South Dakota lawmakers agreed Friday with Governor Kristi Noem and decided her administration should get $1 million for wildlife habitat development from state government’s current budget.

Senators voted 24-7 to support the governor’s recommendation to have the measure take effect June 28. Four hours later, the House of Representatives backed her change 41-25.

SB 176 otherwise would have taken effect July 1 when state government starts its 2020 budget year. Noem’s original proposal called for the money to come from state government’s current 2019 budget.

Rejecting Noem’s change would have thrown two years of state budgets out of balance without further adjustments.

Noem finished 4-for-4 on vetoes in her first session as governor.

House members strongly disagreed Friday whether Noem was stretching the veto provisions in the South Dakota Constitution with her proposed change for SB 176.

Representative Taffy Howard, a Rapid City Republican, called for House members to vote against Noem’s change

Representative Thomas Brunner, a Nisland Republican, said it was an obvious abuse of the style-and-form veto. Uphold the constitution. Do the right thing, Brunner urged.

But Representative Michael Diedrich, a Rapid City Republican, said style and form had a broader meaning than what lawmakers learned as students in school.

Representative Jon Hansen, a Dell Rapids Republican, agreed. There’s no black or white on this question, Hansen said. He described the situation facing Noem as a form problem. A style and form veto will fix that problem.

The legislation says the money must be used to match private donations or federal programs. House members considered it in five or six different forms. The last version won approval as part of the the final budget package that ended about 3 a.m. March 13.

Senators disagreed Friday about what the House had done in the six weeks leading to that point.

Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, said the House deliberately removed the emergency clause that would have let the bill take effect immediately upon Noem’s signature.

This bill was passed in the form the money comes out in 2020. Now they want the money to come out in 2019, Nelson said.

But Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said the legislation needed a two-thirds majority, regardless of the emergency clause, because it was a special spending bill. So that’s not accurate, Greenfield said.

If we allow what’s happening today, if we okay this as a style and form veto, we are setting precedent, and ten years down the road, twenty years down the road, the future legislators will be referring back to us and saying, ‘Well, they allowed it, so it must be okay,’ Howard said.

This has been a  very, very hard session. People have been told that principles don’t matter, we need to give up on our principles, Howard continued. She added, This has been a tough session, and this may be another tough vote.

But don’t be misled by inaccurate definitions and descriptions of style and form. Don’t be misled by claiming if you support this recommendation from the governor that you are violating the constitution, Diedrich said.

Adding a section or a sentence to the bill is very dangerous. It obviously is outside what we normally would call style and form, Brunner said. He added, I will never vote against the constitution knowingly and I certainly won’t do that today.

I think arguably what we have here is a gray area. There’s no black and white in this question, Hansen said.
Click here to view the version of the bill that was passed March 12.

Here’s the text of the style-and-form veto letter:

Dear Mr. President Rhoden and Members of the Senate:

I respectfully return Senate Bill 176 with the following recommendation as to STYLE and FORM.  Senate Bill 176 is An Act to make an appropriation for the second century habitat fund.

Senate Bill 176 appropriates $1 million in one-time funds for pheasant habitat.  Throughout the legislative debate on this bill, it was understood that these funds would come from dollars available in Fiscal Year 2019.  That was how the bill was originally proposed and how it was explained throughout the legislative process.  Even in the last week of the legislative session, materials prepared by legislators and legislative staff included these funds in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.

As Senate Bill 176 passed in its final form, however, it did not include an effective date in Fiscal Year 2019.  To carry out the objective of this bill in a manner consistent with the Legislature’s clear intent, I recommend the following Style and Form correction to the Enrolled version of Senate Bill 176:

On Page 1, after Section 5, insert “Section 6.  This Act is effective on June 28, 2019.”

 This clarification will allow the funds to be included in the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, as was intended.  Because June 28, 2019 is ninety days from the final day of the legislative session, this effective date would not require an emergency clause.

 I respectfully request you concur with my recommendation as to STYLE and FORM.

 Kristi Noem