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Special Session Must Restrict Action to Proclaimed Purposes for Sake of Public Notice—So What About Hoghouse Bills?

The Legislative Research Council’s draft Issue Memorandum on Special Sessions notes that we restrict the scope of a Special Session to ensure that the public knows and can guide what the Legislature is going to do:

The requirement that a legislature only act upon the subject matter of the call is the most litigated special session issue. The reason for requiring the purpose of the special session be announced is for public notice and to be a check upon legislative action. Moreover, some court decisions indicate that a legislature may not formally investigate matters outside of the subject matter to be addressed at a special session [Brigid Hoffman, Legislative Research Council, draft Issue Memorandum: “Special Sessions Revisited,” presented to Executive Board 2021.08.31].

This paragraph cites a 1935 Kentucky case in which the court voided a statutory clause enacted in the 1934 Special Session relating to teaching certificates because the Governor’s official proclamation for the Special Session did not include language that encompassed teaching certificates:

Section 80 of the Constitution authorizes the Governor to convene the General Assembly on extraordinary occasions, but provides:

“When he shall convene the general assembly it shall be by proclamation, stating the subjects to be considered, and no other shall be considered.

The purpose of this provision is to give notice to the public of the subjects to be considered, in order that persons interested may be present if they desire, and also it is a check upon legislative action, that no matters outside the proclamation shall be acted on [Richmond v. Lay, 261 Ky. 138, 87 S.W.2d 134 (Ky. Ct. App. 1935)].

That principle of giving the public sufficient notice of the Legislature’s intended scope of action gets me thinking about hoghousing, South Dakota’s cherished Legislative process of passing carcass bills with no content other than a vague subject while legislators negotiate specific provisions in secret caucus meetings or even grab an existing bill and rewrite it into a new bill with only the most ridiculously tenuous relationship to its originally stated subject. The Legislature has rules allowing concerned members to delay hoghoused bills by one Legislative day if they can muster a one-fifth vote, but the rules do not require such a delay. Furthermore, the rules do not allow such a hoghouse delay on the final day allowed for action on a bill or more than twice on one bill in each house. Legislators can thus hoghouse any bill on the spot, without public notice.

Hoghousing can thus shut out opportunities for public testimony at committee hearings—pass an empty carcass bill through House committee, House, and Senate committee; hoghouse it in the Senate; pass it and kick it back to the House for same-day concurrence.

But such swift passage of hoghoused bills, according to the case law cited in this new Issue Memorandum on Special Session, would deny the public notice and infringe on our right and duty to check Legislative action. If the Legislature passes hoghouse bills, especially with hoghouses carried out on the final chamber floor, without giving the public an opportunity to read and comment on those drastic changes, citizens could have grounds to challenge such laws in court.


  1. Mark Anderson 2021-09-13 08:32

    Well, supposedly your leaders are only working for your benefit, believe that? Pigs to the slaughter. South Dakota is just like China, one party rule for all with a Kristi on top. People like Mr. Heidelberger are doing their best to keep you aware of their shenanigans.

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-09-13 11:30

    In Arizona they put in all kinds of things in their budget bill that have nothing to do with the budget. We shall see what happens in the lawsuit.

  3. ArloBlundt 2021-09-13 17:21

    Well…the Hog House is a long lived and treasured legislative strategy in South Dakota, most often if not exclusively used by Republicans to pass previously defeated bills providing special interest goodies or pork barrel bonding windfalls to “deserving” constituents in the last couple of days of the session. Special rules apply to “Hog Houses” requiring super majorities to bring it to the floor without committee hearings. Thus, the bill to be “Hog Housed “is shepherded through the session and kept alive by sponsors of the real legislation which will be substituted for it, as the sponsors collect legislative chits and favors to cash in in the last minute effort to totally amend the bill or “Hog House” it and bring it to the floor for a vote. It became a fixture in the legislature in the 70’s during an annual fight between good friends George Mortimer (R-Belle Fouche) who was the chair of the committee overseeing Game Fish and Parks and House Speaker “Uncle Joe” Barnett (R-Aberdeen) the Speaker of the House. Every year Mortimer would author and usher through his committee a bill to legalize dove hunting in South Dakota and every year, Joe Barnett would see to it that it was defeated on the House floor. Mortimer would then, in the last day of the session, introduce a Hog House to legalize dove hunting. Often, Barnett would just refuse to recognize him to introduce the Hog House and the House would adjourn without action. One year, Mortimer, with plenty of chits in his pocket from the long session, had enough support to force his Hog House to be considered on the floor. To everyone’s surprise, it passed, moving on to consideration by the Senate the same evening. Barnett was not to be out snookered. Senator Peg Lamont, the highly respected Senator also from Aberdeen rose to the Senate Floor, and in the name of the Humane Society, League of Women Voters, Daughters of the American Revolution, Republican women everywhere and all that is decent, urged her Senate male fellows to vote the bloody bill to kill “birds of peace” down. They did. Speaker Barnett interrupted the late night proceedings of the House to announce that the dove hunting bill of George Mortimer had died in the Senate, to rousing cheers and boos.

  4. grudznick 2021-09-13 17:31

    And yet, we hunt doves today. But Mr. Blundt is righter than right about the long standing legislative strategy. However the introduction of bills to hold an instrument open just for the hogging of the house is a relatively newer process. They used to take actual dead law bills and resurrect them, now they just spawn a small group of zombie creature bills to sleepwalk through the sessions until the end with a witch breathes life into them as some different sort of animal.

  5. ArloBlundt 2021-09-13 17:45

    Yes, Grudz, the dove hunting bill did pass after both Uncle Joe and Peg Lamont had left the legislature. Killing birds of peace symbolizes the death of the “good government” wing of the Republican Party.

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