District 30 Legislators Senator Lance Russell, Representatives Julie Frye-Muller and Tim Goodwin answer constituents questions at the “Cracker Barrel” in the Custer Senior Center Saturday afternoon February 4, 2017. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

By Meg Schwartz
February 5, 2017

CUSTER, SD – Saturday afternoon, February 4, 2017, District 30 Representatives Tim Goodwin, Julie Fyre-Muller and State Senator Lance Russell arrived at the Custer Senior Center to answer questions from constituents on IM-22 and several House Bills. Before starting the discussion they stated their opposition to the policy of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce that requires the submission of questions in advance of these meetings, citing that it’s too easy for a moderator to overlook one or more of those questions.

There was general agreement on some topics, especially the opposition to transferring land from the US Forest Service to the state.  The strategy of many of our West River legislators is to try to kill the bill early by not approving funds for the purchase of the lands that would be used for the exchange.  Our representatives suggested that we contact legislators in the eastern part of South Dakota to let them know how we feel, since the East River folks apparently aren’t aware of the level of opposition here in the Black Hills.

One of the first topics discussed was the repeal of IM-22, the so-called ethics bill.  In addition to creating an ethics commission, it also called for a publicly funded campaign finance program using taxpayer dollars.  While it’s a good idea to impose ethical standards on our legislators, many people object to using public funds to support political candidates.  Also, this Initiated Measure was put on the ballot with a disclaimer stating that portions of it might be challenged in court as being unconstitutional.  Really?  Voters should never be presented with a ballot issue that, if passed, could end up being illegal. Hopefully, the replacement ethics bill will be better.

Another topic of great discussion was SB-124, in which the SD legislature would have final word on which refugees (if any) would be allowed into the state after being admitted to the United States under the federal Refugee Act of 1980.  Mr. Russell is a strong proponent of this bill and has apparently already decided to support it, despite the differing opinions expressed in this “Cracker Barrel”.  This is a one-sentence bill that offers absolutely no details on what type of “extreme vetting” (Russell’s words) would take place and how much it would cost SD taxpayers.  It’s also possible they’ll just shut the door altogether – a strategy that some folks feel is morally wrong.  It’s obvious there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue.  The bill needs to be more specific.

Other topics discussed:  HB-1145, definition of go/no go areas is unclear; {several bills} removal/adjustment of permit requirement for concealed carry pistols; HH-1129, limiting information required to obtain a driver’s license; SB-145, Limitation on Liability for Certain Architects and Engineers.

It’s hard to believe that the  legislators have enough time to fully consider the 200+ bills before them in the short time they’re in session.  The public also has a formidable task in trying to track and interpret the bills most important to them.


A portion of the crowd at the “Cracker Barrel” in the Custer Senior Center Saturday afternoon February 4, 2017. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

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