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SD lawmakers ready for EB-5 hearings

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news Mitchell, 57301

Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

PIERRE -- The state Senate gave final approval Monday to a plan for legislative hearings on the EB-5 immigrant investor program in South Dakota.

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Senators voted 33-1 to approve HCR 1010. The measure previously cleared the House of Representatives 51-18. The hearings before the Legislature's Government Operans & Audit Committee would begin upon the receipt of three independent audits that have been commissioned. 

The Governor's Office of Economic Development meanwhile disclosed Monday that its EB-5 report to the federal government is now on the state government's website.

It is the first public information voluntarily provided to the public by GOED regarding EB-5.

The report shows five sets of EB-5 loans that were assembled from foreign investors for South Dakota projects.

The projects were Dakota Provisions of Huron, Northern Beef Packers of Aberdeen, NextEra Energy's Day County 2 Wind Farm, Basin Electric's Deer Creek generation plan at Elkton and Deadwood Mountain Grand hotel and casino at Deadwood.

The report doesn't show the amounts raised or the numbers of EB-5 investors involved for each project, however.

Under EB-5, foreign investors who provide at least $500,000 apiece for job creation in the United States can become eligible for permanent U.S. visas to live anywhere in the nation.

The report doesn't show two projects that were rejected by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services after EB-5 loans were assembled for them.

USCIS oversees the EB-5 program at the federal level.

One of the rejected loan pools was a third round of financing for Dakota Provisions. The other was for Iberdrola Resources for its Buffalo Ridge II wind farm.

The resolution calls for the Legislature's joint committee on government operations and audit to conduct hearings.

The committee will look at the investigation reports and reviews conducted by the state attorney general, two private accounting firms and the state Department of Legislative Audit.

The committee also can order additional audits and has power to summon witnesses and issue subpoenas.

The work will start upon receipt of the Legislative Audit report.

The resolution requests the committee make a final report no later than Dec. 1, 2014, and to offer "any recommendations deemed necessary."

The Senate's decision came just hours after a House committee killed two pieces of Democratic legislation seeking additional EB-5 reporting to the Legislature.

The Government Operations and Audit Committee hearings made those bills unnecessary, according to Republicans on the committee.

Sen. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, said she was trying to add another layer of openness by requiring GOED to report annually to GOAC about EB-5.

Rep. Kathy Tyler, D-Big Stone City, wanted a special investigative committee that would focus on economic development programs including EB-5.

The House State Affairs Committee hearing on her bill Monday provided a forum for lawyer Steven Sandven of Sioux Falls to present a broad look at EB-5 and the failed Northern Beef project.

Sandven said records have disappeared from Northern State University.

The South Dakota International Business Institute operated at NSU until its director, Joop Bollen of Aberdeen, formed SDRC Inc. in 2008 to serve as administrator and manager for the EB-5 program for state government.

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