COUNTERPOINT | ‘Landowner Bill of Rights’ is really a ‘bill of sale’

by | Apr 22, 2024 | News & Info

Rep. Will Mortenson has mastered the common practice of giving nice-sounding titles to particularly bad pieces of legislation.  In his editorial entitled “Carbon Pipelines and Landowner Rights in South Dakota”, he used the misleading title “Landowner Bill of Rights” no less than eleven times.  That title given to SB201 is an insult to your intelligence.  South Dakotans know that our rights come from God and are protected by our Constitution.  Rights are not derived from revocable statutes.

Mortenson is “confused” by the statewide grassroots effort (in his words) “to repeal the Landowner Bill of Rights”.  Apparently, he doesn’t know the difference between an initiated measure to repeal a law already in code, and a referendum to prevent a bill from becoming law.  A referendum is the people taking action to place a bill passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor on the general election ballot for the final say.

As to the reasons why “political activists” across the state would want to refer the seven-page SB201 to the ballot, consider what it actually does:

  • SB201 strips local control from counties, townships, and municipalities and grants that authority to the three Public Utilities Commissioners in Pierre.  It concentrates authority at the State level, by superseding and preempting any and all local government rules, regulations, and ordinances. (Section 5) (Section 6) (Section 7, subsection 3)
  • SB201allows private companies to take land from South Dakota landowners/taxpayers for private/corporate profit.
  • SB201 sets further precedent for granting eminent domain “Taking” authority by private entities that could make every private property vulnerable to a larger interest.
  • SB201 diminishes public safety oversight, including the discretion and interpretation of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.
  • SB201 pre-negotiates terms.  The state has decided what is reasonable compensation for the loss of private land.  (Section 2)
  • SB201 Incentivizes pipeline companies to select the shortest route, based upon cost per linear foot rather than safety, environmental protection, and/or landowner cooperation.  (Section 2)
  • SB201 puts provisions of the Green New Deal that benefit private industry with carbon credits into South Dakota Law.

Finally, the vaunted “Landowner Bill of Rights” or Section 15 that was cobbled into the bill in the final hours, is merely a reiteration of what companies and pipeline operators are required to do by previous sections of the bill and makes references to other pending legislation “if enacted by the Ninety-Ninth Legislature”.  Does that sound like a “Bill of Rights” to you?

The “political activists” circulating referendum petitions are volunteers from every walk of life in South Dakota.  They are Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and others who realize that they have lost their rights and local control with the passage of this bad bill, and the only option left is to put it on the November ballot.  Go to the website to learn more – and sign the petition!

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