The vote was 65-4 in favor of what Rep. Steve Street, D-Revillo, described as a way to get South Dakota started on a new system for handling drainage matters, preferably through local decisions.
“I would emphasize local,” Street said. “So we can keep this in the hands of local folks as much as possible.”
The initial 14-member panel of lawmakers and citizens will be in effect through Jan. 12, 2013. The Legislature’s leaders will select the members.
The legislation calls for the task force to continue through Jan. 20, 2015.
The legislation in its original form called for establishing a James River watershed district to deal with flooding issues in the James Valley and to coordinate responses.
That was changed to the task force approach with the support of its prime sponsor, Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron.
The measure, Senate Bill 169, goes to the governor for his decision whether to sign it into law.
Beside Street, three other Democratic representatives from northeastern South Dakota — Dennis Feickert of Aberdeen, David Sigdestad of Pierpont and Paul Dennert of Columbia — spoke in favor of the legislation’s passage Monday.
They spoke of the need to avert lawsuits and personal feuds at a time when county governments are stepping away from acting as drainage boards because of fear of liability.
“In my district, it is one of the biggest issues there is,” Sigdestad said.
No one spoke against the bill at its House hearing, according to Rep. Kim Vanneman, R-Ideal, chairman of the House agriculture and natural resources committee.
“They really do have some big issues up there,” Vanneman said. “It does take a comprehensive study to make sure it’s done right.”
Task force specifics
The task force would follow the general pattern used by the Legislature’s oversight panel on agricultural property valuations. The drainage group would deliver a report to the Legislature and governor, including proposing legislation.
The drainage task force will be bipartisan and equally balanced between House and Senate appointees.
The Senate president pro tem will select two Democrats and two Republicans from the Senate and three citizen members. The speaker of the House of Representatives will choose two Democrats and two Republicans from the House, as well as three citizens.
The legislation sets specific requirements that at least two citizen appointees come from a background in natural resources law, science or management, and at least two others come from a business or agricultural background.
The Senate president pro tem is Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre. He is term-limited, so a different senator will be in that role in 2013 and would make the next round of appointments to the task force.
Likewise, House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, is term-limited and will be running for the Senate. So a different speaker would make the appointments in 2013. Traditionally the speaker pro tem moves up in the next term to speaker. The speaker pro tem is Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City.