Governor Kristi Noem is exercising a novel form of pocket veto on the budget and spending bills still on her desk. She signed the FY2021 budget (HB 1294), the revisions to the current budget (SB 38), and some other spending bills yesterday, but she says that, due to the coronavirus-collapse of the economy, she’s not going to spend the money appropriated in those bills:
The impact to our state’s budget is significant. I’m telling the legislators that I will sign bills that we did for the budget and sign them into law, but I’m not going to spend that money. We’re going to probably come back in June and have a special session and make some changes that are very significant to our state budget. Some of these they’ve already passed. I will sign them into law, but I am choosing as Governor to not spend those dollars. I will keep them and hold them knowing that in June we’ll have a better picture of where we’re at when it comes to resources as a state to continue to fight the virus and make sure that we’re doing due diligence and taking care of people and governing over the people of this state [Governor Kristi Noem, transcribed from audio, in “Special Legislative Session on Budget Likely to Take Place in June,” Hub City Radio, 2020.03.27].
That hold on newly approved spending may apply to House Bill 1008, the hemp legalization that Noem signed yesterday. Sections 25, 26, and 27 of that bill appropriate $1.9 million (60% of that for cops) to make sure farmers don’t rotate any smokin’ weed into their crops. HB 1008 included an emergency clause enacting that law on signing (so ladies and gentlemen, start your tractors!).
I know we may have bigger policy doobies to smoke right now, but we should ask: if the Legislature enacts a bill with an emergency clause but the Governor doesn’t want it to take effect, isn’t her only option to veto? By signing a bill into law but then not doing what the law commands, the Governor is breaking that law. At the very least, she is unilaterally amending that bill, striking the emergency clause and saying she’ll enact it when she feels like it, if certain conditions allow. Such an amendment is permissible, but only with formal language amended into the bill and approved by the Legislature.
The Governor had time to issue vetoes to make the Legislature fix one digit in a cross-reference and correct other minor style and form issues. The Legislature has time to consider nine new emergency bills on Veto Day Monday. Surely they would have had time to take back a vetoed HB 1008 and other vetoed spending bills and write into them the discretionary spending delays the Governor is asking to impose on laws duly passed by the Legislature.