PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — State senators are preparing to consider the governor’s call for a committee she’d appoint to review future attempts by foreign entities such as Communist China to purchase agricultural property in South Dakota.
The debate on SB-185 is now set for Tuesday. There are two sets of amendments. Republican Sen. Erin Tobin, prime sponsor of Governor Kristi Noem’s legislation, has proposed making various changes. Republican Sen. Tom Pischke meanwhile wants to entirely rewrite it by resurrecting legislation that the Senate set aside in 2020.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last week unanimously endorsed a somewhat amended version of the original bill, but several on the panel said it needed further work. That was despite a long list of opponents who testified against it that included nearly all of the major farm and ranch groups, as well as the South Dakota Bankers Association and the statewide Realtors group. No ag organization publicly supported it.
Under the Legislature’s calendar, the legislation must be acted upon by the Senate no later than Wednesday, the 27th day of this year’s 38-day session, unless a majority of senators agrees to suspend the crossover deadline to allow more time. Should the Senate approve it, the legislation would go to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Tobin’s amendment calls for these changes:
Section 3 would amend South Dakota’s anti-foreign ownership law that calls for forfeiture of the land within three years. Noem’s original bill proposed opening that period to 20 years. Tobin’s amendment would find middle ground at 10 years.
Section 8 would create a new requirement that the foreign entity apply to a new state committee appointed by the governor. Noem’s original bill proposed that the committee could request additional information from the applicant and that the applicant had 180 days to fulfill the request or the committee would determine the application was voluntarily withdrawn. Tobin’s amendment would reduce that submission period to 90 days.
Section 9 as originally proposed by Noem would give the committee 180 calendar days for the review; Tobin’s amendment would reduce that to 90 days. Noem also originally proposed allowing the committee to reserve an additional 180 calendar years to complete the review; Tobin’s amendment would reduce that additional period to 90 days. Noem’s had also proposed that the review could take no longer than 365 calendar days; Tobin would amend that to 180.
Section 19 under Noem’s original proposal would have amended the current role for county registers of deeds. The governor’s proposal sought to add a requirement that said the register of deed couldn’t accept “Any deed for agricultural land, as defined in § 43-2A-1, that is subject to the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota that is not accompanied by an approval letter issued under section 15 of this Act.”
Tobin’s amendment of section 19 would change that to instead say, “The purchaser of transferred property subject to this act shall complete and file the certificate of value required pursuant to § 7-9-7 at the time of the transfer of the property.”
Tobin’s amendment also would create a section 20 that would add to the existing law a further condition that the register of deeds couldn’t accept a transfer without “a statement on the certificate of value whether the buyer is a foreign person, as defined in § 43-2A-1, and if the buyer is a foreign person, a copy of an approval letter pursuant to Section 13 of this Act.”
Tobin’s amendment also creates a section 21 that says the state secretary of revenue shall create the form required to meet section 19’s proposed requirement.
In an email interview conducted Sunday, Tobin answered various questions from KELOLAND News. Here are the questions and answers:
KELOLAND: There are two sets of amendments now posted with the bill. I presume that Sen. Tobin would prefer that her group of amendments be made to the bill, rather than Sen. Pischke’s hoghouse. First question: Would that presumption be accurate?
Tobin: Yes, you are correct on that presumption. There are various state laws across the nation that limit foreign purchases, some even completely ban these purchases. However, they aren’t enforced because they do not have a review process and board that reviews. You must rely on self-reporting and if an entity is trying to do harm, there is no way that they would self-report.
The federal CIFIUS board isn’t doing the work to alert these purchases either. (U.S.) Senators Rounds and Tester are bringing forward (federal) legislation to try to address this issue as well, because they understand the ineffectiveness of the current process.
Pischke’s amendment is similar (if not exact) to former Senator Youngberg’s bill from three years ago. They have this law in place in Iowa and it is ineffective.
KELOLAND: Will the bill be considered Tuesday? And, in a nutshell, what are the various parts of your set of amendments intended to accomplish?
Tobin: We will hear this bill on the floor Tuesday. The amendment accomplishes three things: it makes it clear the role that the register of deeds has in the process, it decreases the statute of limitations to 10 years (vs 20 years), and it reduces the time the board must turn around a review to 90 days for most and 180 days for very difficult reviews.
KELOLAND: Does your set of amendments have the support of the governor’s office? Are they sufficient to gain support from any of the groups who opposed the bill during the committee hearing?
Tobin: I have been working with the governor’s office to bring the Senate’s concerns to them and amend where we can. I think these amendments will gain some ‘yes’ votes. There are some in the Senate who feel that the idea of a board, with the governor having a final say, is not the best way to address this. There is no other way to review these, without a board, and someone must have a final say.
I do not think the ag groups will come on board with this, this year. Even when Youngberg brought his bill years ago, they were against this.
KELOLAND: Will these be sufficient to satisfy the Senate?
Tobin: It’s hard to support law that may slow business in any way, shape, or form. I think the important thing for them to consider is that this is a national security issue that we can’t fight with traditional military strategy or even our federal CFIUS. The future of agriculture will be affected by China if we don’t pay attention now. We have never had to take these matters into our own hands, as a state. It’s a big decision. A yes vote is a huge lift, and a no vote is a huge weight left on the people and our future. I assume many senators won’t know where they are going to land until their name is called.