Last Friday was the deadline for all bills and joint resolutions to pass both Houses of the Legislature. While the Senate finished their work about five o’clock, the House didn’t wrap up until about 7:30 that evening. A large part of the day was spent debating the governor’s proposed Second Century Habitat Fund.
SB176 originally proposed taking $1 million of one-time money from the General Fund to provide a grant to the habitat fund within the South Dakota Community Foundation. The Joint Committee on Appropriations amended the amount to $500,000 and sent it to the Senate, where it passed 25-9. The House made a minor amendment, to make sure the bill ended up in conference committee, then voted 36-28 in favor of it. However, since the bill has an appropriation and an emergency clause, it needed a 2/3 majority – or 47 votes. The bill was reconsidered three more times and amended three more times before finally passing on a vote of 47-19.
The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence. Legislators expressed concerns about using general funds for this purpose. There was also a desire to make sure the habitat funds did not go to those operating hunting preserves.
On Friday the legislature also passed two bills brought in by Governor Noem to help the state, counties, and municipalities deal with potential law enforcement expenses from rioting associated with anti-pipeline protests. SB189 penalizes people or groups for “riot boosting.” Our current laws on rioting date back to 1877, and carry felony penalties. SB189 creates civil legal remedies to pursue out-of-state money funding the riots aiming to shut down the pipeline build. SB190 creates the Pipeline Engagement Activity Coordination Expenses (PEACE) fund, which will be funded by a surety bond from the pipeline company as well as money from the riot boosting fund.
The final three days of Session are reserved for conference committees, to iron out differences between bills passed by each chamber, as well as finalize the budget. Legislators are scheduled to return to Pierre on March 29 for Veto Day.