Democrats, on your to-do list for winning a majority in Pierre, add "Lure Steve Hickey to the dark side.
The Right Reverend Republican Representative from District 9 is aiming to get treated like the aliens in District 9, fenced off by himself, for bucking his party leaders with simple legislation like House Bill 1210:
No legislative committee, or quorum thereof, may meet privately, including group texts and emails, to discuss, debate, or decide an item or bill on the committee's upcoming agenda.
South Dakota law applies a rule like Rep. Hickey's HB 1210 to pretty much every governing board in the state: deliberations and decisions affecting the public need to happen in public. Citizens have a right to know the reasoning that leads to the passage or rejection of a statute, ordinance, or school board textbook purchase.
Rep. Hickey charges that his Legislative colleagues flaunt that principle by deciding bills in private caucus before public committee hearings. He contends that his House Bill 1086, the Long Economic Winter study proposal, fell victim to such predetermined machinations last week. Last Wednesday, House State Affairs gave Rep. Hickey twelve minutes to speak his piece, in which he challenged my characterization of his bill as prepperism for legislators by noting he was motivated to bring this bill by an official at Avera McKennan who said the hospital has a contingency plan for dealing with exactly the sort of massive federal budget cuts HB 1086 proposed to study. The committee heard Mark Chase of the South Dakota Family Policy Council say the economic recovery is a "central-bank-driven bubble" leading us to collapse this year, then heard Jim Terwilliger of Bureau of Finance and Management explain that this bill circumvents the normal process for establishing summer studies and rebut Chase's assertion of apocalypse by noting that South Dakota has the least volatile state revenues in the country. Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) brilliantly noted (at 48:00 into the hearing) that Chase's claim that disaster is coming this year moots the point of doing a study that wouldn't wrap up in time to address that disaster. Chase responded "Not necessarily..." which is usually the signal that someone just got caught with his rhetorical pants down. Chase said he's not an economist and just looks at a lot of charts.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, House State Affairs killed the bill 12–1.
Whether HB 1086 is the best example of the problem Rep. Hickey wants to tackle, HB 1210 seems perfectly reasonable, requiring Legislative committee members to adhere to the same rules as other public bodies. Rep. Hickey's supermajority Republican colleagues will kill it, of course, and chide Rep. Hickey for suggesting that they conduct business in secret. The Republican leadership may even give Rep. Hickey a little Stace Nelson treatment, maybe making him wear a donkey tail during caucus meetings.
Democrats, Steve Hickey may be feeling a little lonely this week. Buy him a drink, lend him a shoulder... and maybe see what common ground you can find with the good reverend to challenge the Republican monolith.