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Constitution aside, Republicans fund four projects in a single bill

PIERRE -- Republican legislators earmarked some leftover money for a handful of special purposes Wednesday, sparking protests from Democrats who disagreed with the process and wanted more spending on schools and healthcare.

The package provides money for four projects:

• The Lewis and Clark pipeline would get $1 million to help pay for an extension to Madison.;

• Another $500,000 would fund the continuing operations of the Ellsworth Air Force Base authority whose members work to preserve the future of the base east of Rapid City;

• A shale research program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City would get $464,000; and

• The aeronautics fund would get back $500,000 of the money that was transferred from it during the budget difficulties of five years ago.

The legislation didn't have an easy time getting through either chamber.

The House of Representatives needed two rounds of votes, and a Republican closed-door caucus meeting in between, Tuesday to get the package passed.

The first vote was 42-27, short of the two-thirds majority. Lawmakers from both parties questioned its legality because there are four spending items in one single special appropriation.

After the caucus meeting, seven of the 10 Republicans who had voted against it the first time switched to supporting it on the second try. The outcome was 49-20.

Senate Republicans nearly ran into the same problem Wednesday. The 24-9 vote met the bare minimum of two-thirds needed on an appropriations bill.

Senate Democratic leader Jason Frerichs of Wilmot read from the South Dakota Constitution's requirement that a bill address one subject other than the general appropriations bill.

He said the projects in the bill are good but he also referred to them as "pork barrel."

"Some of us may vote no because we don't believe this is the correct process," Frerichs said.

That point was reinforced through comments from other Democratic senators such as Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, Tom Jones of Viborg and Larry Lucas of Mission.

"We should have had four separate bills," Lucas said.

Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic said he can't ever seem to win when it comes to spreading money to special purposes near the end of the budget work each year.

"We are in one chamber of one of the houses and we can't control what they do in the House," Rave said.

The House had amended the projects into the bill on Tuesday. The bill originally was for an entirely different purpose.

One of the defenses presented in the House from Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, was the legislation amended the 2014 general budget bill that was approved by the Legislature a year ago.

The constitution allows the general bill to have multiple subjects for the ongoing purposes of state government. It requires only a simple majority.

No one brought up that point in either chamber, however, as Republicans struggled for the two-thirds majority normally required for a special appropriation.

Rave said the decision for the Senate was pretty clear-cut: Yes or no.

"What we're talking about here is compromise," Rave said.

A handful of Republicans in each chamber wound up voting against it on final passage, along with all of the Democrats in each chamber.

SB 53 now goes to the governor.