South Dakota Legislature roundup for Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Capitol News Bureau
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Note to readers: This daily report will appear each working day of the South Dakota Legislature’s 2021 session that runs through March 29.

LOTTERY ROUNDABOUT: The election of Republican David Wheeler of Huron as a state senator meant he needed to step off the South Dakota Lottery Commission. In his place, the governor chose a Republican former legislator, Tona Rozum of Mitchell.

Rozum served in the state House of Representatives from 2011 through 2018 and will need Senate confirmation. She would be the first woman since 2011 to serve on the lottery panel. Her term would run until January 1, 2024.

The governor also reappointed Jamie Huizenga of Pierre to another three-year term. The lottery is one of South Dakota’s largest producers of revenue for state government’s general fund, generating some $122.5 million in the 2020 fiscal year.

FOLLOWING THROUGH: As promised, a new House member has filed legislation that would prohibit anyone in a motor vehicle from smoking marijuana or a marijuana derivative when the vehicle is on a public highway or right of way of a public highway.

The legislation from Representative Mary Fitzgerald, a Republican from the St. Onge area of Lawrence County, was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing. The proposal would make it a Class 2 misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in county jail, a $500 fine or both.

Fitzgerald is married to Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald. He is the current president for the South Dakota State’s Attorneys Association.

MEANDERED LEGISLATION: The Legislature and then-Governor Dennis Daugaard held a special session in June 2017 on recreational use of meandered waters above public and private land and approved a comprehensive set of laws. Now Senator Lee Schoenbeck wants to reopen part of the issue.

The Watertown Republican has filed legislation that would let the state Game, Fish and Parks secretary close a portion of any meandered water to the public for a period of up to two years “to protect the privacy, safety, or substantially affected agricultural financial interests of an owner of private property adjacent to a meandered body of water.” The decision could be renewed as many times as the secretary determines appropriate.

Schoenbeck, a lawyer, proposes that the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission could be petitioned to review a secretary’s decision to close the water. A decision to not close a portion of meandered water wouldn’t be subject to review. As Senate president pro tem, he hasn’t yet assigned the bill to a Senate committee for hearing.

MAKING MEDICAID A VICTIM: That’s the purpose of legislation the Senate Judiciary Committee had on its agenda today for a hearing.

The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled last year in the State v. Bryant decision that state law didn’t define the program as a person. A circuit judge ordered the defendant, Mason Bryant, to pay $31,246.69 to Medicaid in restitution for the medical expenses of a victim he had stabbed.

Wrote Justice Janine Kern, “Applying the plain language of the statute, we conclude that the circuit court erred by finding that Medicaid falls within the definition of ‘person’ set forth in SDCL 22-1-2(31) and that the circuit court erred by finding that it did.”

She added, “We cannot lift our judicial pens and amend unambiguous statutes. Instead, we leave that task to the body elected to make laws.”

The state Department of Social Services then brought Senate Bill 7.

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