S.D. lawmakers turn electricity bill into a repair for gov’s ‘riot-boosting’ proposal

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Some shortfalls in the governor’s ‘riot-boosting’ proposal would be fixed through a rewrite that South Dakota lawmakers did to another bill Thursday.

The Senate Commerce and Energy Committee completely changed HB 1199, which had been a bill dealing with electricity-service territories. The vote was 5-1.

HB 1117 meanwhile was scheduled for Senate debate and possible final approval Thursday afternoon.

The new version of 1199 removes the term ‘riot boosting’ from state law and instead defines the crime of ‘incitement to riot.’

It also defines ‘riot’ and clarifies that a party would be liable for damages for a riot or incitement to riot.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican, brought the 1199 hoghouse.

“Everybody left. Apparently, this isn’t as interesting,” Schoenbeck said as he sat down at the witness stand to explain the changes to the committee.

No one else supported it, and there weren’t opponents because no one who wasn’t closely watching 1199 would have known about the changes. 

Senator Jeff Monroe, a Pierre Republican, asked Schoenbeck, who’s a lawyer, to explain how his amendment was related to the original focus of 1199. “It’s an energy policy bill, like the other one was,” Schoenbeck replied. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a three-hour hearing Tuesday night on 1117. One of the complaints that surfaced among committee members was that ‘riot-boosting’ wasn’t defined.

U.S. District Judge Lawrence Piersol found that a 2019 law sought by Governor Noem was likely to be found unconstitutional. The federal judge identified other decades-old South Dakota laws that also likely would be unconstitutional.

Senator Craig Kennedy, a Yankton Democrat, said Thursday that Schoenbeck’s changes would address some of his concerns. Kennedy serves on both panels.

“It doesn’t address them all,” Kennedy, a lawyer, said. He remained bothered that the governor’s new legislation used variations of the word ‘urge’ rather than ‘direct,’ which the federal judge said was acceptable. “With that said, this is a significant improvement,” Kennedy said. 

Senator Jim Stalzer, a Sioux Falls Republican who chairs the commerce committee, said, “We have another shot on the (Senate) floor if the two attorneys can get together.”

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