S.D. lawmakers want sides to keep negotiating in electric-territory fight

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota lawmakers decided Monday to give municipal electricity utilities and rural electric cooperatives a few more weeks to work out their differences over serving annexed territories.

The Legislature’s Executive Board pushed back the deadline to November 29 for the sides, along with investor-owned utilities, to find a compromise. That is the Friday after Thanksgiving, when most state government offices will be closed.

Representative Spencer Gosch, a Glenham Republican, first suggested the extension. The board will consider whatever is worked out — or not — when lawmakers return to the Capitol to hear Governor Kristi Noem’s budget recommendations December 3.

The Legislature directed that a special committee consider the issue and try to find a solution. Senator Alan Solano, a Rapid City Republican who chairs the panel, told lawmakers Monday about the current proposal.

It calls for the state Public Utilities Commission to decide a dispute if one side asks for help.

Senator Brock Greenfield, a Clark Republican, sponsored the original version of the legislation. It would have favored rural electric cooperatives. Greenfield praised the study committee’s efforts Monday.

“This is important work that’s been done and it’s important that progress continue,” Greenfield said.

Solano plans to resign from the Senate November 30 but said he would “be happy” to participate through the end of November.

“We’d certainly like to see some resolution,” said the board’s chairman, Representative Steven Haugaard. The Sioux Falls Republican is House speaker.

House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte said he’d also like to see more negotiation. “Nobody’s going to get everything they want. That’s the nature of the game,” Qualm said.

“Hopefully we can see something come out of it before you’re finished,” Haugaard told Solano.

Greenfield praised Solano for agreeing to chair this “monumental undertaking.” “I would point out he didn’t have a dog in the fight. He just wanted to see a fair resolution,” Greenfield said.

“This could be the theme – do it for the senator,” Haugaard said. 

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