PIERRE, S.D. — Lawmakers in the South Dakota Senate on Monday pushed a proposal to legalize industrial hemp to the negotiating table rather than send it straight to Governor Kristi Noem’s desk.
As the Legislature nears its final days, it is not clear if lawmakers will meet demands from Noem to allot $3.5 million for the program. Republican senators initiated a legislative maneuver to rewrite the 26-page bill with a single placeholder sentence. The move sends the bill into negotiations with House lawmakers.
Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer, a Dell Rapids Republican, said the rewrite process will give them more time to “promote ongoing discussions."
Langer and other senators in favor of hemp said they expect the bill to come back the way it was written, just with the governor's figures for funding.
Noem and lawmakers appeared to take one more step toward resolving their year-long dispute hours before the Senate meeting, as the governor announced a proposal to allot $3.5 million in the state budget for hemp.
The Republican governor has argued the hemp program will change the way South Dakota enforces its marijuana laws and wants $3.5 million in the budget for 15 new staff positions, testing equipment, drug storage, and beefed-up law enforcement.
“It had to be done in a responsible manner,” Noem told reporters on Monday.
Lawmakers in the House have argued that those cost estimates are excessive and that the program could be implemented under the Department of Agriculture at a much lower cost.
When asked last week by The Associated Press if she would veto the bill if it did not meet her funding requirements, Noem said she expects legislators to fully fund the program.