PIERRE, S.D. (March 28, 2016) – South Dakota State House and Senate leadership maintained the unconstitutional status quo. It killed five bills that would have blocked the federal enforcement of unconstitutional policies, squandering several golden opportunities for common sense reform in the Mount Rushmore State.

The rundown of key legislation that failed in South Dakota this year is as follows:


Senate Bill 167 (SB167) was introduced by Sen. Angie O’Donnell (D-Sioux Falls) and two bipartisan co-sponsors while Senate Bill 171 (SB171) was introduced by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. These bills would have allowed medical marijuana to make its way into the hands of the sick. SB167 simply declared that “the compassionate use of medical cannabis is permitted and the use shall be regulated” while SB171 would have set up a detailed regulatory framework to facilitate the distribution and possession of medical marijuana for qualifying patients.

SB167 was withdrawn at the behest of the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. O’Donnell. Meanwhile, SB171 experienced some initial success. The legislation passed the Senate Health and Human Service Committee before going to receive a vote in the full Senate, where the legislation passed by a 20-15 margin. It then passed the House Health and Human Service Committee before failing on the House floor. The House ultimately rejected SB171 by a 25-43 vote.


Rep. Mike Verchio (R-Hill City) along with a bipartisan coalition of 39 cosponsors introduced House Bill 1054 (HB1054) on Jan. 15 to legalize the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp for commercial purposes in South Dakota. The bill would have created a licensing process for prospective hemp growers, specifically asserting that the license shall not be subject to federal approval. The bill passed the House on Feb. 4 by a 57-11 vote. In spite of the success in the House, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee had different plans for HB1054. Led by Chairman Gary Cammack (R-Union Center), the committee voted against sending the legislation to the full House for a vote and then deferred the vote to the 41st Legislative Day, leading to its demise.


Rep. Jim Bolin (R-Canton) introduced House Bill 1096 (HB1096) with 12 co-sponsors on Jan. 25 to explicitly permit parents to remove their children from the Common Core testing regime. The original version of the bill would have also banned any “punitive action against a student, including preventing the student from participating in any extracurricular activity, due to the student’s exemption from the testing requirements.”

However, the legislation was not able to make it through its committee assignment intact. Although HB1096 eventually passed and was signed into law, the bill was re-tooled and ended up baring no similarity to its original intent. It was in the House Education Committee under the leadership of Chairwoman Jacqueline Sly (R-Rapid City) that the bill was tabled and then changed beyond recognition. The finalized version of HB1096 did absolutely nothing to stop Common Core in South Dakota.


Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-Sioux Falls) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 1009 (HCR1009) on Feb. 4 with 28 co-sponsors. The resolution would have declared “that all federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations, present or future, attempting to commandeer local or state law enforcement officers to enforce federal restrictions on firearms violates the Constitution of the United States and are invalid in this state, not recognized in this state, considered null and void in this state, and hold no effect in this state.”

In spite of being a non-binding resolution that would have no statutory effect in the state, HCR1009 still could not make much traction in the South Dakota legislature. The bill experienced some initial success. It passed the House on Feb. 2 with a 62-4 vote. However, it never received a vote in the full Senate. The resolution was delayed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Under the stewardship of Chairman Craig Tieszen (R-Rapid City), HCR1009 was killed as the legislature could not even issue a mere statement in favor of gun rights in 2016.


Although the state of South Dakota let many chances to push back against federal overreach slip away this year, hope is not lost. The legislators who refused to uphold their oath to the Constitution and killed these bills are now more vulnerable than ever. Remember to alert your community about who is jeopardizing your rights, South Dakotans. From that point, the legislature can be remade with individuals with the backbone to protect your freedoms through nullification.

The process can be a long, hard and ugly one, but it can pay off. Many of the states that are currently passing several nullification bills each year were in South Dakota’s situation not too long ago. However, activists in those states steadfastly refused to give up and successfully pushed their legislators to do the right thing. That is the future that South Dakota can achieve, but it is going to take some grit and determination to get there. The animating contest of freedom beckons you. Are you up to the challenge?

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