The Legislature’s Executive Board proposes House Bill 1003, a measure to immediately end the requirement that the Legislative Research Council prepare prison/jail cost estimates to any bill that may affect how many people South Dakota puts behind bars. This requirement popped into law as part of Governor Dennis Daugaard’s omnibus (read: multi-subject, thus illegal) criminal justice reform bill, 2013 Senate Bill 70. This requirement prevents any formal committee or floor votes on bills; sponsors, Watertown chums, and Legislative bosses House Speaker-Elect Hugh Bartels and Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck are evidently tired of this bureaucracy gumming up their works.
Getting prison/jail cost estimates out of the way of swift lawmaking is apparently such an urgent need that HB 1003 includes an emergency clause, meaning that if Bartels and Schoenbeck can put this bill on the top of the agenda and railroad it through the mostly thumb-twiddling first week of Session, they could get eliminate this unnecessary delay from all of their crime-and-punishment-related bills of 2023.
Alas, what’s good for the elected goose is not good for the electoral gander. When Daugaard seasoned his 83-section criminal justice reform package with these prison/jail cost statements, he imposed that dilatory burden on citizen initiatives as well as Legislative bills. Subsequent anti-democracy legislation has mutated that initiative requirement into a broader fiscal note that bogs down petition sponsors and circulators with cost and complication. That fiscal note, prescribed by SDCL 2-9-30, still includes an estimate of the fiscal impact of “any impact to the prison or county jail population.” House Bill 1003 forgets the integral application of Daugaard’s prison/jail cost estimate to all legislation, whether proposed in the Capitol or on the streets, and leaves the prison/jail cost evaluation requirement in place for citizen initiatives.
Bartels and Schoenbeck don’t mind when bureaucratic requirements get in the way of citizen initiatives. But when the same requirements slow down their Legislative proposals by a day or two, they want that bureaucracy out of their way and change the law to favor their Legislative process.