Rep. Ray Ring

The final day of the 2019 Legislative Session was Veto Day, March 29.

We had dealt with two regular vetoes during the regular session. Senate Bill 14 would have expanded the Public Utility Commission's ability to regulate solar energy facilities. Gov. Noem thinks these expansions are unnecessary and the Senate sustained her veto, so the House didn't even consider it. The House voted to override Gov. Noem's veto of House Bill 1191, the industrial hemp bill, but the Senate failed to override the veto. That leaves us without laws regarding industrial hemp, so I'm sure the issue will be back next year.

For Veto Day, we returned to consider Gov. Noem's two "style and change" vetoes. What at first seemed like a simple task turned into six hours of mostly stand-around-and-wait.

According to South Dakota's Constitution, "Bills with errors in style or form may be returned to the Legislature by the Governor with specific recommendations for change." The Constitution is not clear about what constitute "errors in style or form." Does it mean only typos, punctuation errors, a stray word that should have been taken out, ambiguous wording? Or does it allow changes of substance? If a bill, when read literally, fails to accomplish what the Legislature intended, can we use "style or form" to fix it after-the-fact?

Looking back over my first six legislative sessions, Gov. Daugaard's "style or form" vetoes were of the former variety, but both of Gov. Noem's "style or form" vetoes clearly made substantive changes. After some legal wrangling, the Legislature decided to accept the broader interpretation.

HB 1186: The juvenile justice reform enacted in 2015 left more juvenile offenders under local supervision instead of state incarceration. It established a "juvenile justice detention cost-sharing fund" from which local governments could be compensated for their increased expenses. HB 1186 was meant to continue this fund, but it was written in a way that inadvertently failed to do so. Gov. Noem's "style or form" veto restored the intended purpose of those of us who voted for HB 1186, by expanding the meaning of "style or form".

I voted to sustain the governor's "style or form" veto, despite the uncertainty about whether it violates the Constitution's intent, because the counties need the financial assistance. I have complained since we enacted juvenile justice reform (and correctional reform generally, for that matter) that we do not adequately compensate local governments. My vote on this bill is consistent with that concern.

SB 176: The "pheasant bill" appropriates a million dollars from the state's general fund for the "second century habitat fund." I opposed this bill from the time Gov. Noem introduced it in her State of the State Address, even though it might be the most environmentally friendly bill in my time as a legislator. During the bill's tortuous journey, it was amended to keep it from directly supporting any specific business. I still see it as using general funds to support a particular industry. That's bad policy, especially when state government faces so many other needs to serve the common good.

The bill passed during the regular session (despite my several votes against it), but mistakenly appropriated funds for the 2019-2020 fiscal year instead of the current fiscal year, when we expect to have surplus funds. The governor's "style or form" letter moves appropriations to the earlier year. I think that's more than a change in "style or form." For all those reasons, I voted against the bill after waiting around for several hours, but it passed anyway.

The session is over, but I still need to hear from my constituents. Please feel free to contact me at rringsd@gmail.com, Ray.Ring@sdlegislature.gov, or 605-675-9379 (my cell). I can't respond to everyone, but I do give priority to residents of District 17 (Clay and Turner counties).

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