Sen. Art Rusch

Governor Noem has now signed two bills for which I was the prime sponsor. She has signed SB 59 which forbids any governmental entity from settling a lawsuit with a confidentiality agreement, in other words an agreement that they would not disclose the terms of the settlement. That bill passed the Senate by a vote of 23 to 10 and the House by a vote of 54 to 9.

She has also signed the other bill which I sponsored, SB 68, which prohibited labeling food as meat or poultry if it does not contain actual meat or poultry. SB 68 passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously.

The final day of 2019 Legislative session took place on March 29. This day, commonly called “veto day” is reserved for action on any bills that the governor has vetoed. Under the South Dakota Constitution, the governor has five days within which she may veto any bill passed by the Legislature except if the Legislature is not in session then she has 15 days to veto or sign all bills.

The Legislature can override a veto by a two thirds vote of both houses so “veto day” is scheduled for a time more than 15 days after the normal session is over so that the legislature can consider any bills that the governor has vetoed.

This session the governor vetoed two bills early on in the session. She vetoed SB 14 which would have given the Public Utilities Commission broader authority to regulate solar energy facilities. The governor’s veto questioned whether there was any need for more commission regulation of solar generating stations and also that the bill was poorly drafted.

Although the bill originally passed both houses with more than the two-thirds margin needed in both the House and Senate to override a gubernatorial veto, the effort to override the veto failed.

The more controversial effort to override a veto was on HB 1191, the “industrial hemp” bill. Although the effort to legalize the growing of industrial hemp was widely popular among farm groups, the governor expressed her concern that "normalizing" hemp would be the first step toward legalizing all marijuana and that legalizing hemp would make law enforcement's job tougher.

The House easily voted to override the governor’s veto but in the Senate the vote was 20 in favor of overriding the veto and 13 against. This was short of the 24 votes needed to override the veto.

When the Legislature reconvened for veto day there was two more vetoes; HB 1186 dealing with juvenile detention cost sharing and SB 176 dealing with pheasant habitat. Both of these vetoes were “style and form” vetoes which meant that the governor didn’t object to the bills but felt they had not been properly drafted. Her specific concern was that, as a result of errors in drafting, neither of the bills had an effective date which would have allowed them to go into effect prior to July 1 of 2019.

The Senate passed both of the bills with the changes which she recommended. The House was a different story. Although the House immediate passed HB1186 with the changes recommended by the governor they argued and debated for four house before finally passing SB 176 with the changes requested by the governor. The 2019 session of the Legislature finally ended at 5 p.m. on March 29.

In addition to the Legislature’s final day, two of the commissions that I serve on also had meetings. This year I am going to begin serving on the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC). GOAC consists of five legislators from the House and five from the Senate, who are authorized to investigate and review any phase of the operations and the fiscal affairs of any department, institution, board, or agency of the state.

We met for the first time the afternoon before veto day and agreed on a schedule of monthly meetings during the summer and which departments and agencies of state government we are going to review. The intent is to audit and review every department of state government on a three year schedule.

The other commission I am a member of which met was the South Dakota Corrections Commission. We met at the Women’s Prison in Pierre after the veto day session. By law, the Corrections Commission is required to assist the Department of Corrections in examining criminal justice issues and developing initiatives to address problems in corrections and the criminal justice system.

This commission consists of nine members: three appointed by the governor, two senators, one from each political party, two representatives, one from each political party, and two members appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. At the meeting, the commission discussed the use that has been made of inmates in the flooding and fire disasters that have affected South Dakota in the past year and also discussed the plans for the new medical facility which will be built at the prison in Sioux Falls. The money for that addition was approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

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