Legal bill leads to soul searching in Senate

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2020 11:45 am

Each year the Legislature approves a bill like HB1024 which appropriates money to pay for the previous year’s “extraordinary litigation expenses.” The approval of this year’s bill in the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 12 led to lawmakers being admonished for the bills they endorse that lead to losses in court.

Last year the litigation expenses were $800,000 including more than $170,000 to Dakota Rural Action when they sued the state over the “riot boosting” bill.

Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, said lawmakers need to consider “our actions and how much they cost the taxpayers.”

Lawmakers need to properly vet bills and make sure they are assigned to the proper committees, Russell said.

“Let this be a lesson to us,” Russell said. “From history, that’s the only way we learn.”

Sen. Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton, said the Legislature has been paying big legal bills each year for the past decade.

“Every year we’re backfilling six figures, seven figures in litigation expenses,” Kennedy said. “[That money could be spent on] things that would do a lot more good for the people of South Dakota.”

The bill was approved in the Senate on a 32-2 vote. Having already been approved by the House, it now goes to Gov. Kristi Noem for her signature.