The South Dakota House wants a county board to have a true majority decide whether a project such as a feedlot or wind farm gets a permit, rather than a majority of those present and voting.
House members agreed 41-26 to make that change Monday in SB 157 and then approved the revised version 45-22. The bill now goes back to the Senate for further action.
Governor Kristi Noem proposed the bill.
Representative Marli Wiese, a Madison Republican, offered the true-majority amendment. She said it wouldn’t matter whether they were elected or appointed.
Representative Kent Peterson, a Salem Republican, said Wiese’s change was unfriendly. “You can kill it by not being there, simply put, and that’s not fair,” he said.
Peterson added that county governments already have the same option as the South Dakota Supreme Court for appointing replacements.
Representative Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, disagreed. “Potentially, out of five people, you could have one person passing these,” Haugaard said. He described how two members could stay away, and two of the three who went to the meeting then abstained on the vote. “That’s not democracy in action at the local level.”
Reprsentative James Wangsness, a Miller Republican, argued for the bill’s passage and against Wiese’s amendment. The governor appointed him to a vacant seat last year.
The former Hand County Commission chairman said he would delay votes on permits so all the commissioners could be there to make the decision.
“This is a tough bill. It’s emotional,” Wangsness said. “It’s contentious. It’s personal. It’s neighbors against neighbors.”
He asked the House to help producers and “take the boot off their neck.”
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