- Associated Press - Thursday, February 23, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The Latest on the South Dakota Legislature (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

A plan to create a government watchdog board that would be able to investigate statewide officeholders and executive branch employees is headed to the Senate.

The state House voted 64-3 Thursday to approve the bill. The State Government Accountability Board would review and investigate allegations including bribery and theft of public funds.

Democratic Rep. Karen Soli, the main sponsor, says the bill would provide a much-needed doorway to help with the prompt identification of bad actors and actions.

Under the bill, if the board believes a crime has been committed, the matter would be referred to the Division of Criminal Investigation. In other cases, the panel would have options including issuing reprimands or making recommendations to the governor.

Lawmakers recently repealed a voter-imposed government ethics overhaul that included an ethics commission.


7:45 p.m.

The state Senate has approved Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s public safety bill preparing for potential oil pipeline protests in South Dakota.

The Argus Leader reports that the chamber voted Thursday to send the bill to the House. It would clarify that the governor’s emergency response authority applies to potentially destructive protests, create new trespassing penalties and make it a crime to obstruct highways.

The newspaper reports that the measure initially failed when it didn’t receive the two-thirds majority required to pass it with an emergency clause. After stripping the provision, the Senate approved the bill with a 21-14 vote.

Supporters say it’s necessary to deter violent protests such as those over the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. Opponents argue that the bill could target Native Americans.

If passed, the law would expire in 2020.


7:17 p.m.

South Dakota lawmakers would like to see protections for those who call in a drug overdose under a bill that has passed through the state House.

The chamber voted 51-16 Thursday to approve an immunity proposal blocking arrests and charges for those who report a drug overdose. The bill has been amended and would no longer protect people who are on parole or probation.

Supporters say young lives would be saved because they are often the most afraid to call in overdoses.

Lawmakers who are opposed to the bill worry that drug addicts would use it to break the law and add to meth and opioid issues in South Dakota.


5:35 p.m.

The South Dakota House has approved a bill that would allow people who can legally carry a concealed handgun in South Dakota to do so without a permit.

The chamber voted 37-30 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate. It’s currently a misdemeanor for someone to carry a concealed pistol or to have one concealed in a vehicle without a permit.

Republican Rep. Lynne DiSanto, the main sponsor, says her bill is about freedom. She says requiring a permit only penalizes legal and rightful gun owners.

GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard has said that he would veto the legislation if it’s approved by lawmakers. The state Senate is considering a similar bill.


4:15 p.m.

State House lawmakers want to know the top donors of some nonprofit advocacy groups that contribute to South Dakota ballot measure campaigns.

The chamber voted 42-25 Thursday to send the bill to the Senate. House Speaker Mark Mickelson, the bill’s sponsor, says it would give the recipients of a message an idea of who is bringing it.

It would require the disclosure of the 50 largest contributors to nonprofit groups including labor organizations, business leagues and social welfare organizations that give $25,000 or more in a year to a South Dakota ballot measure committee.

It would also impose the requirement on advocacy groups that spend over $25,000 on independent expenditures within a year.

Foes argue that South Dakota residents have the right to support causes they believe in without fear of harassment.


2:55 p.m.

House lawmakers have endorsed allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp in South Dakota.

The chamber voted 51-16 Thursday to send the measure to the Senate. Supporter Rep. Elizabeth May, a Republican, says lawmakers need to give South Dakota’s agriculture community the opportunity to grow industrial hemp.

The bill would allow people to apply to the state Department of Agriculture for a license to grow industrial hemp if they pass background checks. The 2014 Farm Bill allowed states to develop hemp pilot projects.

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard opposes it. A similar proposal failed last legislative session after it passed through the House.


9:45 a.m.

South Dakota lawmakers are rushing to act on bills ranging from ditching the permit requirement for concealed pistols to allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Thursday is the final day of the 2017 legislative session to pass bills out of their chamber of origin. The House and Senate may have to work late to get through bills remaining to be decided.

The Senate will take up bills including Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s public safety measure preparing for potential oil pipeline protests, while the House is set to weigh plans such as creating a government watchdog board to investigate statewide officeholders and executive branch employees.

The main part of the legislative session ends March 10.

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