PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — With no votes to spare, Representative Dave Anderson got the last ‘yes’ he needed Thursday night, in a most unusual way, as House members approved a proposal to spend $20 million of state government funds for a new bioproducts research center.
Anderson at first thought he had lost on HB 1210. The electronic tally board showed a 46-19 vote.
As a spending bill it needed a two-thirds majority of 47.
So he gave notice of his intent to reconsider.
A few minutes later, House Democrat leader Jamie Smith stood and said his thumb-up was meant to signal ‘yes.’ He said it was misinterpreted that he wanted to be excused. The ‘yes’ wasn’t counted.
House Speaker Spencer Gosch listened, then ruled his vote did count. “I was privy to seeing him vote yes,” Gosch said. Smith became the 47th Anderson needed. The legislation now goes to the Senate.
The House Appropriations Committee had amended the bill down to $1 on Tuesday. The House put it back at $20 million Thursday.
“It’s clear we have the dollars to do a number of good things this year,” Anderson said. He added, “It’s really something we are doing for the future. It’s for our kids and grandkids.”
The institute is planned for the Brookings Research Park. South Dakota State University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology would have scientists working on projects. The park and the Brookings Innovation Center are managed by SDSU Growth Partnership, Ltd.
Representative Taffy Howard, who serves on the appropriations panel, opposed providing the money. She didn’t want it to stay alive, voting against the $1 version in committee. Howard said the state Board of Regents and its network of administrators who oversee South Dakota’s public universities, including SDSU and Mines, had raised most of the funds for other recent projects from other sources.
“Then we have this year, we’re jumping to $20 million,” she said, calling the center “a Taj Mahal.”
Representative Mary Fitzgerald, another appropriator, questioned it, too. She had voted for the $1 version in committee. Fitzgerald asked Anderson whether the center would be profitable and whether state government’s investment would be repaid. Anderson said the center would be used to educate students and open economic development potential.
“The plan is it will be self-supporting at some point,” Anderson said. (Fitzgerald wound up voting ‘no’ against the $20 million version.)
Representative Tim Reed said the location in the research park would allow more interaction with the private sector. Reed said Growth Partnership would own the building and there wouldn’t be charges to state government for maintenance and repair. He said state government would pay some rent, but private businesses would pay rent too.
“The idea is to get this fully running by itself,” Reed said.
Representative Rhonda Milstead said the regents are seeking $185 million from state government this session for projects and scholarships, including $50 million as the state’s share of a $200 million endowment for need-based Freedom scholarships. “I just want you to think about it,” Milstead said. She wound up voting no.
On a night when every yes or no mattered, Representative John Mills liked the idea. “This falls into the visionary category for me,” he said, describing it as something that can’t quite be seen but can be felt. “To me,” Mills said, “that’s what this is.”