Sometimes the Legislature won’t even spend other people’s money. Senate Bill 156, Senator Helene Duhamel’s (R-32/Rapid City) proposal to spend $100 million in ARPA Biden bucks on a pipeline to carry Missouri River water out to the Black Hills and one step closer to desperately thirsty Colorado River buyers, got whittled down to $50 million and then to nothing:
The bill eventually passed both legislative chambers, but amendments put the House and Senate versions of the bill in conflict. Legislative leaders appointed a committee – which included Duhamel – to work out the differences.
The committee voted 6-0 to change the allocation to $50 million. The Senate voted 30-3 on Thursday to accept that amendment.
“I had every indication that was acceptable to the House,” Duhamel said. “Unfortunately, when it hit the floor, it fell two votes short of the two-thirds required.”
A two-thirds majority is required for bills that appropriate money. In the House, that means 47 members. The vote on Thursday afternoon was 45-25 [Seth Tupper, “$50 Million Water Legislation Falls Two Votes Short on Final Day,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.03.10].
Usually South Dakota is really eager to spend federal money. But evidently the Noem Administration’s merger of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has left the new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources too understaffed to handle big federal investments in water:
Duhamel’s bill was opposed by the state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Department representatives said much of the $600 million in federal money allocated to water and wastewater projects last year is unspent, because of the time-consuming nature of designing big projects and getting bids from contractors. Department representatives said they currently lack the staff, time and specific project plans they’d need to accommodate another big chunk of federal money.
…In the conference committee and on the House floor Thursday, opponents said the money should not be appropriated until state water officials are ready [Tupper, 2023.03.10].
Governor Noem can import all sorts of young guns to work on her image management, but she can’t find fresh young water policy and infrastructure experts who could help invest federal infrastructure dollars wisely and keep the Black Hills from going dry? I get the impression someone in Pierre isn’t working hard enough… and it’s not Senator Duhamel.