Changing from an aye to a nay

The amendment made by Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, rubbed Rep. Larry Rhoden wrong — very wrong — Monday during the Legislature’s special session on nonmeandered waters that lay above private land.

Partridge changed the sunset date to June 30, 2018. Rhoden, R-Union Center, had steered the Legislature’s task force on nonmeandered waters to July 1, 2021, in its June 2 final draft legislation.

The House of Representatives initially rejected the Senate version of HB 1001. That sent Senate Republicans upstairs to room 414. There they spent a long time behind the closed doors of their private caucus Monday evening. When they came out, they hadn’t budged.

The House-Senate conference committee assembled with Rhoden and Partridge the last to arrive. Rhoden’s face showed his feelings. He didn’t relent. The six negotiators acted on the motion from House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings that the two chambers accept the Senate amendment.

When the conference roll call reached Rhoden, he voted nay. The conference report came out 5-1. When the House voted to accept the Senate version, Rhoden once again voted nay. An hour later, he was spotted just inside the doorway of the governor’s operations suite, making the case about something to Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who had presided over the Senate’s proceedings Monday.

What the Partridge amendment accomplished was this: The Legislature now will have to act in the 2018 regular session, or in some type of special session, on the nonmeandered-waters issue, before the sun sets June 30 of next year.

The task force of 15 legislators, on which Rhoden served but Partridge did not, had carefully put together draft legislation during the past eight weeks. The draft included the requirement that the state Game, Fish and Parks Department deliver a report on its progress in negotiating for public access.

The GFP report is due no earlier than April 1, 2019, and no later than June 1, 2019, to the Legislture’s Executive Board. The legislation also requires the board must hold at least one public hearing in 2019 after receiving GFP’s report. Those requirements remained as Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the legislation into law Monday night. The measure took effect immediately because it carried an emergency clause.

One veteran lobbyist carefully asked Monday night, as the Senate was proceeding through the roll call on final passage, whether there might have been more to the matter. The lobbyist suggested that perhaps it was a quiet revolt by the Senate Republican moderates who didn’t support Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, for the top post of Senate president pro tem, the No. 2 presiding officer.

Greenfield seemed to equivocate, just a bit, during the discussion of the Partridge amendment. Partridge declined to respond when Greenfield wondered whether a 2019 sunset might be acceptable. The Partridge amendment for 2018 passed 29-4. Among the ayes was Greenfield.

The reason Partridge gave for the amendment was the Senate’s turnover. He said 2018 was the only year that would work because the Senate’s membership changes by about one-third every two years. He wanted the same Legislature to decide what to put into place permanently

The House rejected a similar amendment from Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown. In the end Partridge, York and their forces prevailed. The Legislature will be arguing the matter again in the 2018 session.

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About Bob Mercer

I am a newspaper reporter in Pierre where I cover state government, issues and politics for the Aberdeen American News, the Black Hills Pioneer, the Mitchell Daily Republic, the Pierre Capital Journal, the Rapid City Journal, the Watertown Public Opinion and the Yankton Press & Dakotan. I began covering the Legislature in 1985 and have lived in Pierre since December 1986. I grew up in Wisconsin, worked my way through college, took my first full-time newspapers jobs in Wyoming, and have lived in South Dakota since the summer of 1984 when I moved to Aberdeen to join the American News. I worked for the Rapid City Journal as its state government reporter in Pierre from late 1992 through late 1998. I spent four years as press secretary and a senior aide to Gov. Bill Janklow during his fourth and final term from late 1998 through 2002. I returned to journalism in January 2003 as a self-employed reporter, providing state government coverage to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre and, depending on the year, Aberdeen newspapers. In 2008, the Aberdeen American News offered to hire me as full-time member of the AAN staff, with my reports continuing to be available to the Mitchell, Watertown, Spearfish, Pierre, Yankton and Rapid City papers. The new arrangement has been in effect since January 2009 as the seven papers continue their remarkable dedication to their readers and the general public, as the only South Dakota news outlets with a full-time reporter covering state government in Pierre throughout the year. In addition to focusing on the Legislature during the annual winter session and its various activities during the interim periods between sessions, I spend many days throughout the year -- traveling as often necessary -- to cover state government boards and commissions which oversee the state universities, technical institutes, outdoors, water, environment, business, public schools, banking, agriculture, utilities, health care and various other areas of public interest. I purposely don't register to vote because of my profession; the last time I recall voting in a presidential election was the first time, 1976, when I had just turned 18. I think I voted for Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford. Make of that what you want, just don't make much of it.

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