‘Why have committees?’: Frustration in the Senate as rejected bills are resurrected

KELOLAND.com Original

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Wednesday’s resurrection of HB 1140 proved to be no more than a warm-up exercise as the Senate convened Thursday afternoon to bring back three additional rejected bills using the controversial ‘smoke out’ rule, which allows legislators to force committees to deliver failed bills to the chamber floor if they can secure the support of 1/3 of the chamber’s members.

This rash of ‘smoke outs’ drew the ire of one person in particular, as Senate Judiciary Chair Arthur Rusch told the chamber that they “might as well do away with committees,” after a motion was made by Senator John Wiik to resurrect HB 1212, which Rusch’s committee had voted down just hours prior. The chamber voted to revive the bill with a tally of 20 for and 14 against, with one member excused.

Rusch was an opponent of the bill, originally introduced by Rep. Kevin Jensen, along with other committee members, private citizens and representatives of the ACLU, State’s Attorneys Association, South Dakota Trial Lawyers Association, South Dakota Voices For Justice and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

This diverse group of brought forth wide ranging concerns about the bill ranging from constitutional issues to questions of racial justice and human nature. A representative of the South Dakota ACLU raised concerns over section 7 of the bill, arguing that it violates a persons constitutional right to be regarded as innocent until proven guilty.

“A person who unlawfully enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.”

HB 1212, Section 7

Other criticisms revolved around immunities the bill would grant someone who uses or threatens to use lethal force. Under the statute, a person found to be acting in self defense would be granted immunity from both criminal and civil lawsuits. Opponents say this could strip victims’ families of the ability to file a civil suit against the person who killed their family member.

A further element that sparked concern is a clause that would allow a court to order the plaintiff to pay the defendants attorney fees if the defendant was found to be “immune” from prosecution.

Proponents of the bill say this is simply meant to clean up South Dakota’s current laws regarding self defense and justifiable homicide, arguing that the current statues are complex and difficult to understand.

Rusch said that this is untrue, and that this bill is not simply a re-write, but that it presents major changes which if adopted would wipe out all current precedents that the state’s courts currently operate on.

Another contentious bill that was ‘smoked out’ is HB 1217 which seeks to ban transgender girls from participating in high school sports, and would require student athletes to fill out a form each year, proving biological sex from a birth certificate. Any student that fills out the form contrary to their birth certificate could then be banned from all school sports for the entire year.

Introduced by Republican Rep. Rhonda Milstead, the bill was voted down in the Senate State Affairs committee on Wednesday. That appeared to be the end of what opponents call “anti-transgender legislation” until Sioux Falls Sen. Maggie Sutton moved Thursday to force the committee to deliver it to the Senate floor. The chamber voted to bring the bill back with 16 senators voting in favor, 18 against and 1 excused.


The last bill to be revived Thursday afternoon is HB 1075, a one page bill brought back as a result of a motion by Sen. Marsha Symens. The bill, introduced by freshmen Rep. Aaron Aylward of Harrisburg, seeks to prevent the use of extreme risk protection orders to disarm South Dakotans.

“Any federal statute, federal regulation, or executive order of the President of the United States, and any order of a federal or state court is null, void, and unenforceable in this state if the purpose or intent is to impose or enforce, against a resident of this state, an extreme risk protection order, including such an ex parte order, under which the resident, in order to reduce the risk of physical harm to himself, herself, or another, is: (1) Required to surrender any firearms or ammunition in his or her possession; or (2) Prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm or ammunition.”

HB 1075

The bill failed Thursday in the Senate State Affairs committee. The motion to force the committee to deliver it to the Senate floor passed with 12 votes in favor, 22 against and 1 excused.

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