The South Dakota Senate mostly made South Dakota a less appealing, more dangerous place yesterday. Perusing the March 8 Journal, I find numerous causes for grief, not quite balanced with a few reasonable actions.
What all did the Senate do wrong yesterday?
- The Senate gave unanimous final approval to Senate Bill 103, which will help Governor Kristi Noem and other politicians hide the dark money donations that bolster their campaigns.
- On a 17–18 vote, the Senate rejected Senate Resolution of Disapproval 901, which would have blocked the Governor’s burial of the Department of Environment and natural Resources in the pro-business Department of Agriculture. Get ready for more smell of money wafting through your windows, your cookouts and campgrounds… but don’t despair yet: Senator Troy Heinert plans to bring SRD 901 up for one more vote.
- On a 21–14 vote, the Senate approved House Bill 1140, Governor Noem’s plan to protect poachers by restricting conservation officers’ ability, Open Fields Doctrine be darned, to enter private land to check hunters’ licenses and remind them of the daily limits. The Senate did amend HB 1140 to include having a warrant as one of the exceptions to Noem’s Poacher Protection Act, so good sportspeople still have a chance to beat this bad bill in the House.
- Eager to help South Dakotans shoot more living things without legal repercussions, the Senate voted 21–14 to send the Governor House Bill 1212, which “clarifies” our laws on use of force to empower citizens to shoot anybody who enters their house. Arguably, cranky landowners could use HB 1212 as an enforcement mechanism of HB 1140: if a conservation officer enters your land without permission or warrant and tries to set foot on your porch to have a conversation about those poachers out on your back forty, HB 1212 says, Fire away!
- 20 out of 35 Senators joined Governor Noem in celebrating International Women’s Day by banning transgender girls from playing school sports with HB 1217.
- On a 30–5 vote, the Senate passed HB 1273 to sock away $50,000,000 in the Health Care Trust Fund instead of using that money right now to do some good for South Dakotans by moving vaccines faster, paying medical bills, and maybe even buying into the Medicaid expansion that the Biden Administration is offering at a discount.
- On another 30–5 vote, the Senate approved HB 1094, in which Governor Noem continues her fight for anarcho-capitalism by stripping cities and city residents of their ability manage their own zoning.
As small consolation, the Senate did a few things right:
- 23 out of 35 Senators voted to stifle one smokeout and kill HB 1075, one of theb dangerous nullification bills stinking up the Dome this Session. HB 1075 would have made it a felony for any South Dakota official to even indirectly support the enforcement of any federal law or any federal or state court order that would impose “extreme risk protection orders” to deny dangerous individuals access to firearms.
- Now that Mathew Wollmann is safely married and out of the Legislature, the Senate passed House Bill 1096, which makes sex with minors by a person “in a position of authority” over the minor a Class 6 felony. HB 1096 warns off frisky coaches, child care providers, disability services providers, guardians ad litem, health care providers, law enforcement officers, mental health counselors, probation officers, religious leaders, school administrators, social workers, teachers, therapists, or youth leaders. Interestingly, legislators omitted themselves from that list, meaning, I guess, that a legislator who dallies with a 17-year-old page during Session would not face the same penalty.
- In part of the same batch vote that passed HB 1096 and three other bills, the Senate approved HB 1199, which establishes an Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons in the Attorney General’s office. Given how Governor Noem feels about bigger government and Indians in general, she might consider vetoing this bill… but the Snow Queen’s selective budget hawkishness may be assuaged by HB 1199’s requirement that the one person hired to focus on the abduction and murder of our Native neighbors “pursue federal funding” to keep this effort from burning up any of our own money.
- The Senate just barely (19–16) HB 1154, which chips away at South Dakota’s economically stifling non-compete clauses. HB 1154 only outlaws non-compete clauses for doctors and nurses, but it’s a good start to giving labor more freedom to participate in South Dakota’s small marketplace.
- Kristi Noem may not support her alma mater, but the Senate likes SDSU: everybody in the chamber voted for HB 1210, which will spend $20 million to build a new bioproducts research and development facility in Brookings.
In mixed news, the Senate stuck by the Governor’s plan to delay medical marijuana… but it also declared pot legal. That deserves a post of its own….