PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Several experienced Republican legislators tried, not just once but twice, on Tuesday but couldn’t stop a Senate panel from recommending a proposal to officially establish South Dakota’s real-estate appraisers advisory council in state law.
Instead, HB 1061 is now one step away from final legislative approval — and putting Governor Kristi Noem in the difficult position of having to decide whether to sign or veto it.
The legislation results from a controversy, first reported by The Associated Press, that saw Noem’s administration pay a $200,000 settlement to Sherry Bren. The former executive director for the appraisers certification program said she was forced to retire.
The settlement came after Bren attended a meeting at the governor’s mansion with Noem, various state officials and Kassidy Noem-Peters, who was trying to advance her appraiser certification.
The matter eventually came to the attention of the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee, which decided to pursue the advisory-council legislation.
State Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman, who was appointed by Noem, was in the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee meeting Tuesday when the legislation was brought up for action. Hultman hadn’t previously testified on the bill, but this time she answered questions from Senator Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, and Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown.
The council had been advising the appraiser-certification program for decades. Hultman told Stalzer meetings with the council were placed on hold last year while her staff brought Bren’s replacement up to speed. She also said the council members could be paid travel and meal expenses, making the legislation unnecessary.
The council learned through happenstance last year that a rule hearing was planned. Hultman told Schoenbeck that people in her department didn’t realize courtesy copies of proposed rules had traditionally been sent to the council.
“All I can do is give my firm commitment,” Hultman said.
The legislation calls for quarterly council meetings. Senator David Wheeler, R-Huron, who’s a GOAC member, asked about the frequency. Hultman said the past practice was to have at least two council meetings per year and more as needed.
“We have a lot of bridges to mend. We have compromises to reach,” Hultman said.
Representative Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, serves on GOAC. She said GOAC members dug into the issue during several meetings. “I brought this bill because I saw a need,” Duba told the senators. She added, “I would urge you to codify this.”
Senator Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, told Duba he received an email from an appraiser that said the proposed council wasn’t large enough. Duba had appraiser Amy Frink, of Aberdeen, answer Novstrup.
Schoenbeck struck first, calling for the bill to be killed, saying South Dakota has “a shortage of perfect people.”
“People make mistakes. Sometimes they screw up,” Schoenbeck said. He added, “I don’t think we should create a new board because for a couple months we had a stressed system.”
Stalzer joined in. He said the current board members, who are listed on the appraiser program website, could work with the new executive director without having the board put in state law. Stalzer said the legislation could be brought back next year if the results weren’t satisfactory.
But that motion failed, 4-5. The yes votes were senators Casey Crabtree, R-Madison; Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls; Schoenbeck and Stalzer. The no votes were senators Red Dawn Foster, D-Pine Ridge; Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford; Erin Tobin, R-Winner; Wheeler and Novstrup.
Steinhauer, who also serves on GOAC, then called for the Senate committee to recommend that the bill pass. But Schoenbeck called for a substitute motion that bill be sent out without recommendation, meaning it would need to go through a procedural vote on the Senate floor that would determine first whether senators could even debate it.
Schoenbeck’s no-recommendation motion failed by the same 4-5 tally. Steinhauer’s motion then passed 5-4. The bill could be up for Senate debate later this week. The House approved it 60-4 on January 31.