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Legislative Update: Week 4

February 7, 2011

Legislative Weekly Report for January 30–February 6, 2011
submitted by Edward Raventon, lobbyist
South Dakota Chapter of the Sierra Club

HB 1001 and 1002, two bills sponsored by Rep. Dennert to standardize agricultural land valuation by creating a statistical database on use, income, and land variability, were both passed out of committee. HB 1001 was a unanimous “yea” vote. HB 1002 was opposed by the Wheat Growers lobby and had a tougher time passing. Next, they go to the House Floor.

HB 1097, which would have provided for a lower tax value assessment of land that was non-cropland, did not pass. This bill was vigorously opposed by the Corn and Wheat Growers lobbyists and by Mr. Ron Ollinger of Pierre who likes to plow up native grassland. The hardest opposition hit however, was delivered by Michael Kenyon of the State Dept. of Revenue and Regulation. Mr. Kenyon stated that this bill would cost the state over two billion dollars in lost revenue. I suspect Mr. Kenyon of being disingenuous and believe he took “a worst case scenario” to overstate the loss in revenue. A two billion dollar revenue loss struck me as an incredible amount of money. In spite of his scare tactic, this bill had good support and only lost by one vote in committee, although it almost certainly would have died on the House Floor during this session marked by draconian budget cutting. I think more evidence needs to be gathered in the meantime that counter Mr. Kenyon’s figures before next session.

Rep. Dennert was pleased that HB 1001 and 1002 passed. It is a good start for equalizing land values and he plans to reintroduce HB 1097 again in some type of amended version next session. I would definitely work hard to get some version of this bill passed in committee in 2012. It is an outstanding incentive for the conservation of grassland.

HB 1195, an attempt to undermine and/or nullify every conservation easement attached to a piece of property sold in the state was postponed to Monday, Feb. 7 for a committee hearing in the House Judiciary. Indications I received were that this bill will not be pass in committee however, one never knows until all the votes are cast. If you have not emailed members on the House Judiciary Committee yet, tell them you oppose this bill as a needless, unwarranted attack on land, water and wildlife conservation.

HB 1166, an act “to restrict, under certain circumstances, the transfer of certain land parcels by the federal government” is another insidious attempt to undermine the sale of conservation easements specifically to the Federal Government (i.e. the US Fish & Wildlife Service). It essentially attempts to do the same thing as HB 1195 by subjecting every conservation easement land sale in excess of 30 acres to the public scrutiny of local County Commissions. It will be heard in the House State Affairs Committee early Monday morning on Feb. 7. You can take the same action here by contacting members of the House State Affairs committee by email urging them to oppose this bill as a needless, unwarranted attack on land, water and wildlife conservation.

These bills have both been designed to stop and retard the sale and creation of conservation easements and need to be opposed and killed in committee. I will vigorously oppose both of them in committee hearings on Monday.

On a more positive note, HB 1209, an act “to provide for the establishment of rural community-based energy development projects” supports small local wind energy projects. I will be busy attending two committee meetings back to back and will not be able to attend this committee meeting next Monday, Feb. 7 but if you have the time, contact members of the House Commerce & Energy Committee and tell them to support HB 1209.

SB 180 is an act to “impose a fee on certain pipelines carrying crude oil and to create a crude oil pipeline compensation fund that may be used in the event of a crude oil spill”. This bill will be heard in the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee and is a piece of legislation we also want to support. It did not get out of committee last year but a couple of Senators have since heard from their constituents and had “change of heart”. It has not been scheduled for a hearing yet but I will let you know when to contact members of this committee for their support when it does.


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