Holding places

One of the quirks of South Dakota’s legislative system, with a bill-filing deadline halfway through the legislative session, is that lawmakers sometimes file “placeholder” bills.

These are pieces of legislation that don’t actually do anything. They exist to be amended later on to a more substantive subject that doesn’t happen to arise until later.

Here’s a sample (non-exhaustive) of the placeholder bills filed this year. The text after the bill number is the entire text of the bill.

  • HB 1136: Medical services are hereby affected.
  • HB 1137: Education in South Dakota is hereby impacted.
  • HB 1138: There is hereby appropriated from the general fund the sum of one dollar ($1), or so much thereof as may be necessary, to the Department of Education for the purpose of increasing foundation program state aid.
  • HB 1181: The Legislature may take action to enhance animal and livestock sustainability.
  • HB 1206: The Legislature shall adopt laws to improve elections.
  • HB 1225: Contract law is hereby affected.
  • SB 162: The Legislature shall determine goals and objectives to improve economic development for all South Dakotans.
  • SB 178: The Legislature may take action to enhance animal and livestock sustainability.
  • SB 182: The Legislature shall pursue opportunities to enhance economic development for the state.
  • SB 192: The Legislature shall establish tax incentives for economic development.
  • SB 228: The Legislature may take action to enhance the Public Utilities Commission.
  • SB 235: The Legislature shall enhance economic development opportunities for the state.

Not counted in that list is HB 1205, “The state of South Dakota shall expand Medicaid in accordance with the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act to further economic development and to improve health care for low-income citizens.” That bill is there as a vehicle — expanding Medicaid requires appropriations, and might very well include language such as an Arizona-style “trigger” that kills the Medicaid expansion if promised federal support disappears — but that bill seems qualitatively different. It’s something of a statement of policy, an instruction to the appropriators to include the Medicaid funding.