Last Thursday the House Local Government Committee spent nearly an hour working on HB1140, which seeks to clarify the county zoning process. The purpose of the bill is to improve the zoning process so that both sides of a proposed zoning change or a project involving a conditional use permit can have their sides heard, then allow the county commission to act without an endless cycle of delays.
Under current law, any person can appeal any decision of a county official. This means that appeals can be by anyone, whether or not that person even lives in South Dakota. It also means that appeals can be for purely trivial things that have no substantive effect, such as putting an item on an agenda for a regular meeting. Any time an appeal is filed on a project, it halts the process until a decision on the appeal is rendered. An example of this is happening in northeast South Dakota where an out-of-state group has hired a person to appeal every decision involving a potential dairy operation. That example is not isolated. Testimony was given in committee that throughout the state, a campaign of “death by delay” is dragging out decisions on potential development projects by two years or more.
HB1140 would still allow appeals. It clarifies that appeals are for things other than purely administrative or ministerial acts where no discretion is involved. It also clarifies that appeals on a particular zoning matter are to be consolidated, to prevent serial appeals. The bill also seeks to make sure that appeals are intended to be brought by those who are directly affected by a particular decision, rather than someone hired by an out-of-state group.
The bill passed out of committee on a vote of 11-2 and sent to the full House.
Last Wednesday, the House began debate on HB1182, to increase the state sales and use tax by a half-cent to increase teacher salaries. A number of amendments to the bill have been drafted, some quite lengthy. Through a parliamentary move, debate on the bill was stopped after just a few minutes. We will probably be voting on the issue on Feb. 18.
Other controversial issues were debated last week, including a bill to repeal the death penalty, which the Senate State Affairs committee defeated on a vote of 7-2. Another bill, SB171, would “permit and regulate the compassionate use of cannabis.” The committee heard nearly two hours of testimony on Wednesday and will take up the bill again this week. The House passed HB 1129, to allow anyone with an enhanced concealed pistol permit to carry in the Capitol and any courthouse. I voted against the bill. I have taken the class required for an enhanced concealed carry permit, and think it was valuable for providing personal protection in my home or for my family. However, the class did not address the issue of how to make split-second decisions in a public setting such as the Capitol, especially when there are pages, interns, and members of the general public involved.
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