Yesterday the House GOP leadership honked Governor Dennis Daugaard's nose and violated the state constitution. This can't end well.

The House passed Senate Bill 53 yesterday, but it wasn't really Senate Bill 53. The original SB 53 was a request from Governor Daugaard's Labor Department for $500,000 for the mostly failed New South Dakotan's program and the mall-tripping Dakota Roots program. Senate Appropriations amended that down to $1; the wiseguys in House Appropriations amended it up to $2. Such dollar-amendments happen as legislators say they're o.k. with a program but need to negotiate a final dollar figure in conference committee.

But then the full House got its hands on Senate Bill 53 and hoghoused it. Poof go New South Dakotans and Dakota Roots; in come four new appropriations, out of the blue:

  1. $1,000,000 to jump start the delayed Lewis and Clark Rural Water System;
  2. $500,000 to fund the Readiness and Environmental Protection and Integration (REPI) buffer program at Ellsworth Air Force Base under the Governor's Office of Economic Development.
  3. $464,000 to fund a shale research facility at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
  4. $500,000 to improve airports.

Whatever the merits of these four surprise projects, all unvetted by the committee process, Senate Bill 53 now violates the South Dakota Constitution. Article 12, Section 2 says the only bill that can fund more than one project at a time is the general appropriations bill. "All other appropriations shall be made by separate bills, each embracing but one object, and shall require a two-thirds vote of all the members of each branch of the Legislature." Senate Bill 53 embraces four objects, different places, different functions.

The unconstitutional hoghouse failed to win two-thirds approval on its first go-round. Then after a motion to reconsider, seven legislators (Reps. Campbell, Craig, Ecklund, Kopp, Qualm, Verchio, and Werner) all suddenly decided violating the Constitution to spread out more election-year earmarks was a good thing, and SB 53 passed 49 to 20.

I know you legislators are getting tired and cranky and stressed over having left so much work until the last minute. But your procrastination does not permit placing the hoghouse above the state constitution. You want to fund four emergency projects? You're going to have to hoghouse four separate bills, the way you've had to all session to build a highway patrol facility in Rapid City, work on the Hot Springs veterans home, and remodel the House Chambers. You have to do four different bills the same way you've required the Board of Regents to come to you with four different bills to fund four different projects on one campus (SDUS: See SB 15, SB 16, SB 17, and SB 20).

The constitution matters. The Legislature must follow it. If the conference committee can't embrace the constitution, let's hope the Governor will with his veto pen. Even if he vetoes Senate Bill 53 purely out of personal pique over the House's rejection of his pet economic development programs, that veto would defend the constitution from greedy, sloppy legislating.

p.s.: You guys would have more time to get these things done if your weren't spending conference committee time haggling over a resolution calling on Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Aren't 50 futile votes in Congress enough?