Weekly Legislative Update

Dakota Rural Action Weekly Legislative Update

We’re closing in on the final stretch of session, which means it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what’s happening in Pierre. “Shell” bills that were previously empty of content are being filled with potentially concerning legislation, and bad bills introduced at the last minute are being scheduled in rapid succession. Please do not hesitate to call or e-mail your legislators to voice your concerns. Remember, they work for you!

If you are interested in coming to the Capitol to testify–even if you have never done so before–please feel free to contact me. Dakota Rural Action is a member-led organization, and our staff is ready and willing to help with logistics of developing testimony, finding your committee meeting room, and even securing accommodations for an overnight stay if needed. Your voice is needed now more than ever.

Best,

Rebecca Terk
DRA Lobbyist in Pierre
(605) 697-5204 x260

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DRA members Kathy Tyler (right) and Kristi Mogen traveled to Pierre this week to testify against HB 1187, which undermines citizens’ right to appeal Conditional Use Permit (CUP) decisions by local Boards of Adjustment.

DANGER! HB 1187 HAS ALREADY PASSED THROUGH ITS FIRST COMMITTEE

This bill is an attempt to undermine citizens’ right to appeal a Conditional Use Permit decision by their local Board of Adjustment. This should be especially concerning to those fighting CAFO expansions in their communities. It is being pitched by sponsor Rep. Jason Kettwig (R-Milbank) as a “local control” friendly bill because it keeps virtually ALL authority to make final CUP decisions with Boards of Adjustment–and CUTS OUT virtually all pathways to appeal by citizens.

Yesterday in House Local Government Committee, Dakota Rural Action member and former State Legislator Kathy Tyler testified that “Citizens want a voice in how their neighborhoods are run; this bill puts the final nail in the coffin of that voice.” Also testifying in opposition were DRA member Kristi Mogen and lobbyist Rebecca Terk. Nevertheless, the bill passed out of committee on a party-line vote. WE NEED MANY MORE VOICES OPPOSING THIS BILL.

SB 135SD Stockgrowers’ Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) bill for beef passed Senate State Affairs with strong proponent testimony from producers, Dakota Rural Action, Farmers Union, SD Stockgrowers, and others. The bill was amended in committee to reduce the penalty for a retailer’s non-compliance from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a petty offense.

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SD Stockgrowers Executive Director (and former DRA lobbyist!) Silvia Christen chats with producers following passage of SB 135–the Country of Origin Labeling bill–through Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday.

HB 1204 This bill allows for the set-up of a pilot program for the production and sale of industrial hemp along the lines of a similar program set up in North Dakota last year. Proponent testimony was given by the sponsor, Rep. Liz May (R-Kyle) and Dakota Rural Action. Opponents included Law Enforcement, the Sheriff’s Association, and the Department of Agriculture, which would be responsible for running the program. Despite that opposition, House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee members, noting the current price of corn and the need for more diverse commodity opportunities, supported the bill on a 9-2 vote and sent it to the House floor for what is likely to be a lively discussion there.

Dakota Rural Action has been following and supporting the Riparian Buffer Strip Incentive Program Bill (SB 66) as it makes its way through the process. It has already passed through the Senate Ag Committee and the Senate floor, and yesterday passed the House Taxation Committee on its way to its final vote on the House floor, where it is likely to succeed and be signed into law.

SB 136The Certified Professional Midwife licensure bill brought by SD Birth Matters. Because it sets up a new board and licensing process, it needed ⅔ vote–which it got on the Senate floor this week. Now it goes to the House Health & Human Services Committee, but is not yet scheduled as of Friday. 2/17.

SB 114 is the Spearfish Canyon Land Swap bill that comes with a $2.5 million pricetag for the acquisition of lands from the U.S. Forest Service as well as an emergency clause that prohibits referral by voters. This bill was strongly opposed by Black Hills residents, and by DRA’s Black Hills Chapter. It was tabled in Joint Appropriations this week and by all reports is unlikely to be brought back this session.

SB 176 started out as a “shell” or empty bill entitled, ”Accommodate Legislation Relating to the Protection of Public Safety.” An article posted late yesterday in the Argus Leader has 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 a Class 1 misdemeanor if they cross into the created “public safety zone”–and is specifically targeted against the potential for protests against the KXL pipeline. It will be heard on Wednesday in Senate State Affairs.

HB 1188–Another shell bill about accommodating “legislation to promote agricultural development.” Based on the sponsors, this bill is also concerning. We are watching it, and it will be heard in House Appropriations on Tuesday.

Thank you for your support during this legislative session.
Our ability to keep a full-time lobbyist in Pierre is 100% funded by member donations.
Please consider making a contribution to our legislative fund today!

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ACTION ALERT: Protect Your Right to Appeal CAFO Siting Decisions

Seal

HB 1187 may have dire implications for those fighting CAFO sitings and other unwanted developments that negatively impact family farms, homes, and communities. It was scheduled today, and is being heard in the House Local Government Committee TOMORROW (Thursday, 2/16) at 10am in Room 414 at the Capitol.

As DRA member Kathy Tyler states in her upcoming testimony: “Citizens want a voice in how their neighborhoods are run, this bill puts the final nail in the coffin of that voice. HB1187 takes away any and all local control of how conditional use permits are handled. If a county or city wants to have public input, maybe even wants to offer the ability to refer a conditional use permit, they will not be able to do so with this bill.”

This is a VERY dangerous piece of legislation for those who value local control, and it needs to be stopped. Contact the members of the House Local Government Committee TODAY.

House Local Government Committee Members
(click on the name for contact information)
** indicates the Representative is also a sponsor of the bill

Conzet, Kristin, Chair
Greenfield, Lana
Jamison, Greg
**Kettwig, Jason
Marty, Sam
**Otten, Herman
Reed, Tim
Schoenfish, Kyle
Smith, Jamie
Soli, Karen
**Tulson, Burt , Vice Chair
**Turbiville, Charles
York, Nancy

As always, we welcome Dakota Rural Action members to come and testify in person.
Please let us know if you are planning to attend this important hearing.

Rebecca Terk
DRA Lobbyist in Pierre
(605) 697-5204 x260

Legislative Update

Headway on Ballot Measure Bills

We are making headway against the many bills chipping away at citizen tools for direct democracy. Between your calls and emails and the testimony of Dakota Rural Action members and allies, legislators are feeling the heat. Don’t let up! We’re at the halfway point of session now!

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SB59 A bill to delay the effective date of ballot measures until July 1 of the following year. Recognizing that the bill was unlikely to be killed outright, DRA lobbied to have the date moved back to January 1st after an attempted amendment to that effect by Minority Leader Billie Sutton on the Senate side. In House State Affairs, Minority Leader Hawley proposed instead an amendment to leave the date July 1, but include language that no initiated measure could be repealed with the use of an emergency clause (which denies the voters right to refer) before that date. The amendment was favorably received by committee members, but the language needed more work, so it should be coming to the House floor next week.

HB1074 This is a bill to cap out of state contributions to ballot question committees to 75% of the total. DRA was prepared to testify against, but because the line of opponent testimony ran out the hearing time, the bill was re-scheduled to next week (2/13) in House State Affairs.

HB1153 Was killed in committee. This was a bill that required no less than 50% of an initiated measure’s petition signatures come from no fewer than thirty-three counties (and with a separate signature sheet for each county).

HB1130 This bill proposed a thirty-day delay in the gathering of petition signatures for initiated measures and constitutional amendments while a public comment period was opened on the secretary of state’s website. The bill was amended in committee to remove the thirty-day waiting period for signature-gathering, but it still requires an unnecessary public comment-plus-hearing process that stands to undermine petitioners’ efforts.

Passed on the Senate Floor

SB66–riparian buffer strip incentive program bill and SB154–bill encouraging the use of native vegetation during state rest area remodels.

On Our Watchlist

House Bills 1187 & 1188: These are the “other shoes” we’ve been waiting to see drop. The first “revise[s] the process by which courts consider appeals of decisions regarding conditional use requests.” The second is titled simply, “Accommodate legislation to promote agricultural development.” Neither is scheduled for a hearing yet, but we are watching closely because we think it’s likely there will be an attempt to slip them through quickly.

HB1141: This bill proposes a legislative task force for considering further proposed changes to the initiative and referendum process in South Dakota. It’s scheduled in House State Affairs Monday morning.

SB158: A bill imposing tariffs on crude oil pipelines constructed in the state if they are built using foreign steel. The tariff would create a pipeline spill clean-up fund. Scheduled in Senate Taxation Monday.

SB135: “Revise certain meat labelling requirements” aka the Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) bill from SD Stockgrowers. It has bipartisan support, and states in part that, “All beef and ground beef sold for retail sale within the state, except prepared foods for immediate sale or ready to eat, shall bear a label of country of origin.” We are hearing that this bill will come up in Senate State Affairs on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 10am, and we’d LOVE to have some members come and testify in support! Let us know if you can join us there.

HB1204: Authorizes the production and sale of industrial hemp. Also not yet scheduled.

We’ll keep you posted about any fast-moving developments.

Watch for Action Alerts in your e-mail box!

DRA Member Post: South Dakota Ethics

Carl Kline is a weekly columnist for the Brookings Register and  a Dakota Rural Action Brookings Chapter member. He is an adjunct faculty member at Mt. Marty, Watertown, and serves as interim pastor of the UCC Church there, as well as coordinating the Satyagraha Institute.

I have to say a word of thanks to State Representative John Wiik for his recent legislative report in the January 31 Brookings Register about “Why IM22 Just Has to Go.” Although his arguments weren’t very satisfying to this writer, at least he tried to explain why this initiated measure passed by South Dakota voters was unconstitutional.

Wiik mentioned that the description of a “gift” to a member of the legislature in IM22 was too broad. He suggested that because his children might be in a public school and the school was lobbying the legislature, he would be in violation of IM22.

This seems quite a stretch. I’m sure SD citizens are not lining up to take their legislators to court for having their children in a public school that lobbies them. And if the courts are in such bad shape that they would accept such an interpretation, they need as much help or more than the legislative branch.

On the other hand, it’s not unheard of for persons in government to put the needs of special interests above the needs of the larger community when it comes to education. Consider the continuing struggles over who uses what bathroom or how public schools teach science. Do people receive “gifts” for promoting these causes? Personally, I’d like to know.

IM22 helps provide greater transparency. With transparency comes understanding. And if the gifts in these battles are simply the appreciation and toasting of their supporters, so be it. We can respect that. And we can respect personal integrity on an issue and voting one’s conscience. And although some legislators might not believe it, the great majority of SD citizens are not out to say “got cha.” They want to know that their voice is not drowned out by “gifts.” They are simply asking for some modest assurances of legislative integrity and the reality of one person one vote.

Another argument for IM22 being unconstitutional some have put forward is that the public financing proposal forces tax payers to support candidates they don’t like, as well as those they do. If only this argument were carried to its logical conclusion. I don’t want any of my tax payer money going to help the legislature assume the role of refugee police, a job I know Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls does amazingly well (after a long and extensive vetting process by the government). Why don’t I have a choice now as to how my money is used? What’s so different about public financing of elections?

Those against IM22 also claim the initiative as written allocates tax payer monies for public financing when only the legislature is allowed by the constitution to do that. Simple enough! Since the citizens of the state asked for public financing, let our representatives just allocate the money. I’m sure that will be the first item on the legislator’s agenda, after repealing the initiative, but saying they want to abide by the will of the people.

One other constitutional argument has to do with the independent ethics commission. Critics of IM22 claim it allocates an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. They claim the only ethics commission constitutionally allowed is one the legislature creates to police itself.

Honestly, South Dakotans know we live in a one party state. We know we have recently seen some serious violations of the public trust, resulting in deaths and disgrace and the misuse of public funds. If the legislature is not able to adequately root out ethical concerns in state government, the people need their own independent option. Since the party in power seems so resistant to this idea, perhaps members of the media, the clergy and the business community need to establish their own ethics commission. Some citizens are getting tired of having an F rating among the states on government accountability and transparency.

One final concern, opponents of IM22 are fond of pointing out most of the funding for the initiative came from out of state. Using that argument, how is it that all of the leadership in the Legislature were OK with taking campaign funds from Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas corporation? After all, ETP has not treated all of our SD citizens so well. They coerce our farmers and ranchers with threats of eminent domain if they can’t put a pipeline through their backyard. They threaten our waterways and aquifers. They ignore the wishes of our Native American residents. They continue to take fossil fuels out of the ground when our climate and children require they stay put. Let us at least know how much these massive corporations put into the pockets of those who claim to represent us.

I’d still like to know what kinds of “gifts” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides legislators. Am I as a taxpayer still paying to help them get to ALEC meetings? And shouldn’t there be a cap on what one can receive from PAC’s and individuals? What’s unconstitutional about that?

An independent ethics commission could help answer these questions for citizens deeply concerned about the ability of governments to function. Partisans, ideologues, and money from special interests are undermining our democracy. If our representatives are determined to make the initiative process harder and repeal what the people approve, let’s create our own commission to do ethical investigations.

Legislative Update

IM 22 Repealed

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Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission) stands in opposition to the repeal.

Despite hundreds of calls and e-mails, a packed Senate Gallery, and even a “Shame On You! Respect Our Vote!” banner flying over the Capitol building, HB 1069, a repeal of the voter-approved anti-corruption passed on the Senate floor. Voting against the repeal were Democratic Senators Sutton, Heinert, Frerichs, Kennedy, Killer, and Nesiba, along with Republican Senators Nelson and Russell.

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The Senate Gallery fills up with citizens for the IM22 repeal vote, many wearing yellow shirts emblazoned with, “Respect Our Vote!”

SB67 Withdrawn

Thanks to massive citizen outcry, SB 67, a measure to dramatically increase the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, was withdrawn by its sponsor (Jeff Partridge R-Rapid City). DRA members, lobbyist, and many other citizens and groups were on hand to testify, but thankfully this was one battle we didn’t have to fight.

SB 66 Governor’s Buffer Bill

The bill to establish an incentive program for riparian buffer strips passed out of committee on a unanimous vote Thursday morning. Several farm and conservation groups (including DRA) testified in support of the bill, with some comments on possible future changes. There was no opposing testimony, though there was an amendment by Senators Klumb and Frerichs to reduce the minimum mowing height to 4” from 6”.

COOL Legislation & Midwife Bill

South Dakota Stockgrowers Country of Origin Labeling bill (SB135) is out, though not yet scheduled for committee. Read the bill here, and let us know if you have questions or might be interested in testifying when it is scheduled.

Also of interest to our members, SB136, allowing for the licensure of Certified Professional Midwives, has been referred to Senate Health & Human Service Committee.

 

Legislative Update

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The Fight for IM 22

This week brought intense committee hearings on HB 1069, a total repeal of Initiated Measure 22–the anti-corruption and government accountability measure, approved by voters last fall. It contains an emergency clause, making it exempt from referral by voters.

The bill was filed last Friday, and the Republican super-majority seemed determined to rush it through committee and pass it into law by the end of the week. While the measure did pass the House, the intensity of calls and e-mails from citizens coupled with unflattering media attention both in state and nationally resulted in the Senate’s vote being deferred until next Wednesday. The new “spin” you may hear by supporters of HB 1069 this weekend is to suggest that without its passage, the state is in a kind of legal vacuum in regard to campaign finance law. That’s simply untrue: Judge Barnett’s injunction on IM 22 (resulting from Republican legislators’ lawsuit against it) means that we are operating on old law as the case makes it way through the courts. Once again, there is NO emergency. This bill should be killed, or at the very least, the emergency clause should be removed.

Your voice DOES make a difference!  Keep up the calls and e-mails, and with a four-day recess this weekend, it’s an excellent opportunity to talk to your legislators in person as well.

The Next Attack on Direct Democracy

SB 67, which was scheduled for hearing last Wednesday, was deferred for another week due to the large amount of testimony on HB 1069. This bill dramatically increases the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and contains an emergency clause barring voter referral. Once again, this is NOT an emergency.

While it may seem like a good thing to make it harder to change the constitution, South Dakotans have shown great restraint about doing so at the ballot box. Changing the number of required signatures from 10% of the gubernatorial voters in the last election to 10% of registered voters in the entire state (an increase of nearly 88% using last election’s figures) raises the bar to the point where only those well-funded groups (e.g. payday lenders) who can afford to hire petition circulators are likely to have a chance to get an amendment on the ballot.

Not Too Late!

SB 59 in its original form would have allowed the governor to veto initiated measures passed by voters. That most egregious piece was amended out by the sponsor thanks to backlash by citizens even before it landed in committee. However, the first section of the bill, which delays the effective date of initiated measures to July 1 of the following year, did pass the Senate, and has been referred to House State Affairs.

The argument by supporters is that because initiated measures go into effect almost immediately after the election, state government needs more time to plan for what changes they bring. The problem is that such a lengthy delay tempts legislators to tinker with voter-approved measures before they are engrossed. Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton offered an amendment to move back the effective date to January 1st, but it was rejected.  This measure does NOT contain an emergency clause YET.

And So Much More…

Black Hills Chapter members strongly oppose the Governor’s Spearfish Canyon/Bismark Lake land swap. SB 114 is a $2.5 million appropriation to swap state-owned grasslands for U.S. Forest Service property in the Hills for the purpose of creating a new state park, and the administration is pushing it hard, despite budget constraints.. Yesterday, Governor Daugaard announced that, if approved, there would be no entry fee for the new park, which he said was the bulk of citizen complaints. SB 114 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Appropriations.

The Governor’s anticipated Buffer Bill (SB 66) is out. While it’s a first, tentative step toward watershed protection by tax adjustments on buffer strips, it’s a small one. That said, most conservation groups agree that it should be supported.

Several bills bringing back extensively revised pieces of the anti-corruption and government accountability act (IM 22) have also been filed. It’s hard to determine how to approach those until the HB 1069 debate concludes.

Good news: SD Stockgrowers has again introduced SB 135, Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation for beef, with a good number of sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Legislative Cracker Barrels This Weekend:

Mitchell–TODAY–Fri. Jan 27, noon, City Council Chambers

Spearfish–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, High Plains Western Heritage Center

Brandon- Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, Legislative Coffee with District 10 & 25

Brookings–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, City-County Government Building

Vermillion–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, City Hall

If you know of any other Cracker Barrels this weekend, please let us know.

Thanks for all the calls and e-mails you’ve made and thanks for the good work you do!
Rebecca Terk, DRA Lobbyist

Action Alert: One More Call on HB1069

 

Senate

Republicans in Pierre are trying to ram through HB 1069 before the week is out. This bill is a repeal of Initiated Measure 22, the voter-approved anti-corruption and government accountability act.

This morning, despite the fact that some members of the committee have potential conflicts of interest due to their involvement in a personal lawsuit against IM 22, HB 1069 passed the Senate State Affairs Committee along party lines with none recusing themselves.

Because the bill contains an emergency clause, it cannot be referred by the voters. HOWEVER, the emergency clause also requires the bill to have a two-thirds vote to pass on the Senate floor.

We need more calls NOW to peel off votes from that majority.
Call the Senate lobby and tell your senator to VOTE NO on House Bill 1069, and “fix, don’t nix” Initiated Measure 22.
Senate Lobby Number: (605) 773-3821

If you can’t call, e-mail your Senator. Find your Senator’s e-mail at this website: http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislators/Who_Are_My_Legislators/default.aspx?Session=2017

Action Alert: SB67

SealThe Attacks on Citizens’ Right to Direct Democracy Keep Coming

Senate Bill 67, an act to revise the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, will be heard in Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning.

This bill dramatically raises the number of signatures needed by altering the formula: from 10% of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election to 10% of the TOTAL number of registered voters in the state.

These changes raise an already high bar to a level where the only groups likely to meet this challenge are big money outfits that can afford to hire people to circulate their petitions.

Like House Bill 1069 (the repeal of a Voter-approved anti-corruption act, passed out of House State Affairs last night), SB 67 also comes with an emergency clause, which puts it into effect right away, with no recourse for voters to refer it to the ballot.

BOTH THESE BAD BILLS ARE BEING HEARD WEDNESDAY MORNING.

CALL or EMAIL the members of Senate State Affairs NOW and tell them to oppose SB 67–the formula works as it is, AND there is NO need for an emergency clause because there is no emergency.

Senate State Affairs Members

Jim Bolin (R) Canton
605-773-3821 capitol
Jim.Bolin@sdlegislature.gov

R. Blake Curd (R) Sioux Falls (Dist. 12)
605-773-3821
Blake.Curd@sdlegislature.gov

Bob Ewing (R) Spearfish
605-773-3821
Bob.Ewing@sdlegislature.gov

Troy Heinert (D) Mission
605-773-3821
Troy.Heinert@sdlegislature.gov

Kris Langer
605-773-3821
Kris.Langer@sdlegislature.gov

Ryan Maher (R) Isabel
605-773-3821
Ryan.Maher@sdlegislature.gov

Jenna Netherton (R) Sioux Falls Dist. 10
605-773-3821
Jenna.Haggar@sdlegislature.gov

Al Novstrup (R) Aberdeen
605-773-3821
Al.Novstrup@sdlegislature.gov

Action Alert: HB1069

SD Legislature Attempts to Gut Initiated Measure 22 with the Passage of House Bill 1069

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HB 1069, a complete gutting of Initiated Measure 22 passed by voters last fall, is being rushed to a joint hearing on Monday after being introduced late Friday afternoon.

IM 22 created an independent ethics commission to oversee the legislature, imposed stricter limits on lobbying, and provided for public financing of political campaigns. While some voters disagreed with sections of the bill, the citizen-led initiative passed in November with 53% of the vote.

HB 1069 undermines this package of reforms meant to bring greater transparency and oversight to the democratic process, and it comes with an emergency clause that ensures immediate implementation and blocks any process of referral by voters. The fox is re-engineering the henhouse for his own comfort.

While there are some constitutional issues with IM 22 as passed, an injunction by the State Supreme Court already prevents those measures from going into effect. The “emergency” being declared is an excuse for legislators to alter both the letter and spirit of the law with no recourse for the voters who passed it.

THIS IS A FAST-MOVING ATTACK ON THE INITIATIVE & REFERENDUM PROCESS AND WE NEED TO ACT FAST!

RIGHT NOW contact Committee members (listed below) and urge them to kill HB1069 in committee.

MONDAY MORNING Call the House Lobby at (605) 773-3851 and leave a message for your representatives, telling them to STAND UP for voters and vote DOWN HB1069.

House State Affairs Committee Members
Julie Bartling (D) Gregory
(605) 222-3378 (cell) bjbart@gwtc.net

Arch Beal (R) Sioux Falls
Arch.beal@sdlegislature.gov

Lynne DiSanto (R) Box Elder
Lynne.disanto@sdlegislature.gov

Don Haggar (R) Sioux Falls
(605) 360-8130 (cell) don@donhaggar.com

Spencer Hawley (D) Brookings
(605) 691-3061 (cell) Spencer.hawley@mchsi.com

Leslie Heinemann (R) Flandreau
(605) 864-1274 (cell) Leslie.heinemann@sdlegislature.gov

Isaac Latterell (R) Tea
Isaac.latterell@sdlegislature.gov

David Lust (R) Rapid City
Dlust@gpna.com

Mark G. Mickelson (R) Sioux Falls
(605) 951-7690 (cell) mark.mickelson@sdlegislature.gov

Kent Peterson (R) Salem
(605) 530-6245 (cell) kent4district19@gmail.com

(Vice Chair) Lee Qualm (R) Platte
(605) 207-0406 (cell) riverbluff@midstatesd.net

(Chair) Larry Rhoden (R) Union Center
Lrhoden@gwtc.net

Tona Rozum (R) Mitchell
(605) 999-2190 (cell) tonaroz@mit-tel.net

Eminent Domain Reforms Inch Forward

by Robin EH. Bagley

One of the bright spots in this year’s legislative session have been the positive changes to the state’s eminent domain laws. Both HB 1134 and HB 1153 were collaboratively worked on by different stakeholders, including Dakota Rural Action, the utilities, the SD Stockgrowers’ Association, and landowners who have been affected by eminent domain.

HB 1134, an act to provide for access to certain property for the purpose of making surveys, clarifies what happens when a utility does not receive permission to enter someone’s land, and in the long-run, it helps to avoid lawsuits. Bret Clanton, a landowner in Harding County, testified in favor of the bill during the House Judiciary Committee hearing, explaining that he was drug into the court system by TransCanada over survey issues with the Keystone XL pipeline, and that had 1134 been in effect prior to that confrontation, it would have more easily dealt with. Sabrina King with DRA and Jeremiah Murphy with the Stockgrowers testified that HB 1134 brings clarity and order to the process.

HB 1153, reform eminent domain by mediation, was called “the most harmless bill of the session and might be also the most helpful” by Brett Koenecke of the SD Utilities Companies during the hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. The bill clarifies that eminent domain cases can be settled by mediation. Again, this is a bill which seeks to reform the eminent domain process so that it doesn’t immediately end up in the court system. Clanton said that he welcomed the bill, and that it was good to make it possible for the two sides (in an eminent domain dispute) to find consensus.

These two bills represent a change in how both parties in eminent domain situations can react and move forward. Hopefully these changes will serve to make the process less contentious, and give landowners some other options rather than being drug into court. Both bills have passed the legislature and will become law later this year.