On one important issue, Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City) chose decency and good sense over politically motivated fear-mongering. The Rapid City Republican had introduced House Bill 1158, an unconstitutional effort to pander to his party’s Trumpy paranoia about refugees. Rep. Craig wanted to create enormous bureaucratic barriers to resettling refugees in South Dakota and codify a concept of “absorptive capacity” that would have empowered the state to ban new refugees from settling here for up to a year.
Governor Dennis Daugaard himself said HB 1158 was bad policy. Over the weekend, Rep. Craig apparently figured that out, too. When House State Affairs reached HB 1158 on Monday, Chairman Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) announced that the prime sponsor had asked the committee to table his bill. With no discussion, House State Affairs did so. HB 1158 is thus mostly dead.
Rep. Craig explained afterward how he saw the light:
Craig said he made the decision to abandon the bill after a weekend conversation with his bill’s state Senate co-sponsor, Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, and Betty Oldencamp, president of Lutheran Social Services.
Apart from granting the governor extraordinary powers, HB 1158 would have created an infrastructure within the South Dakota Department of Social Services to monitor and coordinate the resettlement of refugees, a function that Lutheran Social Services already performs.
“Everything that bill attempted to secure, they already do, so it’s unnecessary,” Craig said. “We’ve got a phenomenal process. Everything (Oldencamp) described is very thorough” [Mike Anderson, “Rep. Scott Craig Withdraws Anti-Refugee Bill,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.02.08].
Lesson #1: Rep. Craig leapt before he looked. Contrary to his conservative Republicanism, he up and filed a bill to create a whole bunch of new bureaucracy and regulation without checking to see if the private sector was already solving that problem.
Lesson #2: Facts and a little private lobbying can make a difference. Betty Oldencamp, South Dakota’s practicing expert on refugee resettlement, explained to Rep. Craig, who lives in a town that isn’t even designated for refugee resettlement, how refugee resettlement works. Rep. Craig evidently found her explanation more informative and persuasive than the copy of some other state’s proposal that someone handed him as a talking point.
Having demonstrated his ability to listen to reason, Rep. Craig will now surely welcome calls and e-mails from teachers, administrators, parents, and students who wish to explain to him to importance of supporting funding for teacher pay raises. Rep. Craig rose yesterday to delay HB 1182, the funding mechanism for the Blue Ribbon teacher pay plan; let’s give him another long weekend of good advice so he can return to Pierre next week ready to move a good bill along as quickly and confidently as he killed his own bad bill on Monday.