Pre-filed bills include potential for Legislature to hire lawyers rather than S.D. attorney general

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The first nine bills pre-filed for the 2020 session include a proposal that the South Dakota Legislature could decide to hire its own lawyers to defend itself in legal actions brought against the state government, including defending state laws, rather than continue to rely on the state attorney general.

The Legislature’s Executive Board sponsored HB 1004, with support from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The session opens January 14 and runs through March 30.

Here’s an early look at the earliest bills this year.

HB 1001 — Repeal certain provisions regarding the organization of the Legislature. This bill from the Executive Board would eliminate some redundant laws.

HB 1002 — Revise certain provisions regarding documents of the Legislature. This bill from the Executive Board would clarify that pre-filing legislation is allowed, copies of bills and resolutions shall be electronically transferred to each chamber, and repeal various laws on legislation-printing contracts and fees for mailing bills.

HB 1003 — Repeal certain provisions regarding legislative employees. This bill from the Executive Board would clarify that a joint select committee of legislators sets the salaries of legislative employees.

HB 1004 — Provide for the defense of laws by the Legislature. This bill from the Executive Board would allow a majority of the board or both legislative chambers by concurrent resolution to select outside legal counsel, instead of using the state attorney general. It also would allow the House or the Senate to determine its own position and by a majority vote choose outside legal counsel. It would open the way to as many as three positions — the House, the Senate and the attorney general — on a matter. It also would allow for a majority of current legislators in a chamber taking a different position on a state law than that of previous legislators who passed the law, or the current attorney general. This issue is rising in the case of redistricting disputes. Several South Dakota cases have come up in recent years as well.

HB 1005 — Revise certain provisions regarding the use of telehealth technologies. This bill from an interim legislative committee would change some of the ways that telehealth services can be delivered.

HB 1006 — Authorize the secretary of revenue to contract with certain entities for purposes of maintaining a database to determine agricultural income value and to specify the mandatory and permissive data of the database. This bill from the agricultural-assessment task force would allow state government to contract with more than South Dakota State University on cropland data, and add statewide cow and calf prices to non-cropland data.

HB 1007 — Require certain adjustments to the assessed value of agricultural land if factors impact the land’s productivity and to require those adjustments to be documented. This bill from the agricultural-assessment task force would require county directors of equalization to make and document, in writing, adjustments to a property’s assessed value for location, size, soil-survey statistics, terrain and topographical condition.

SB 1 — Provide for the use of electronic communication in the involuntary commitment process and to declare an emergency. This bill from an interim legislative committee would expand the ways a person’s mental-health condition could be examined. The emergency clause means it would require a two-thirds majority in each chamber for passage; and would take effect immediately after becoming state law, rather than the normal July 1.

SB 2 — Require the Department of Social Services to fully support a statewide centralized resource information system. This bill from an interim legislative committee would fully fund a 211 system in the 66 counties.

There were 272 House bills and 191 Senate bills handled in the 2019 session. Those varied somewhat from previous years. In 2018, there were 320 House bills and 215 Senate bills.

Those 2018 numbers were the highest in some time: Since 2008 for the House, when representatives had 321; and since 2013 for the Senate, when senators introduced 242.

For 2017 there were 211 House bills and 179 Senate bills. In 2016 there were 247 House bills and 172 Senate bills. For 2015 there were 236 House bills and 193 Senate bills.

For 2014 there were 261 House bills and 188 Senate bills. In 2013 there were 250 House bills and 242 Senate bills. For 2012 there were 274 House bills and 197 Senate bills. For 2011 there were 256 House bills and 202 Senate bills.

In 2010 there were 278 House bills and 196 Senate bills. In 2009 there were 301 House bills and 203 Senate bills. In 2008 there were 321 House bills and 203 Senate bills.

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