Kristi Noem served in the Legislature for a couple of terms before running off to Washington to play Congress. Does she really not understand how the Legislature works?
The Legislature runs from January through March. Legislators cast their last votes on their bills, up or down, in early March, then come back for one day at the end of March to deal with any remaining vetoes.
Governor Noem proposed a bill in February, House Bill 1100, to delay Initiated Measure 26, the voter-approved medical marijuana law. HB 1100 went through the normal Legislative process and failed to pass, and legislators said, oh well, that’s the way it goes. Let’s go home.
But now with nothing but Veto Day left, Governor Noem is circulating a new bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes… and evidently that draft is just one of many new bills she’s considering:
Noem’s chief of staff, Tony Venhuizen, said the governor isn’t necessarily in support of the draft proposal, among multiple being considered by Noem and lawmakers behind the scenes.
“This is one of several draft bills being circulated for discussion and Gov. Noem has not endorsed any of them,” he said [Joe Sneve, “Gov. Kristi Noem Floats Bill to Decriminalize Marijuana in South Dakota,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2021.03.23].
Boy, I knew Al Novstrup was setting a bad example back in 2017 when he put a new bill up on Veto Day. The whole point of the Legislative process is to air bills in the Session and give legislators and the public a chance to read them, study them, blog and tweet them, testify on them at two committee hearings, and raise hell about them back home at crackerbarrels before they come to floor votes. If a legislator or the Governor doesn’t get what she wants during Session, well, absent an emergency, she needs to accept that she lost this round and needs to wait and try again next Session, when we can run new proposals through a fair and open process.
But that fair and open process resulted in advocates for Initiated Measure 26 winning the day and persuading the Legislature to choose the people’s will over the Governor’s. So instead, the Governor, who said something early in the Session about wanting more civic engagement, seems inclined to refight her battle against IM 26 behind closed doors, in private memos, and in a rushed Veto Day process that hinges on suspending the rules and pushing her priorities without public scrutiny or input.
Let’s make a deal, Legislature: follow your own rules. No new bills next Monday. Keep Veto Day for vetoes. Accept the outcome of your regular process and go home.