It should have been a quiet morning in Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources. One confirmation, three resolutions, no big whoop.
The committee had little problem recommending that the Senate honor Oelrichs rodeo stars Chad Ferley and Lisa Lockhart, aside from the Senator Rhoden's newly kindled passion for distinguishing resolutions and commemorations. But when they turned to HCR 1025, Rep. Troy Heinert's pretty simple resolution declaring that groundwater is good and that we should be careful not to ruin it, everybody got cranky.
Rep. Heinert had tried do something practical about protecting water in the Black Hills with House Bill 1193. That bill went nowhere, so he thought he'd at least get the Legislature to say something nice about water. Rep. Heinert had back-up from his District 27 House-mate Rep. Kevin Killer, District 21 Senator Billie Sutton, Jay Gilbertson of East Dakota Water Development District, Sabrina King of Dakota Rural Action, and Paul Lepisto of the Izaak Walton League. They all said what Rep. Heinert summarized in one Lakota phrase: mni wiconi—water is life.
Then the opponents spoke. Larry Mann, usually a lobbyist of speaking for himself today, said HCR 1025's "reaffirmation" of South Dakota's commitment to clean water differs significantly from current policy. Odd: the three Whereas clauses of HCR 1025 addressing public policy come verbatim from SDCL 34A-2-1, which gives the general declaration of the state's water pollution control policies. You cannot differ less from current policy than to state current policy.
Hot Springs uranium mining promoter Mark Hollenbeck complained that HCR 1025 omits the word "mining." But again, the clause in question, "it is the public policy of this state to conserve the waters of the state and to protect, maintain, and improve the quality thereof for water supplies; for the propagation of wildlife, fish, and aquatic life; and for domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and other legitimate uses..." comes directly from SDCL 34A-2-1.
Angela Ehlers of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts complained that HCR 1025 adds the word "legitimate" while "beneficial" is the statutory term that has guided South Dakota water policy for over 40 years. One more time, read the statute that HCR 1025 reaffirms: SDCL 34A-2-1 uses the word "legitimate" three times. "Beneficial" appears twice, next to "legitimate" both times.
Senator Ernie Otten of Tea moaned about the resolution not following the rules, even though the Legislature's Joint Rule 6A-1(2) says a concurrent resolution "shall express opinions and principles of the Legislature not having the force of law." HCR 1025 fits that rule just fine.
But remember, this is just a resolution. Up or down, when the vote is done, water is no cleaner or dirtier.
HCR 1025 went down 2–5. Time to confirm Scott Vance to the Brand Board and get some lunch, right?
Heck no. Eager to give conservationists a 1-2 punch, Senator Larry Rhoden decide to hoghouse HCR 1025 into a soapbox for Senator Dan Lederman's falsehood-based crusade against the Niobrara-Ponca Conservation plan.
I've worked hard to explain in previous posts that the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will do the prairie some real good with the Niobrara-Ponca plan. Folks who know more about Niobrara-Ponca than I might have enjoyed the chance to offer an even better explanation to the committee. But Senators Rhoden and Lederman used the surprise hoghouse to deny Niobrara-Ponca supporters that opportunity. Senator Lederman presented his grandstanding propaganda unchecked.
Note that committee chair Shantel Krebs broke committee protocol by allowing Senator Lederman, who is not a member of the committee, to take the floor and present on his substitute resolution long after she had closed HCR 1025 to further comment from non-committee members. Note that Joint Rule 7-1.5 requires a two-thirds majority of committee members to bring up any issue not posted on the committee agenda, and Niobrara-Ponca was not anywhere on that agenda.
Rep. Heinert called Senator Lederman's hoghouse "the biggest slap in the face I've ever had since I've been up here." Senator Rhoden tried to assure Rep. Heinert that he intended no disrespect. Everyone else on the committee voted to table the whole HCR 1025 mess and move on.
Meanwhile, our water is still at risk from intense ag-industrial development in East River and proposals to mine uranium and silica sand in West River. We can't get our Legislature to even say that, let alone do anything about it.