We start the Legislative week with twelve important bills to watch—important because, right now, they are meaningless:
- SB 104: “to protect certain easement holders and rural customers from shutoffs by certain energy companies”;
- SB 106: “to enhance South Dakota”; passed Senate State Affairs and full Senate
- SB 108: “to accommodate legislation relating to education in South Dakota”; awaiting Senate Education
- SB 119: “to accommodate legislation to improve culverts in the state”; in Senate Transportation today!
- SB 133: “to accommodate legislation regarding the Missouri River”; awaiting Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources
- SB 153: “to accommodate legislation on tax increment districts”; Senate Taxation today!
- SB 176: “to accommodate legislation relating to the protection of public safety”; Passed by Senate State Affairs but referred back today!
- HB 1114: “to accommodate legislation on medical services”; awaiting House State Affairs
- HB 1115: “to enhance South Dakota”; awaiting House State Affairs
- HB 1137: “to accommodate legislation relating to education in South Dakota”; awaiting House State Affairs
- HB 1175: “to revise the method of establishing certain interest rates”; in House Commerce and Energy today!
- HB 1177: “to accommodate legislation regarding certain big game depredation”
- HB 1188: “accommodate legislation to promote agricultural development”; awaiting House Appropriations
- HB 1190: “to accommodate legislation relating to the protection of public safety”; awaiting House State Affairs
Along with SB 107, SB 165, and HB 1058, which were killed in committee last week, these bills are this Session’s carcass bills, bills written as blanks into which legislators may stuff last-minute ideas past the usual deadlines for submitting bills or passing them out of their originating chambers. Some at least suggest their topics (education, public safety, tax increment districts), but SB 106 and HB 1115 tell us nothing but their cryptic intent to “enhance South Dakota.”
I’ve posted my umbrage over carcass bills before, primarily over the fact that carcasses deny the public the chance to present testimony in committee and organize lobbying efforts against (or, conceivably, for) such bills. Such public testimony, along with proper timely notice of the real contents of bills, is essential to informed deliberation. Yet SB 106, a completely empty carcass, has passed Senate State Affairs and the full Senate without any public discussion of its real purpose.
We could enhance South Dakota by banning carcass bills and making legislators stick to their own rules, including a calendar that says all bills had to be submitted by February 3. If legislators have an idea for a bill to address an evolving situation for which not all facts are known yet, they should still file a bill with a clear outline of the policy they seek. If an unexpected situation arises suddenly, they should muster a two-thirds vote to suspend the rules. In either situation, if they can’t address a problem according to the regular Session calendar, they should call themselves into a special session to deal with the problem after they’ve had a chance to alert the public to the problem and explain the solution.
Senator Stace Nelson is not happy with the carcass process. Following the Senate’s approval last Tuesday of SB 106, he and troublemaking colleague Senator Lance Russell filed a formal Dissent and Protest:
The body of SB 106 simply states: “The Legislature shall pursue opportunities to enhance the state.” The bill as it passed the Senate has no substantive effect except that it circumvents Chapter 17 of the Joint Rules relating to the deadline for the introduction of bills and Senate Rule 5-1 and Joint Rule 11-1 relating to the suspension of rules, which would have allowed the introduction of a bill after the deadline. Consideration and passage of the bill in this form relinquishes the legislative power and authority of the Senate and cedes such power and authority to the House of Representatives and deprives the people an opportunity to address the actual intent of the bill in a Senate committee hearing.
SB 106 is duly in contravention of South Dakotans’ rights under South Dakota Constitutional Article III Section 15 providing for an open legislative process for the people of South Dakota. By hiding the intent of these empty “vehicle bills” and passing them to the House, it denies South Dakotans the open government they are entitled to as a right in South Dakota.
In addition, Article III, Section 21 of the South Dakota Constitution states: “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” Since the intended effect of SB 106 is not clearly stated and is unknown, the title does not accurately express the purpose or effect of the bill [Sen. Stace Nelson and Sen. Lance Russell, Dissent and Protest: Passage of SB 106, Senate Journal, 2017.02.07].
These dissents and protests are fine, but I’d like to see Nelson organize a coalition to vote SB 106 down when it comes back from the House or follow his leadership’s example and sue to stop SB 106 from becoming law.
But who needs that trouble? Carcass sponsors, put up your real ideas. Let the people know what you’re trying to do. Who knows—instead of stitching your creatures together in your locked dungeon, you could invite the public to bring your carcasses some brains and lightning.
Update 08:06 CST: My original headline cited eight carcass bills; Kathy Tyler and others helped me identify four more active carcasses.
Update 2017.02.15 06:00 CST: Another eager reader finds three more, bringing our total to fourteen active as of the original posting, three withdrawn/killed.