From overseeing the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak to dealing with tumult at the Women’s Prison, Gov. Kristi Noem is rather busy these days. Still, she has found some time to veto legislation.
As of March 25, four bills have been vetoed by the governor. House Bill 1012 and House Bill 1013 have been sent back to the legislature by letter to correct technical errors in the statutory cross-references. Senate Bill 20 and Senate Bill 75 were vetoed under the same premise.
“House Bill 1012 and its companion, HB 1013, were both pitched as attempts to correct statutory cross-references and to make style-and-form corrections to the code,” Noem wrote. “I am very concerned about the process that led to these bills.” Noem lists eight state agencies that are affected by the bills’ amending of statute. “No one in any of these agencies — none of the experts who work with these laws every day — were consulted prior to the bills’ introduction …” Noem states seven separate amendments added to the bills could have been avoided if consultation had been done before the bills were drafted.
“HB 1012 amends 168 sections of code over 88 pages and more than 30,000 words,” wrote Noem. “Article III, Section 21 of the Constitution of South Dakota states that, ‘No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.’ The only ‘one subject’ I can discern in this bill is ‘to revise the code,’ which is a subject so broad as to render the constitutional requirement meaningless,” continued Noem.
“I ask that separate clean-up bills be brought for each related chapter of code and that relevant state agencies and other stakeholders be included in the drafting process prior to introduction,” Noem added.
“Senate Bill 20, in part, requires the Department of Social Services to designate a monitor to receive and resolve grievances related to quality of care provided to youth placed in custody or care of certain facilities,” wrote Noem. “The drafting of (an) amendment causes confusion because it was added as a subsection that relates to custody or care facilities.” Noem recommends both style and form corrections on page one of the bill.
“Senate Bill 75 requires a person over age 18 to purchase a habitat stamp when purchasing a hunting or fishing license,” wrote Noem. “An amendment was added … intended to exempt disabled resident hunters and resident hunters held as prisoners of war from purchasing the habitat stamp. To carry this out, however …” and this is where Noem points out a cross-referencing error to an incorrect statute. Noem suggests on page one of the bill that the specifically referenced statute be inserted instead.
According to Jason Hancock, director of the South Dakota Legislative Research Council, Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, the President Pro Tempore, said while the ‘electronic’ Veto Day may be unusual it is necessary.
“We’re all committed to doing whatever we can as lawmakers and just as people to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in South Dakota. As important as it is to wrap up our legislative business on March 30, it’s just as important that we do it without putting anyone’s health in jeopardy,” Greenfield said.
Hancock also related the concerns of House Speaker Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, extend to members of the public. “The legislature is a public process and we welcome participation by the public. Normally, this is done through contacting legislators, testifying in committee or watching floor debate from the gallery. But no one should put themselves or others at risk of coming in contact with COVID-19 by attending Veto Day in person this year,” Haggard said.
Hancock also related that Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said public service and public safety were both considerations in the decision. “We’ve covered a lot of important issues during this session, but none so important as what’s going on in our state, across the country and around the world right now. We need to finish out our work, but we don’t want to put people at risk to do it,” Heiner said.
Moreover, the South Dakota Legislature is scheduled to meet on March 30 for its last day of the 2020 session for so-called “Veto Day.” Because of the COVID-19 situation, this will take place via video conferencing, starting at 11 a.m.