PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A Rapid City lawmaker is trying to change a state law. Republican Rep. Tony Randolph wants to stop the practice of legislative committees introducing bills for the governor, executive agencies and the chief justice.
Randolph is vice chair of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus. The conservative group of lawmakers organized last June at the South Dakota Republican convention.
The Freedom Caucus has identified 84 bills so far that its members say were unconstitutionally introduced in the 2023 legislative session.
On Friday, January 13, Republican Rep. Tina Mulally challenged the House Commerce and Energy Committee’s introduction of two bills for the state Department of Labor and Regulation. One was an $18 million tax cut for South Dakota employers.
Republican Rep. Mike Weisgram, the panel’s chair, said he was acting within state law. “I as chairman did approve introduction of these bills electronically,” Weisgram said.
Mulally then quoted a state law requiring a written request be submitted to the committee for each bill. Weisgram said he had received those requests but didn’t have them with him.
Weisgram asked the Legislature’s chief research and legal analyst, John McCullough, to come forward. McCullough said Weisgram was proceeding correctly. “They’re consistent with the rules,” McCullough said.
That practice is what Randolph hopes to stop. HIs bill gets a hearing Monday by the House State Affairs Committee. The Freedom Caucus has publicly identified only its leadership, so it’s unclear whether any caucus members are on the committee.
“This is a constitutional issue, and it should be an easy fix,” Republican Rep. Aaron Aylward, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, said in a statement Friday. “We need to make sure that the people’s elected representatives are the ones leading this process and not unelected bureaucrats.”
Last year, legislators disagreed on whether Republican Governor Kristi Noem had authority to begin distributing to daycares $100 million of federal aid.
Noem also wanted last year’s House State Affairs Committee to introduce for her some legislation that, at the time, would have further restricted abortions in South Dakota. The committee considered her request but didn’t do it.
Noem called the committee’s refusal “unprecedented.”
This year, individual legislators are introducing Noem’s bills for her. So far, she has announced four:
HB-1075 (proposing a 0% tax rate on grocery purchases) Republican Rep. Mary Fitzgerald and Republican Sen. John Wiik
HB-1090 (liability protection for agriculture producers) Republican Rep. James Wangsness and Republican Sen. Joshua Klumb
SB-75 (pregnancy costs covered by both parents) Republican Sen. David Wheeler and Republican Rep. Mike Stevens
SB-76 (recognizing out-of-state occupational licenses) Republican Sen. Jim Stalzer and Republican Rep. Tyler Tordsen
Noem also said in her State of the State address to lawmakers on January 9 that she was working with Republican Sen. Erin Tobin and Republican Rep. Gary Cammack on legislation to “review any purchase, lease, or transfer of South Dakota agriculture land by a foreign person, company, or entity and make its recommendation to the governor whether the purchase should be approved.” That legislation hasn’t yet been filed.