With Keystone XL coming, S.D. House panel recommends Noem’s anti-riot legislation

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Legislation that would rewrite some of South Dakota’s riot laws received a panel’s recommendation Wednesday

The House State Affairs Committee endorsed it 10-3. HB 1117 now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration possibly as early as Thursday afternoon. If the House passes it, the bill would go to the Senate next.

The legislation from Governor Kristi Noem came in the wake of a successful court challenge last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of several groups. Federal Judge Lawrence Piersol ruled that parts of South Dakota’s state laws were likely to be found unconstitutional.

Aside from governor’s lawyers Tom Hart and Katie Hruska, only the South Dakota Sheriff’s Association presented testimony in support. “We’re the folks who are probably going to be called, if there is a problem,” lobbyist Dick Tieszen said. “This bill may not be necessary. I hope it isn’t.”

Candi Brings Plenty, the ACLU indigenous organizer for South Dakota and North Dakota, was one of a half-dozen who spoke against the bill. She said it creates a state of fear among people planning to peacefully protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

The new legislation removes or changes those pieces. Key points of Noem’s proposal are:

  • Removal of the triple-damages penalty for riot boosting that was enacted last year.
  • Requires that any injury to a person or damage to property by three or more persons must be intentional to be accused of riot. This is based on a South Dakota Supreme Court decision.
  • Removal of ‘threat’ language.
  • Says any person who urges three or more persons to cause injury or damage can be accused of inciting a riot.
  • Clarifies it isn’t incitement of a riot if the person advocates, orally or in writing, any action that doesn’t involve imminent force or violence.

The Legislature hurriedly passed two laws last year that Governor Noem requested regarding pipeline projects. One required construction bonds. The other penalized riot boosting.

The South Dakota Association of County Commissioners supported the riot-boosting law last year, because of a long, expensive protest in North Dakota against the Dakota Access pipeline.

Most of the nine counties in western South Dakota that Keystone XL would cross have small law-enforcement forces.

Another opponent Wednesday was Nick Tilsen of Porcupine, representing the NDN Collective, one of the groups that won the lawsuit against Noem last year.

“Over-criminalization costs the state money,” Tilsen said. “This also pits everyday citizens against law enforcement, when it shouldn’t be that way.”

Voting for the bill were Republicans Mike Diedrich of Rapid City, Drew Dennert of Aberdeen, Kent Peterson of Salem, Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, Spencer Gosch of Glenham, Arch Beal of Sioux Falls, Lee Qualm of Platte, Kevin Jensen of Canton, Tim Goodwin of Rapid City and David Anderson of Hudson.

Voting against the bill were House Speaker Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, and Democrats Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls and Steven McCleerey of Sisseton.

Haugaard, an attorney, said some of the laws that the federal judge blocked were approved roughly a century ago to counter groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. He said the new legislation seemed flawed.

Diedrich, an attorney, said the proposed law would protect his right to peaceably assemble without fearing violence.

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