Back in 2013, the Legislature concluded that its Legislative Research Council wasn't keeping pace with evolving technology and legislators' demands. They got LRC director Jim Fry to resign, and in the summer of 2014 they hired Jason Hancock to run the show.

Whatever reforms Hancock implemented must have included spending more time reviewing bill drafts. As of close of business yesterday, January 6, the LRC had published just nine bills (bit-chompingly summarized here). Those bills only popped into view Monday afternoon. As Mr. Powers notes, that's notably later than usual. Last year, we had bills to read by December 23. Two years ago, December 19. Three years ago, December 29. Four years ago, December 23.

Maybe the delay indicates that legislators are swamping their LRC with bills. Rep. Rev. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) tells this blog that he's working on twelve bills. Twelve bills: if all 105 legislators were that ambitious, we'd have 1,260 bills to plow through! That's more than twice what we usually have; Rep. Rev. Hickey is giving District 9 their money's worth and then some!

Two of Hickey's bills are super-duper secret, but he's willing to share the rest:

  1. death penalty repeal
  2. a mental illness bill related to the Death penalty
  3. two bills I'm calling victim wish bills so people who are murdered who oppose the death penalty have their wishes considered
  4. a bill that allows child sex abuse victims who were litigating their cases in 2010 to not have their cases dismissed because the legislature changed the statute of limitations
  5. two bankruptcy exemption bills
  6. an ATV bill that creates a fund for trails
  7. a bill that brings accountability to the drug control fund and gives 25% back to the counties for indigent defense.
  8. "Long Economic Winter" task force

The death penalty repeal bills are consistent with Rep. Rev. Hickey's conversion on capital punishment in 2013. His bill to repeal the penalty in the 2014 session was defeated in its first committee hearing on a narrow 7–6 vote.

The ATV trail bill could be fun. Expect me and Patrick Lalley to lobby for an amendment to include bicycle access to any new trails.

The "Long Economic Winter" task force is a fiscal prepper idea Rep. Rev. Hickey has been pushing to no avail for a few years. Rep. Rev. Hickey contends that we need to plan for how South Dakota could survive a serious economic depression, a massive cutback in the federal spending that keeps our state afloat (38.9% of the Governor's proposed FY 2016 budget), or worse. Here's how Rep. Rev. Hickey described the proposal to his colleagues last year:

Study the ramifications of a long economic winter on main street South Dakota and state government, and make recommendations for contingency plans. I'd like a LEW (long-economic winter) workgroup to address the following 7 questions.

  1. What would say, a 20% reduction in Federal funds mean to South Dakota?
  2. What would the collapse of the dollar mean to main street South Dakota: What would it mean to our state's large financial sector, which at present is a significant source of revenue and jobs?
  3. What are the possibilities for weaning South Dakota off Federal and other uncertain (or arguably unhealthy) revenue sources?
  4. What if any measures in South Dakota could be adopted so our present statutes don't exacerbate difficulties in buying and selling, or bartering?
  5. What current state statutes might hamstring people simply trying to take care of themselves and their families and or frustrate or prolong our recovery?
  6. What would a significant disruption in the food, fuel or power supplies mean to our population?
  7. Considering the unstable and unsustainable economic environment beyond our borders, just how much should we keep in our reserve funds? [Rep. Steve Hickey, 2014 Summer Studies Ballot, spring 2014]

If the economy gets so bad that we have to barter, details of state law may be the least of our concerns. But maybe California Governor Jerry Brown's plan for power micro-grids would be a good step in toward that disaster planning.

I'm eager to see Rep. Rev. Hickey's full proposals in the Legislative hopper. And really, if we are to be an informed and well-governed democracy, we need to see those bills as soon as possible. Get cracking, LRC!