PIERRE – House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff was a real-life Don Quixote tilting at windmills Monday.
He tried to stop the wind energy industry from being allowed to finance a study by the Legislature of financial incentives for wind projects.
But the Yankton lawmaker’s amendment was shouted down in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on a voice vote.
Then House members went on to give final legislative approval 57-13 to the measure establishing the task force, whose members will look at how South Dakota can better compete with other states for wind development.
The Senate previously approved it 30-4. The bill now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his decision.
Hunhoff, a nine-year veteran of the Legislature, said while he supports the concept of the task force, he couldn’t recall any other time when the Legislature let a special interest pay for a study.
“Terrible precedent. If I’m wrong, tell me,” he said. “You shouldn’t be able to buy access to state government at any price. This is the best access you can get.”
No one disagreed with Hunhoff ’s history. Instead, House Speaker Val Rausch said the Legislature’s Executive Board could decide whether to fund the study from the Legislative Research Council’s budget, let the industry pay for it or use some combination.
Rausch, R-Big Stone City, defended the concept of industry funding. He is the lead sponsor of the bill, SB 194, in the House. The prime sponsor is Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre.
Gray, as Senate president pro tem, and Rausch, as speaker, would have six of the nine appointments to the task force. The governor would have the three others.
Rausch said allowing the practice would send “a strong message” to the wind industry that the Legislature is interested in wind development in South Dakota.
“I think this is so important that regardless of the funding sources this should be studied,” Rausch said. He added that the industry is “more than willing” to pay.
“It is a difficult time for our state as far as revenue,” Rausch said.
Rep. Larry Lucas, DMission, quizzed Rausch about whether the funders could be identified publicly at this time or the information was proprietary.
“It’s not proprietary, but there’s no list at this point,” Rausch said. “The list can be as even and as long as we want it to be.”
Rep. Steve Street, DRevillo, spoke strongly in favor of the task force.
“Transmission is one of the biggest problems large and small projects have,” Street said. “So it’s important not only for large projects but small projects as well.”
The bill’s co-sponsors all are Republicans: Sens. Corey Brown of Gettysburg and Tim Rave of Baltic; and Reps. Brian Gosch of Rapid City and Roger Solum of Watertown.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding