell phone has a (605) area code. The bill passed out of committee, but with Reps. Hawley, Bartling, Lust, and Rhoden voting “no.” Representative Lust in his remarks called the bill a “terrible overreach,” a “litigator’s dream,” and “way off the rails.” Contact your Representatives because this will move to the House floor next week.

HB 1177 as initially drafted would have required all petition circulators to provide their home address to all those who asked for it. This presented serious safety and privacy issues. It was amended to remove the residential address, though two committee members opposed that change. It passed out of committee and will go to the full House.

Newly-filed House Bill 1275 is another bad idea that has risen from the grave of last session. It changes initiated measure petition circulation requirements from not less than 5% of qualified electors in the state to not less than 5% of electors in ⅔ of senate districts. While in some cases, this might cause the overall required number of signatures to go down, the logistical nightmare of accounting for each district creates a greater burden than current statute.

HB 1275 further requires that any petition circulator must have resided in the specific senate district they’re gathering signatures in for not less than ninety days. Minnehaha County alone contains parts of eight senate districts. Pennington County has five, and the cities of Brookings, Watertown, and Aberdeen are in separate districts from their surrounding counties. If this were made law, a circulator could break it simply by crossing the wrong street.

That’s not the last of a long list of bills undermining the initiative and referendum process. You can contact us for a full list and read through all the details, but what matters most is to send a clear message to legislators to Stop Undermining the People’s Process!

DRA Lobby Days 2018!

Nearly twenty members showed up for DRA’s Lobby Days on Monday and Tuesday of this week. Our pre-lobby day social at Mad Mary’s featured an overview of issues and bills we’re working on, followed by a visit by District 26 Senator Troy Heinert to give us the “lay of the land” this legislative session.

We reconvened the next morning at 7:15am and headed up to the House and Senate floors, talking to elected officials about the issues that matter to our members, and later went up to committee hearings, where our presence caused at least one bill to be tabled when the bill’s sponsor realized his pitch was likely destined for failure!

Our Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) conversation was held in the Capitol Cafeteria over lunch, and several legislators took the time to talk with Community Energy Development Committee and other members about our issues and our bill. Those discussions ultimately led to our finding the sponsorship we were seeking. At the same time, the Braveheart Society’s Solar Power Trailer was parked in front of the Capitol, and legislators and others (including PUC Commissioner Chris Nelson) received a guided tour.

It was a great time and a great learning experience for all members and staff who attended! If you weren’t there, make sure to put it on your “To-Do” list for next year!

Throw A Few Bucks in The Hat…to help us keep you on top of the 2018 Session.

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DRA Weekly Legislative Update


If you thought the Summer Task Force bills were bad, wait until you see what else is in store for this legislative session.

This week, House Bill 1006 passed its final legislative hurdle. This bill, which curtails the ability of citizens to get their initiatives reviewed by the Legislative Research Council (LRC) for up to 4 ½ months out of the year, passed the Senate floor on Thursday by a 21-11 vote.

Those who testified in support of the bill said that the “blackout period” for citizen initiative review was needed during the busy legislative session because of understaffing at the LRC and the heavy workload they experience from legislator bills. Curiously, many of those who supported this too-heavy-workload rationale have also signed on in support of at least one frivolous bill (which the LRC is also required to prepare)–that chislic be designated as the official state “nosh.”

Sen. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) testified in support of SJR 1 and HB 1006 in the Senate this week

Dakota Rural Action and SD Citizens for Liberty joined forces in testifying against the bill in Senate State Affairs Committee, and we came close to a “compromise” amendment shortening that blackout period. Senator Sutton offered the amendment which several committee members, the Director of the LRC, and even the bill’s bi-partisan sponsors supported, but the deal blew up when Senator Curd offered a substitute motion to pass the bill as it was.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 passed its house of origin this week as well. SJR 1 raises the threshold for citizen ratification of constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 55%. The rationale behind this legislation (according to its sponsor, Senator Jim Bolin) is that we must “protect the Constitution” against out of state influences by making it harder to pass amendments.

However, as DRA members and other noted in their many calls and emails on this issue–putting in place a higher vote threshold does not stop out of state influences and out of state money from influencing our process–in fact, it means that those grassroots groups with fewer dollars will be at a disadvantage against big-money interests that can throw hundreds of thousands of dollars into advertising to pitch their message to voters and attain that higher threshold. As it stands, citizens who wish to initiate an amendment to the constitution must gather 28,000 valid signatures (so, closer to 40,000 actual signatures) to place the issue on the ballot, whereas legislators wishing to amend simply need to convince a majority of their own body–18 votes in the Senate and 53 in the House–to vote for it.

Thankfully, all proposed constitutional amendments coming from the legislature are required to go to a vote of the people. And although we’ve heard complaints about “ballot clutter” from citizen-initiated measures, legislators have thusfar filed no less than twelve resolutions to put constitutional amendments on the 2018 ballot. Some of them are very concerning, including Rep. Mickelson’s HJR 1007, which proposes to entirely remove the right of citizens to initiate amendments to the constitution. Rep. Pischke’s HJR 1008 proposes that all citizen-initiated amendments to the constitution are required to be approved by the legislature if enacted by the people. If passed, this change would mean that a constitutional amendment approved –even by 70% or more of the voters–could simply be thrown out by a simple majority no vote of the legislature.

There are many more bills and resolutions attacking the initiative and referendum process that have been filed in the last 48 hours. Fighting them all individually is a tough task. Dividing our resources by filing numerous bills (including the HB 1007 “bombshell”) is likely the strategy of those who wish to undermine the process.

We need to send a clear message to ALL our legislators that attacks on the citizens’ right to initiate and refer laws will NOT BE TOLERATED–not now, and not at the ballot box in November.

We pushed for an amendment to HB 1005 in House State Affairs Committee, which sailed through in the first week of session. This bill simplifies ballot recitation language for initiated laws and constitutional amendments as well as referred laws in order to prevent biased language on the ballot. However, the recitation for referred laws was backward–voters would vote “no” to say yes to a law and “yes” to reject the law. Thankfully, our message finally percolated through, the bill was pulled from the House floor, and it came back with amended language and passed this week.

We opposed the Department of Agriculture’s attempt to repeal the Oil & Gas and Drainage Dispute Mediation Programs (SB 33) in Senate Ag Committee this week. While this program has not been utilized much in the few years since its inception, with new oil & gas exploration starting up as the price rises, it would be foolish to throw out a program that saves people money and keeps them out of court when possible. The repeal failed by a unanimous vote.

In addition to the load of bills attacking the initiative & referendum process, there are other issues that are popping up on our radar.

House Bill 1184 would allow the laying of manure pipes along and under highways. This is a direct assault on landowner rights–in most cases, landowners own and pay taxes on land to the middle of the road or right-of-way. While utilities and other public entities use that right-of-way to provide public services, this bill provides for private entities (primarily Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs) to use that right-of-way for private gain. That means landowners would have no say about manure pipes in ditches on their own property. HB 1184 is assigned to the House Transportation Committee, but has not yet been scheduled. If this issue matters to you, start contacting members of that committee now.

On a positive note, House Bill 1225 provides for public notice and hearing on temporary water use permits. This bill comes out of concerns particularly in the western part of the state that mining company exploratory permits and the water use that goes along with them are receiving little to no public input or oversight.

There are also several newly-introduced bills regarding wind energy that members interested in this issue should take a look at. These include House Bills 1234 and 1235, which provide for pre-construction and decommissioning rules for wind energy facilities, Senate Bill 127, which revises requirements for proposed wind energy facility applicants, and House Bill 1164, revising requirements on energy conversion and transmission facility permitting.

All sitting legislators received a copy of DRA’s Lobby Day announcement this week–right on their seats!


Have you registered for DRA’s Lobby Day? We’d love to see you this coming Monday night, January 29th (pre-lobby day training) and Tuesday, January 30th.

We don’t know you’re coming if you don’t tell us, so please sign up by clicking HERE.

You can also come to Pierre anytime during the session–there are a lot of bills and a lot of potential for testifying on issues that matter to you. Citizen voices always carry weight! Let Rebecca know you’re planning to show up by calling (605) 697-5204 x260 or email


Who said the election year session was going to be mellow? We’re busier than ever! And, we need your help to keep us on top of fast-moving legislation. Throw a few bucks (or several!) into our legislative fund today.

ACTION ALERT: We Are *This* Close On HB 1006


Click HERE to find your Senator and their email address. It’s fast, easy, and all you have to do is say, “NO on HB 1006.” Just do it right now because there is no time to waste!

We hate to clog your news feed, but we came *this* close to a reasonable compromise on House Bill 1006 today. And party politics as usual blew it up.

We know we can defeat this bill, which institutes a “blackout period” of up to 4 1/2 MONTHS during which the Legislative Research Council (LRC) is not required to respond to citizen-initiated laws and constitutional amendments. Thanks to your calls and emails on this bill, legislators were feeling the pressure, and we had a compromise in hand during Senate State Affairs Committee today. Senators from both parties, the bill sponsors, and even the Director of the LRC came to the table, only to lose it all when Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd offered a substitute motion and blew the whole thing out of the water.

And now, the bill is up on the Senate Floor only a day after it passed committee.

It’s clear that the pressure we put on before today’s committee hearing has them spooked, and it’s clear that those who oppose citizens’ constitutional right to initiate laws and amendments are trying to rush this through before legislators head home for weekend cracker barrels and legislative coffees.

Call or email today! STOP THE ASSAULT on citizens’ constitutional rights!

ACTION ALERT: Blackout Period on Initiatives in State Affairs TOMORROW

HB 1006 Undermines Our Constitutional Right to Initiate

Call the Senate Lobby at (605) 773-3821 or Write To Members of Senate State Affairs Telling Them to KILL this BILL TODAY!


Even Better–SHOW UP TO TESTIFY against this bill in Senate State Affairs Committee tomorrow, Wed. Jan 24 at 10am in Room 414 of the Capitol.

Since 1898, Citizens of South Dakota have “expressly reserve[d] to themselves the right to propose measures, which shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state.” This is the language within our State Constitution that give us the right to initiate laws, and it has been there since nearly the beginning of statehood.

Now, the legislature is attempting to undermine our ability to exercise our Constitutional Right by limiting our access to mechanisms we’re required to use in order to draft citizen initiatives, as well as constitutional amendments.

House Bill 1006 says that during the Legislative Session, the Legislative Reseach Council (LRC–which drafts and comments on bills and initiatives) belongs EXCLUSIVELY to the Legislature, and that the LRC is not required to comment on citizen initiatives from December 1st until 15 days after session adjournment–potentially up to 4 1/2 months, or over 1/3 of the year.

Citizens are required to start the initiative process with submission to LRC, and after that wait up to two months getting feedback from the Attorney General & Secretary of State’s Office. House Bill 1006 sets back the citizen process, and is a major gutting of our Constitutional right to initiate.

This bill has already been heard in its house of origin and was passed on the House Floor. This may be our last chance to knock down this harmful legislation coming from the Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum.

Contact Senate State Affairs Today and Tell Them to Kill This Bill!