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.

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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!

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.


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


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.


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.


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!

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!


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!

Dakota Rural Voices Episode 2: Legalizing Hemp, with Senator Troy Heinert and Farmer Danny Dyck

Episode 2 – HEMP.

What’s the big deal about hemp? Find out with state Senator Troy Heinert and local farmer Danny Dyck as we talk with them about HB 1054, which would legalize the plant in South Dakota.


Don’t forget to catch us live next Thursday at 1pmCT from the studios at KSDJ 90.7 in Brookings. You can stream KSDJ live on your phone, tablet, or smart TV via the free TuneIn App.

You can download this and every episode on iTunes – just search for “Dakota Rural Voices” and subscribe now!

Will hemp soon be legal in South Dakota?

Note: Dakota Rural Action member Danny Dyck and Senator Troy Heinert, who is helping sponsor this legislation, will be on the Dakota Rural Voices radio show Thursday, January 21, at 1pmCT on KSDJ 90.7 in Brookings. You can listen in here: http://www.ksdjradio.com or stream KSDJ live on your phone, tablet, or smart TV via the free TuneIn App

by Bill Powers

HB 1054 would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp in South Dakota. Hemp cultivation dates from at least 10,000 years ago in Southeast Asia. It has been a common cultivar throughout the world, including Europe, Russia, and North America. George Washington grew hemp and encouraged its cultivation as a cash crop. Industrial hemp is already produced in Canada and Europe, France being the largest producer worldwide. About 100,000 acres are presently cultivated in Canada. During WWII the US government encouraged the cultivation of hemp to replace Manilla hemp as a necessary component of the war effort, resulting in the short film “Hemp for Victory.”

Industrial hemp contains less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), making it useless as a recreational drug. Marijuana has a THC content of 3% – 20%, indicating that one would have to smoke from 10 to 20 hemp cigarettes to get high. The economic benefits from the cultivation of industrial hemp are significant. Recent results in Alberta indicate that the average net profit for hemp cultivation is about $516/acre, while that for corn and beans hovers around $300/acre. Both the straw and seed have significant commercial value, with additional commercial applications still under investigation.  The 2014 Farm Bill paved the way for legalized cultivation of industrial hemp for research in those states where hemp cultivation is legal.

HB 1054 requires any producer of industrial hemp to obtain a permit from the state and that only certified seed be used to guarantee its THC content. The fields producing hemp shall be subject to testing by the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA), and the purchaser of any harvested hemp will be reported to the SDDA. The cost of testing will be paid for by the applicant at a cost of $5/acre. These stipulations appear to reflect those in place in Canada.

Some are concerned that industrial hemp production could conceal marijuana production. There are at least two reasons why this is unlikely. First, if someone were to try to conceal marijuana production, it would seem that the last place you would want to do it is in a field that is being monitored for THC levels by state officials. It would make far more sense to try to conceal such cultivation in a field of rye, buckwheat, or any other tall grain. There is already ample evidence that marijuana is being grown in corn fields throughout the mid-west. Secondly, if you did want to grow marijuana in a field of industrial hemp, pollination by the industrial hemp would result in an inferior marijuana with a lower THC content.

Finally, even should the state legalize industrial hemp cultivation, significant hurdles are still in place. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) requires that anyone cultivating industrial hemp receive a permit from the DEA, and this remains the case even in states like North Dakota and Montana where hemp production is legal. Despite the recent provisions of the 2014 Farm Bill, the DEA continues resist granting permission to any research institution to grow industrial hemp. On April 28, 2015, Purdue became the first research institution to receive such a grant. Despite this resistance, the first step under the 2014 Farm Bill is state legalization of hemp production. The economic benefits of hemp production are significant. Its influence upon local economies could be promising as new local industry would be established for subsequent processing of both the seed and straw. Moreover, hemp cultivation can serve as a valuable component in a crop rotation program.

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