House State Affairs has six bills on its agenda this morning. Incredibly, three of those bills say nothing. Senate Bills 124, 125, and 126 are all carcass bills, shells awaiting someone’s brilliant last minute ideas to “enhance South Dakota,” fix education, and regulate medical services, respectively.
The Legislature likes to keep these extra sausage casings around, just in case, but on the whole, they are bad for democracy. If House State Affairs moves these empty shells along, we could see them hoghoused into proposals on the House floor that would never see the light of committee hearing. Without committee hearing, citizens have no opportunity to testify directly and on the record about the merits of those bills, or even to have enough heads-up to get out to Pierre or fire off an e-mail to inform and persuade their legislators about those bills before they go to a vote.
We have bill submission deadlines to ensure openness and public participation. Allowing citizens to have a crack at every bill before it is debated justifies holding to those submission deadlines and saying to legislators, “You had all year to come up with your idea. If you can’t think it up before February 4, tough shiskey. Bring it next year.”
If carcass bills and hoghousing have any just role, we should at least impose some deadlines and transparency on the practice. Let’s apply the Schoenbeck Openness Principle and require that amendments, at least those of hoghouse scope, rewriting an entire bill, be filed in writing and posted online at least 48 hours before they are moved and debated.
(By the way, Rep. Schoenbeck’s House Bill 1066, which was intended to require all public bodies to post their meeting notices two days before convening, got hoghoused into a measure to apply that two-day standard only to state entities, not local governments.)