Republicans calling for their leaders to call special session to address eminent domain

PIERRE, S.D.(Dakota Scout)- A group of Republicans in the South Dakota House of Representatives have filed preliminary paper work in hopes of forcing lawmakers back to Pierre to take up eminent domain reform.

Legislators Monday were informed via the Legislative Research Council that Reps. Jon Hansen, Karla Lems, Scott Moore, Scott Odenbach, Carl Perry and Brandei Schaefbauer submitted a petition to legislative leaders Monday to convene a special session for the purpose of considering legislative proposals on eminent domain, land property rights and carbon sequestration pipelines.

“At the end of the day, all members swore an oath to the same Constitution I did, and that Constitution calls for the government to protect the right of the people to acquire and protect their property,” Hansen told The Dakota Scout. “So I’m hopeful they will have seen the abuses of landowners’ and farms’ property rights across the state and do the right thing: Call a special session.”

A special session can be convened by the governor or presiding officers in both the House and Senate if they are supported by two-thirds of their members.

After signaling support for landowners demanding action last month, Gov. Kristi Noem said she would not call a special session herself to address the issue, citing continued division among lawmakers. And that’s why legislative leaders have also voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of returning to Pierre for a special session, which can be convened with support from two-thirds of lawmakers serving in the state House and Senate.

Sioux Falls Rep. Greg Jamison said he appreciates the desire for a special session, but unless a measure surfaces that could earn two-thirds support, he’s unlikely to sign onto the call.

“If there’s a new idea and it qualifies as an emergency, then I’d consider it,” he told The Dakota Scout Monday.

But even if anti-pipeline activists manage to get two-thirds of lawmakers on board, they still face a bulwark in the state Senate.

Senate leadership has told The Dakota Scout on a number of occasions that they do not support calls to have a special session on the matter.

“The taxpayers have no reason to bear the cost of a special session,” Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck said earlier this month. “We don’t do do-overs for bills that fail during a legislative session. It wouldn’t be fair to the Constitution, taxpayers, or our part-time legislators.”

And because the state Constitution provides that “presiding officers have joint, permissive authority to convene the Legislature,” according to LRC Director Reed Holwegner, reluctant leadership could still torpedo a special legislative session even if it had broad support.

Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 are both attempting to build carbon pipelines that would be used to capture carbon at ethanol plants in the region. The carbon would then be sequestered to stop its release into the atmosphere, which is blamed for climate change.

Under South Dakota law, the two companies have the power of eminent domain to survey land and construct their pipelines. Summit Carbon Solutions, which was the first to apply for a permit from the Public Utilities Commission, has been using that power to survey a potential route in the state.

The company says it has already reached agreement with 70 percent of landowners in South Dakota and paid out $75 million in easements. An average easement across 160 acres has been about $108,000.

Efforts during this year’s legislative session to reform the eminent domain laws failed.

The special session petition will remain active until two-thirds of lawmakers sign or until the start of the 2024 legislative session that convenes in January.