Bob Mercer’s continuing coverage of Governor Noem’s abuse of the style-and-form veto shows the upside-downing of political lines caused by Kristi’s unconstitutional cash grab in Senate Bill 176. I find myself rejecting the excuse-making of two vocal Democrats in favor of the opposition offered by wacky Republicans like Speaker Steven Haugaard and now right-wingers Wiese, Gross, Sue Peterson, and Pischke.
Both Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert and rookie Representative Michael Saba are planting the Democratic flag on Noem’s side, saying that reappropriating money from next fiscal year to this fiscal year on a mere majority vote instead of the constitutionally prescribed two-thirds vote is no big deal; they just fixed the bill to say what everyone thought it said:
Said Heinert, “I switched my vote because it was always supposed to come out of FY ‘19 dollars not FY ‘20 dollars. I still disagree with SB 176 on principle but a nay vote wasn’t going to stop it.”
…” I voted for SB 176 for a number of reasons although I did have some state constitutional concerns about the use of the style and form veto. However, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I can affirm that our legislative intent was to allocate the money for this fiscal year,” Saba said [Bob Mercer, “Variety of South Dakota Lawmakers Explain Votes on Habitat Legislation,” KELO-TV, 2019.04.01].
I’m having a little trouble believing the intent argument. Everyone saw clearly the removal of the emergency clause from Senate Bill 176 in the House. Everyone knows that, absent an emergency clause, a bill goes into effect July 1, the same day as the beginning of the new fiscal year. If the intent to spend a million dollars on pheasant habitat from the current FY2019 budget and not the coming FY2020 was so clear to everyone in the Legislature, how did nobody but Kristi Noem herself (and come on, guys: you’re telling me Kristi reads bills more closely than you do?) notice that the bill lacked the language necessary to realize that intent?
That’s the tenuous story defenders of this “style-and-form” veto and the less-than-two-thirds vote to fix SB 176 have to tell. Fortunately, the majority of the minority caucus didn’t buy it; Heinert, Saba, and Bordeaux were the only Dems who supported the illegal revision of SB 176.
Some of the most conservative Republicans are telling the more plausible story, that SB 176 said one thing, and the Governor and the majority made substantial changes against proper procedure. Reps. Wiese, Gross, and Sue Peterson all went nay on Noem’s constitutional end run; Rep. Tom Pischke elaborates on why he joined them in supporting the Constitution over Executive expediency:
“The vote that we took on March 29 regarding SB 176 was no longer about money for pheasant habitat. That vote is now about agreeing with the executive branch being able to veto a bill with a ‘style and form’ veto and then being able to pass the legislation with only a simple majority in both houses of the Legislature instead of the necessary two-thirds that would usually be necessary,” Pischke said.
He continued: “That course of action by this governor or any future governor is not appropriate for a piece of legislation that obviously had substantial changes. By the Legislature approving this ‘style and form’ veto, it sets a very dangerous precedent for future governors to use this method to circumvent the process and get appropriation legislation passed with a simple majority rather than the usual two-thirds set forth in the (South Dakota) Constitution.”
Pischke said there was a plan laid out to suspend the rules so a piece of legislation could be introduced to accomplish what the governor wanted “but unfortunately it was not attempted because leadership feared that they wouldn’t be able to get two-thirds in House and definitely not in the Senate because too many legislators were missing.
“So instead they pushed enough people to ignore their (legislative) oath to uphold the constitution of the State of South Dakota and vote for the motion to adopt the style and form veto, even though most legislators agreed that it was a substantial change,” Pischke said [Mercer, 2019.04.01].
That’s the smartest thing I’ve hear Tom Pischke say all year. It doesn’t matter how much you like pheasants or hunters or grassland conservation or whatever other great policy is under discussion; executive overreach is no way to achieve it.
Funny that it’s some of our Trumpiest legislators who are stating that objection.
But hey—let’s not get partisan about it. Senate Bill 176 may be a good policy… although it remains to be seen whether Governor Noem will use that money to support sensible, evidence-based conservation practices or if she’ll just use it to hire her kids and brothers and in-laws to plant some bluestem and count pheasants. But whatever she does with the money, Governor Noem got it the wrong way, and the Legislature let her do it.