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PIERRE | Legislation officially in the hopper before the 2018 session continued to climb during the weekend.

House committee faced 71 bills as of Sunday evening. Senate panels had 65. The session starts this afternoon, with a State of the State address from Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Rift deepens 

Tribal politics wedged into the 2018 legislative session days before it even opens. It’s another spat among lawmakers on the State-Tribal Relations Committee.

A tribal council member from Pine Ridge asked Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, whether the group intended to meet Thursday. She is vice-chairwoman.

On Thursday afternoon, the chairman for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe will speak to a joint assembly of lawmakers in the State of the Tribes address. May passed the inquiry along to Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, who chairs the state-tribal panel and is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

At least some of the lawmakers think the idea is good.

Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, called for an email poll of the 10 members. Sen. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, supported the idea. Full results weren’t back as of Sunday night.

The panel intended to meet Jan. 4 in Mission but was rescheduled for Jan. 26, according to a news release from the Legislative Research Council.

AG issues opinion

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Attorney General Marty Jackley publicly released a little-noticed official opinion Dec. 20 on whether the State-Tribal Relations Committee could issue subpoenas or otherwise compel witnesses to testify. Jackley said it depended whether the Legislature gave the power to the committee.

In this instance, the Legislature didn’t, according to Jackley.

“Had the Legislature intended to give the State-Tribal Relations Committee similar authority to summon witnesses or secure documentation through compulsory process, it could have,” the opinion said. “The Legislature did not, but it certainly can, if it is so inclined.”

Committee members split 5-5 on Heinert’s ruling at the Oct. 23 meeting whether the committee had the power.

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