Senate revives Noem’s bill to limit conservation officers

March 4, 2021


PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday revived a piece of legislation pushed by Gov. Kristi Noem that would keep conservation officers from entering private property without permission.

Senators who favored the bill used a rarely-used legislative maneuver, whereby one-third of senators revive the bill in a process called a “smoke out.”

The bill was unanimously defeated by a committee on Tuesday. But the Republican governor has pressed senators to pass her proposal, saying it would protect property rights. Conservation officers could still enter private lands under reasonable suspicion of crime occurring.

The Senate Judiciary Committee had unanimously dismissed the bill, reasoning that a clause in it would bar courts from using evidence that conservation officers had gathered while they were in violation of the proposed law.

The debate in the Senate pitted two top Republican lawmakers — the Senate pro tem and the Republican majority leader — against each other. Gary Cammack, the Senate Republican leader, initiated the move to revive it, while Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, the Senate pro tem, had disparaged the bill in Tuesday’s committee.

While 17 senators supported the smoke out, proponents of the bill in the 35-member chamber will need a majority to place it on the debate calendar.