Yesterday I said it took three tries to kill state funding for Governor Kristi Noem’s Rapid City shooting range. I spoke too soon: gun advocates in the House tried a fourth time yesterday to shake $2.5 million in tax dollars loose to build the $12-million bang-bang-o-plex in Meade County.
A six-man conference committee met yesterday to hash out House and Senate differences over House Bill 1166, occasional socialist Representative Tom Pischke’s (R-25/Dell Rapids) effort to snag a million bucks to improve 485th Street from Highway 11 on the southwest edge of Garretson to the former entrance into Palisades State Park between 255th and 256th Street. That road also happens to lead to the River Ridge Golf Course and some nice houses on Fairway Circle. HB 1166 has bounced between appropriations directly to the Department of Transportation to do the work to a $200,000 to Game Fish and Parks to support a grant with matching funds to fix the road.
But Senator David Johnson (R-33/Hisega) brought a second-subject surprise to conference. He tried to shoehorn into HB 1166 the $2.5 million in general funds and $2.5 million in other fund spending authority that the defeated Senate Bill 175 and House Bill 1049 had sought for the Rapid City shooting range.
Building a new shooting range and repaving an existing public road, two projects 365 miles apart—what ever happened to the single-subject rule?
Mindful of the South Dakota Constitution’s edict that “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title,” Senator Johnson demonstrated the infinite malleability of that edict by proposing that the title be changed from “make an appropriation for road improvements leading to the former entrance into the Palisades State Park” to “make an appropriation for supporting and improving recreational opportunities in this state.”
Conference committee member Senator John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) seconded Senator Johnson’s amendment. But Representative Pischke was having none of this second-subject logrolling, and neither were his Republican Dell Rapids colleagues Representative Jon Hansen and Senator Marsha Symens nor Democratic Representative Oren Lesmeister (D-28A/Parade): they killed the shooting range amendment.
Denied their gun range, Johnson moved and Wiik seconded to let HB 1166 die without concurrence or a new conference committee. Hansen, Symens, and Lesmeister all said, enough already, and let Pischke’s golf-course road die.
The Rapid City shooting range itself isn’t dead, just an immediate infusion of cash from the general fund. Game Fish and Parks still intends to build the facility with existing spending authority and donations, which is one of the reasons legislators felt this additional $2.5M in taxpayer dollars is unnecessary. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is still taking public comment on the draft environmental impact study on the facility that I reported on a couple weeks ago. USFWS has extended the comment deadline four days, from March 20 to March 24.
So more than likely, in a year or two, the peaceful grazing of Matt Kammerer’s critters will be disrupted by the gleeful free fire of gun nuts from all over, plus a lot more dusty traffic up and down Elk Vale Road. But at least we won’t have our tax dollars to blame… unless Senator Johnson tries sneaking something into the budget bill coming out today!