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HB 1073 Lobbyist Gift Cap Now Includes Annual Adjustment for Inflation

Republican legislators have made their weak “replacement” for Initiated Measure 22’s lobbyist-gift cap even weaker.

When Senate State Affairs took up House Bill 1073 Wednesday, Senator Ryan Maher moved and Senator Billie Sutton seconded Amendment 1073cb, which every year would adjust both the $100 gift cap and the $75 meal exemption by the consumer price index.

I listened to the audio (SSA PM—hear timestamp 68:40) hoping to hear an explanation of why legislators would want to include a cost-of-living adjustment on this particular set of restrictions. So far they’ve included no COLA on campaign finance limitations (see SB 54). Are they (or the lobbyists who educate them) really so concerned about all the little freebies they receive throughout the year will be eaten up by inflation?

No one appeared eager to answer that question. After a few seconds of silence, committee chairman Bob Ewing called for a vote on the amendment. Senator Sutton called point of order, saying he’d seconded the amendment for discussion purposes, and by gum, he wanted discussion.

After some hemming and hawing from Senate prime sponsor Ernie Otten, House prime sponsor Speaker G. Mark Mickelson dragged himself to the microphone to say he’d never witnessed any problems in the absence of a gift cap. He acknowledged that IM22 had offered a gift cap but was “written pretty poorly.” He said he’d looked at lobbying restrictions in Nebraska and Minnesota to come up with HB 1074 with its “pretty reasonable exemptions” spelled out in Section 4. But on the cost-of-living adjustment, Speaker Mickelson passed the buck, saying it arose from “a couple concerns” Senator Kris Langer had, “so I’ll let her talk about the amendment.”

Committee member Langer then offered this statement, which I quote in full:

I do think this helps some of my concerns—I will just say “helps,” it doesn’t alleviate all of them, but, um, I would ask you to support the amendment [Sen. Kris Langer, discussion of 2017 HB 1073, in Senate State Affairs, PM meeting, 2017.03.01, timestamp 75:26].

To be clear, Senator Langer told Senate State Affairs nothing about why she wants a cost-of-living adjustment on the lobbying gift cap. Chairman Ewing called for a vote, and the amendment passed 6–3.

Among those voting to automatically increase how much free food and drink legislators can get from lobbyists was my Senator Al Novstrup, who in 2015 and 2016 maintained that teenage workers should not get an automatic annual increase in their minimum wage.

Following the amendment, South Dakota Chamber exec David Owen came to the mic and offered Senator Sutton and his colleagues no explanation of the COLA, either. But he did stroke his Republican friends’ sense of superior morality and martyrdom:

This is a well-written good limitation on gifts that replaces a completely unworkable version drafted and approved by the people, and here’s the tragedy that will befall all of you: the repeal of that unworkable work made page 1, dominated the news. This is a more workable solution, and I’ll bet it doesn’t make page 6 [David Owen, testimony, Senate State Affairs, PM meeting, 2017.03.01, timestamp 79:30].

After a grueling day of picking on immigrants and supporting the President, Senate State Affairs deferred final action on HB 1073 until Monday.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-03-03

    Crooked Legislators certainly do go the extra mile to make sure everything is fair and just.

  2. Rorschach 2017-03-03

    The same people who oppose a COLA on the minimum wage want a COLA on lobbyist gift restrictions. Most of them probably don’t even see the irony.

  3. Chip 2017-03-03

    Too bad they don’t seem nearly as concerned about annual increases in teacher wages.

  4. grudznick 2017-03-03

    They should put the increases in the meal limits into law just like they put the teacher wage increases into the law. Then every time the teachers whine the legislatures can whine too. Which means every year.

  5. Lynda 2017-03-03

    They sure know how to take care of themselves.

  6. Darin Larson 2017-03-03

    Grudz, you think teachers are going to get raises this year?

  7. grudznick 2017-03-03

    I heard the law says they need to get some little raises. But you never know, the legislatures could change the law. The TV news said that nobody will probably get raises, and I believe the TV news more than news papers or the internet.

    But with this change then the meal sizes won’t get to go up either if there is raise for teachers. They are hooking the increase in meal size to the size of the increase for teachers.

  8. Darin Larson 2017-03-03

    Grudz, you know that law only applies if they want it to apply. It suited them when it set a low floor and capped the increase to education at 3%. Now that it is a floor that they would like to violate, it may not suit them. Although .31 percent is the lowest floor I have ever heard of– leave it to the legislature to fall short of expectations.

  9. grudznick 2017-03-03

    I did not know that, Mr. Larson. I always thought they had to follow the law unless they changed the law to be zero or minus. That is what people should be afraid of, if they change the law to go minus and then use the money for gun laws or building animal barns

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