Governor Kristi Noem is showing us that her commitment to transparency and openness is far thinner than tar sands oil.
The public got its one and only chance to testify against Senate Bill 189 and Senate Bill 190 this morning. Less than 48 hours after she made public her surprise emergency pipeline-protest-suppression package, the Joint Committee on Appropriations took these odious bills up at 8:00 a.m. sharp.
The real power behind Noem’s throne, private lobbyist extraordinaire Matt McCaulley came back to represent the Governor’s Office on both bills in the hearing. Lakota legislators, tribal members, Dakota Rural Action, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club, still managed to rally against Noem’s surprise attack on tribal activism, but the Republican majority ignored their arguments and passed both bills.
Under Joint Rule 6D-1, bills approved by Joint Appropriations need not go through a second committee hearing. The Senate can thus give SB 189 and SB 190 second reading tomorrow morning at 10:00 and vote to pass them immediately. If the Senate acts with the alacrity Governor Noem wants, the House, scheduled to convene at 11:00 a.m., could suspend the rules by a two-thirds vote and approve both bills before lunch. With no chance for crackerbarrel discussion, no consultation with the tribes, no chance for any bigger opposition to mobilize in Pierre, Governor Noem could have her protest-suppression bills on her desk to sign before she drives home to Hayti for the weekend.
Passing bills in one week, with only one committee hearing, one chance for public input, while most voters are slogging through the work week and have no chance to speak to their legislators face to face back home and ask where the heck the Governor is getting her information, does not exemplify a desire to “give you unprecedented access to the government decision-making process.” The rush to pass SB 189 and SB 190 exemplifies exactly the secretive, crony machinations that Noem said she would change.
Related Reading: The ACLU knows Noem’s fake-emergency bills are about shutting up strong Native voices:
Though proponents of the bill allege that they are concerned only about riots, the context is clear: this legislation is a direct reaction to some of the most effective protests in modern American history, including the work done by water protectors challenging the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
“Senate Bill 189 is, simply put, precisely about speech and protest,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director. “This bill creates an entirely new category of civil liability under South Dakota law that is motivated by a fear of speech and protest. The bill’s language is extremely broad and reaches people exercising their right to free speech and assembly and will chill free speech. It attempts to blur the line between constitutionally-protected speech and unlawful actions and would catch many innocent protestors in its wide net” [American Civill Liberties Union of South Dakota, press release, 2019.03.06].