The Senate voted 21–14 yesterday for House Bill 1191, the main hemp legalization bill in Pierre. Normally that would mean the bill is headed for the Governor. But our hemp-hating Kristi Trump’s Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden used his Senate gavel yesterday to declare that HB 1191 has to get a two-thirds vote to pass:
House Bill 1191 failed in the Senate Tuesday, March 5, by a 21-14 vote — just three votes shy of passing by the two-thirds majority margin. Senate President and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden said the bill required a two-thirds vote because it established fees.
In a last-resort move to save the bill, House Majority Whip Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, motioned to reconsider the bill. The Senate will take up the bill again on Wednesday, just one day before the 2019 session’s final deadline to pass bills out of both chambers [Sarah Mearhoff, “Hemp Legalization in South Dakota Barely Hangs on After Noem’s Persistent Opposition, Failed Senate Vote,” Inforum, 2019.03.05].
Wait a minute. Lt. Gov. Rhoden appears to be making stuff up.
Article 11 Section 14 of the South Dakota Constitution requires a two-thirds vote from each chamber on any vote to impose a new tax or increase an existing rate of taxation. The article uses the word tax, not fee.
The version of HB 1191 that passed the House 65–2 does not contain the word tax. Neither does the extensive amendment with which sensible Senators tried to placate our hemp-isterical Governor yesterday. HB 1191 refers to “inspection, testing, licensure, and other fees.” I’ve been pish-toshed by Republicans in the past when I’ve contended that taxes and fees are the same thing, and there’s a fair legal argument that they are not the same thing. But apparently Lt. Gov. Rhoden and the Legislature are adopting the position that taxes and fees are identical… which we all should remember when the Legislature imposes the new “source market fee” on totalizator hubs for the horse-racing subsidy and Governor Noem tries to explain why she broke her “We won’t raise taxes” promise (yes, Kevin, she said exactly those words in her State of the State Address on January 8, 2019) after just two months.
Practically speaking, Kristi’s Lieutenant didn’t need to manufacture yesterday’s two-thirds-for-taxes ruling to kill the hemp bill. The Senate will need a two-thirds vote to overcome Kristi Trump’s angry veto, so if the Senate can’t clear 24 votes now, they won’t clear 24 on Veto Day, March 29.
But by requiring a two-thirds vote yesterday, Rhoden did manage to keep HB 1191 off Noem’s desk, at least for a day. If the Senate can’t muster a two-thirds vote now, then Governor Noem doesn’t have to shoulder the blame for vetoing it; she can shift blame to fourteen Senators for standing in the way of free market choices for farmers.
By the way, the Republican Senators giving Noem cover for her baseless hempisteria (HB 1191 prime sponsor Rep. Oren Lesmeister says Governor Noem is “uneducated” on hemp) are Blare, Bolin, Cronin, Ewing, Langer, Monroe, Novstrup, Partridge, Russell, Schoenbeck, Stalzer, Sutton, White, and Wiik. The five Democrats all voted Aye on HB 1191.
Senator Al Novstrup said Saturday he was leaning yes but still open to arguments on HB 1191. He must have gotten the argument he needed, a message from the Governor telling him to get in line with the boss and do what he’s told.
In related news, the Senate also keeps delaying its vote on HB 1212, the hemp companion bill that would immediately appropriate $10,000 to set in motion an industrial hemp licensure program.