This morning, legislative leaders adopted new rules for next year that will limit the number of resolutions lawmakers can offer.
The restriction comes after a record number of resolutions were introduced in the House of Representatives, including 11 from Rep. Stace Nelson.
No one will be able to do that next year. Under the rules passed Tuesday by the Legislative Procedure Committee, lawmakers will be limited to introducing four concurrent (nonbinding) resolutions. And three of those have to be introduced before the start of the Legislature’s third week — the ninth day out of 35. This year lawmakers could introduce resolutions up to the 26th day. That will remain the deadline for lawmakers’ fourth and final concurrent resolution.
Now, rules like this wouldn’t necessarily have stopped Nelson from bringing all those resolutions. He’d have just had to get three allies to sponsor bills for him. That already happens with bills, where lawmakers are limited to just three bills in the days before the deadline. If one legislator has already hit his or her limit, they will commonly ask a friend to introduce a bill for them.
But next year’s lawmakers will also have more restrictions on the type of resolutions they can offer. In another rule change, resolutions will no longer be allowed to “memorialize” something or someone.
That would rule out some of Nelson’s resolutions this year, like one “commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812,” and the controversial one honoring former presidential candidate Ron Paul. Other non-Nelson resolutions would also no longer qualify, such as one “recognizing Hot Springs as ‘The Veterans Town’" and another honoring former President Calvin Coolidge.
But as Rep. David Lust noted, this restriction can be bypassed by clever legislators. Resolutions are still allowed if they’re instructing a department of state government or petitioning federal agencies, and a lawmaker could always phrase their resolution as a petition to Congress to honor the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
The leaders on the Legislative Procedure Committee, though, seemed to agree with Rep. Brian Gosch, who said the changes, “combined with some turnover in the Legislature,” probably address “the issue we had this year.”
Sen. Phyllis Heineman had another hope: if South Dakota passes fewer resolutions, she said, perhaps the ones that do pass will be seen with greater weight. As it is, Lust said Tuesday the Legislature could probably abolish concurrent resolutions altogether without any big effect, since they don’t have the force of law and are often ignored.