Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) makes my day with two new bills aimed at the arrogant secrecy of his own party.
Notoriously averse to omnibus bills, Rep. Nelson keeps his bills short. House Bill 1172 is a neat little dig at the leaders of his own party:
Any gathering of a simple majority of either the South Dakota House of Representatives or the South Dakota Senate, meeting to discuss introduced legislation, shall be open to the public.
Translation: no more closed door meetings for the Republican caucus, or for that matter, the Democratic caucus, should they ever retake a majority in either chamber (hey, quit laughing!).
House Bill 1176 takes the simplest approach to fixing the shady EB-5 visa investor program: ban it!
No official or agency of the State of South Dakota nor any political subdivision of the state may participate in, or enter into any contract or agreement associated with, the federal EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program administered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services of the United States Department of Homeland Security.
Both of Nelson's bills seem perfectly sensible. HB 1172 would bring the Legislature in line with other elected boards in the state, quora of which cannot meet behind closed doors to discuss policy matters. HB 1176 offers the legislative branch its first opportunity to publicly debate the merits of a controversial economic development program with a questionable record in South Dakota.
Rep. Nelson also backs up his claims to put principle above party with the coalitions of sponsors he has sought for his bills. Both bills bear the names of hard-right Republicans like Rep. Dan Kaiser, Rep. Elizabeth May, and Senator Tim Begalka next to good Democrats like Rep. Patrick Kirschman, Rep. Kathy Tyler (the Dems' point gal on EB-5), and Senator Larry Lucas.
The House has assigned both bills to House State Affairs, where Speaker Brian Gosch, GOP Majority Leader David Lust, and Assistant Majority Leader Justin Cronin will all likely gang up on Rep. Nelson and push to kill his bills. I will enjoy watching to see if Democratic committee members Bernie Hunhoff, Scott Parsley, and Kevin Killer will ride to Nelson's rescue and rally the consciences of just enough Republicans to be open with the people who elect them and end South Dakota's reliance on the corruption-prone exploitation of the EB-5 visa investment program.
Rep. Nelson's bills may face long odds of passing. But they demonstrate that, of the Republicans running for U.S. Senate, Stace Nelson is the most likely to stand up to the corruption in his own party.