Legislative Highlights 2-13-13

Posted February 12, 2013 at 5:40 pm


There have been a number of bills over the last week brought up in Senate and House committees and some which have reached the floor, but I feel that it’s most important to write about House Joint Resolution 1001 and House Concurrent Resolution 1006.

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House Joint Resolution 1001, which would propose an amendment to the current South Dakota Constitution concerning the control of redistricting, was deferred to the 41st legislative day, Feb. 4, 2013. This week I woul�d like to speak mainly to this amendment as I know that many people are curious about what the amendment called for and how I voted. For a little background about the amendment and its goals: House Joint Resolution 1001 was discussed in State Affairs about how the amendment would make changes to the SD Constitution. This would be done by electing seven citizens who would be appointed to a bipartisan redistricting commission none of whom may be legislators. Currently the amendment allows House and Senate majority and minority leaders to each pick individual citizens to work in the redistricting commission. Once the first four citizens are chosen, their first task is to then pick 3 more citizens with whom they see fit for the job.

I voted against this measure for a few reasons. It is set in our constitution that every ten years our legislature shall reapportion its 35 Senate districts. This has been done the same way with both Republican and Democratic majorities. By establishing a commission of citizens it is an insult to those who were appointed to spend their whole summer two years ago waging thru all of the data to come up with the most fair and legal plan according to Federal and State law. One of those who gave immense time was our own Sen. Corey Brown. In testimony by the proponents it was stated that this would keep legislators from using it for their own agendas. I would submit that two of the majority party who were on the committee voted to change their districts, one forced into a primary along with many of the majority party candidates, and the other losing a seat in the Senate.

One final note: The democrats said it would allow for a fairer redistricting plan. I would submit that the plan that was passed by this body last year is just that. The legislature as a whole didn’t change in political make up. The House had a -2 Democrat change and the Senate had a +2 Democrat swing keeping the numbers in Pierre 24 Democrats and 81 Republicans the same amount as the previous legislature.

Late in the week on the floor we discussed House Concurrent Resolution 1006, which is to petition the President of the United States and the Department of State to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline. It cites the expansion of jobs and tax revenue for schools in the area of the pipeline as a benefit to the state as a whole.

As always your input and concerns are appreciated. I can be contacted by phone @ 605-769-1017 (please leave a message if you do not get me). I can also be contacted by email at either my personal justinRcronin@gmail.com or my state Rep.Cronin@state.sd.us. Traditional mail may be sent to PO Box 42 Gettysburg SD 57442.

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I am going to write about a bill coming up on the House floor this week which ultimately could affect every landowner is District 23. HB 1135 will, if passed, give landowners with flooded private property (non-meandered) an option to keep hunters and ice fisherman and boaters from encroaching into their personal property above the water or ice well onto private land which they pay taxes on while gaining nothing from the use of that land by the general public. Landowners will be able to post by sign or buoy a private zone but if a pothole or slough is not marked it continues as public. Today every county has different rules making it impossible to know if it can be fished or hunted.

Meandered bodies are those lakes and rivers and streams, which the original surveyors had to meander around while mapping the sections of land in South Dakota. This bill does not affect the flooded land around those bodies of water as they and all water touching them are considered public. Even Cottonwood Lake south of Redfield, S.D. is now flooded but once a soggy bottomed slough everyone hunted for the past 100 years is considered under the meandered rule because of the adverse possession law. Adverse possession is when the public uses a piece of property without any accusations of trespass for over 20 years it cannot suddenly become private to any landowner living alongside it. Under Cottonwood Lake there remains a quarter section of land still listed in the “Homestead Act Trust” bank of property so obviously no one wanted to homestead a soggy bottomed slough therefore it continues being public and HB 1135 does nothing to that law. The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled in 2004 in the “Parks VS Cooper” case that all water in SD is public but the activity above that water needs to be determined by the legislature.

Meandered lakes again are off the table for they are all public but a note of interest takes us to Lake Thompson where the courts and the SD GF&P agreed to pay landowners their taxes on private land flooded by this public lake if flooded for over three years and over 5000 acres of land was encumbered. They also agreed to place signage blocking off a private landowners land if they choose to do so if there was over 5000 acres of private land flooded. To date I know of no one who has asked the GF&P to block off private land surrounding Lake Thompson. Remember HB 1135 does nothing to public, meandered bodies of water.

The SD Supreme Court ruled that the airspace above private land is private up to the flyways that airplanes must fly through. Shooting lead over another’s property is considered trespassing although the legislature de-criminalized that when they wrote new road hunting rules a few years ago.

Today you must leave your shotgun outside the fence to retrieve a downed bird on private property but you can walk right over the ice on a slough and hunt the edge of that slough all the way into a piece of private property 660 feet away from a farm house. The same land, same hunter, same season, and ice makes it all public but grass keeps it private? You can see why we truly need to set in motion some semblance of sanity with our non-meandered water rules.

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We have officially crossed the halfway point of the legislative session. That also means that we are quickly approaching “cross-over day.” This is the point at which a bill must leave its house of origin. In other words, all senate bills must be out of the senate and all of the house bills must be out of the house. February 20 is the deadline for this to occur, expect a pretty busy legislative schedule this next week in order to meet that deadline.

I did want to take a few lines to clarify my position on SB 115. This was a proposal to increase the tax on fertilizer and use those proceeds for research. The way that some of the newspapers portrayed that bill made it look as though I was a sponsor or proponent of the bill. In fact, I was in opposition to the effort and spoke against it during the debate. First, many of the chemical companies have already completed this research. Moreover, I struggle with a tax increase by twice as much to do something that is already being done. Despite that, the bill still passed the Senate. It will now be heard in the House of Representatives.

This past week the senate also debated one of the more emotional issues of the session. This bill was SB 125 or the “shared parenting bill.” Essentially right now in a divorce, the judge can award physical custody of the children to one or the other of the parents based on various criteria. This bill sought to move the “starting point.” Essentially, a judge would start with the assumption that the children would be split equally between the two parents. The judge could then adjust the time based on various factors that were in the best interest of the child. The bill ultimately failed on the Senate floor after a spirited debate. One of the counter-arguments is that parents can already have a shared-parenting arrangement if they seek one. Additionally, by moving this “starting point,” it would ultimately open the possibility that all current custody arrangements would be subject to this new standard.

Due to the weekend blizzard there has been a change in the legislature’s schedule. Session was canceled for Monday, Feb. 11. That day will be made up at the end of the week on Friday, which was not originally scheduled as a legislative day. Watch the committee agendas carefully as this will obviously result in a number of changes, potentially on short notice.

As one of your voices in Pierre, I hope that you will contact me as these issues are debated throughout the session. You can reach me via email at: coreywbrown@gmail.com, by phone at: (605) 769-0540.

Legislative Highlights

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