My favorite legislative committee to serve on, is the House Commerce and Energy Committee. They meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and I am honored to serve as the Chairman. We cover a broad range of proposed legislation that involves in-state and interstate business transactions, telecommunications, food and drug safety, and the supply and delivery of energy. With many years of business ownership experience, I find the committee work fascinating.
It’s continually complicated and not surprisingly, emotional. People’s livelihoods are affected by these legislative offerings. With that, I understand it’s more than a dollar and cents thing.
On Monday, February 5th, our committee heard and deliberated on five separate bills related to the construction of a carbon transmission pipeline in central and eastern South Dakota. Just a short reminder of this topic, fourteen ethanol plants in South Dakota want to join a proposed project to move carbon dioxide (a by-product that occurs when ethanol is produced) through a pipeline to an underground storage facility in North Dakota. These ethanol plants would all be
connected to a main pipeline that would traverse private and public lands on the way to North Dakota. With over 500 landowners involved, not everyone is happy about the pipeline coming across their property. The five bills we heard on Monday (committee proceedings took five hours to hear them) tried to either find balance in protecting and respecting landowner rights while keeping the project viable, or redefine what kind of materials could be transported in pipelines, or kill the proposed project all together. The outcome of the meeting(s) resulted in three bills passing and two being defeated. With legislation needing to be passed by two committees, the two full chambers (House and Senate), and needing the Governor’s signature to become law, it’s way too early to predict the outcome. Besides, our committee will be hearing five more pipeline bills on Monday the 12th. By far, this is the most talked about topic of the session.
Speaking of emotions, at the House State Affairs Committee meeting on Wednesday, pro-life and pro-choice advocates engaged in a debate over a proposed ballot measure that would legalize abortion. Center stage was HCR (House Concurrent Resolution) 6008 that opposes an initiated measure to place the right to an abortion in the Constitution of South Dakota. A group named Dakotans for Health is currently seeking signatures for an initiated constitutional amendment petition to place this right to an abortion on the ballot at the general election on November 5, 2024. HCR 6008, of which I am a co-sponsor, makes it clear that the proposed abortion amendment removes protection for mothers, children, and healthcare providers and for many of us, it’s an extreme measure that is not in the best interest of South Dakotans. In my opinion, pro-abortion groups pushing the pro-abortion ballot measure want medical providers and the public to believe women can’t receive proper care. It’s true that elective abortions are not allowed in South Dakota, but a woman can be treated for a miscarriage or ectopic (abnormal) pregnancy at any time. A woman can be treated to save her life at any time even when it means the baby, sadly, does not survive. Another piece of related legislation that is coming up for a hearing soon is HB 1224. If passed, this legislation directs the Department of Health to create a video and other materials that describes the state’s current abortion law and medical care for a pregnant woman experiencing life-threatening or health-threatening medical conditions. When completed, the department would make the video and materials available on its website providing accurate and easily understood information.
In closing, it was an emotional week. It concluded with good work being done by good people trying to do their best. Citizen legislators trying to separate emotion from fact and making good decisions for South Dakota. Thank you for your interest in these updates and please don’t hesitate to contact me at Mike.Weisgram@sdlegislature.gov.