HB 1073 Offers Weaker $100 Lobbyist Gift Cap Than IM22

No one hit the panic button on House Bill 1073 yesterday, House State Affairs approved HB 1073 unanimously with amendments.

HB 1073 is one of the replacement bills the Legislature is offering as a consolation prize to voters who saw their Initiated Measure 22 repealed last week by Republican legislators and a Republican Governor who think they know better than us rabble. File that arrogance for reference in the next election, and let’s look at the merits of HB 1073.

HB 1073 specifically replaces IM22’s Section 31, the infamous $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists and employers of lobbyists to any “elected state officer, legislative official or staffperson, or executive department official or staffperson” or those officials’ immediate family members. IM22 defined “gift” as “any compensation, reward, employment, gift, honorarium, beverage, meal, food, or other thing of value.”

HB 1073 also caps gifts at $100. The givers subject to that cap are lobbyists and “principals,” which includes both people and organizations who employ, compensate, or authorize lobbyists to lobby on their behalf. That definition of “principals” arguably restricts more givers than IM22, which only spoke of “employers” of lobbyists and thus may not have encompassed people and groups authorizing but not paying their lobbyists. However, HB 1073 clarifies that the giver cap applies only to board members or officers of organizations, not regular members.

HB 1073 restricts fewer recipients than IM22. It doesn’t mention legislative or executive staff. HB 1073 only limits gifts to statewide officeholders, executive branch agency heads, legislators, and individuals newly elected and appointed to such positions but not yet sworn in. Like IM22, HB 1073 includes gifts to those officials’ “immediate family.” HB 1073 defines “immediate family” as spouse and minor children; IM22 struck the campaign finance chapter’s (SDCL 12-27) overarching definition of “immediate family” (see Section 4), so we can only assume IM22 would have used the same definition, spouse and minor children, found elsewhere in state election law (perhaps SDCL 12-25-27).

Extremely sensitive to Republicans’ tears over IM22’s restrictions on free meals, HB 1073 exempts from the definition of “gift” “any food or beverage provided for immediate consumption under seventy-five dollars per meal.” $75? I feel a little embarrassed taking a meal that costs over $20; $75 is extravagance ill-suited to “citizen legislators” (the term Al Novstrup and other Republicans use constantly to brag up their humble status).

HB 1073 explicitly exempts campaign contributions from “gifts”. This exemption was implicit in IM22’s gift limits: campaign contributions go to campaign committees, not to elected officials as individuals. Campaign contributions thus are not “gifts” to individuals in either legal framework.

Like IM22, HB 1073 creates restrictions on gifts from lobbyists to elected officials where South Dakota currently has none. It’s not what voters wanted (again, remember that when you vote for legislators and Governor in 2018), but since IM22 is dead, something is better than nothing. HB 1073 is a weaker but tolerable replacement for one small portion of IM22.


4 Responses to HB 1073 Offers Weaker $100 Lobbyist Gift Cap Than IM22

  1. Cory’s analysis is spot on as usual.

  2. barry freed

    The panic by lawmakers over “only coffee and doughnuts” is amusing.

    Salespeople give us gifts of pens and such because: Even though everyone know that pens only cost 10 cents, psychologically, the person gifted feels a debt and is more inclined to purchase something.

    We pay them more than enough to buy their own food, or pens.

  3. Porter Lansing

    You can’t buy a judge a meal or give her/him any type of gift if you’re going before them. If you try it’s called bribery and you’ll be charged with a crime. Legislators should follow the same rule. Both deal with the law and no gifts are proper or ethical … especially free food. Pay your own way and you’ll have no obligations, real or subconsciously.

  4. It is funny, Barry and Porter, how that psychology and common sense, practiced by salesmen every day and recognized by all of us, somehow becomes invalid when legislators talk about the influence lobbyists’ gifts have on them.

    Oh, no, a $70 meal won’t have any impact on my decision-making—horsehockey.

    Thanks, Mark!