Today, in a 4-3 vote, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee voted to advance House Bill 1028, legislation that undermines a key principle of American democracy: a person’s right to speak to their government about issues of public interest.
The ACLU of South Dakota opposes House Bill 1028. While proponents say House Bill 1028 streamlines the permitting process by the Water Management Board, the bill actually stifles public participation by only allowing those who are “uniquely injured” by the water use to testify during hearings.
“The First Amendment was not designed to allow the state to pick and choose which citizen’s opinions matter,” said Jett Jonelis, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager. “Water usage is a matter of public concern. But House Bill 1028 seeks to severely restrict those who wish to speak at Water Management Board hearings. By trying to silence those who can testify because some people find their views inconvenient, the state is engaging in an egregious form of content discrimination.”
Courts throughout the country have consistently held that First Amendment rights apply to public hearings like the Water Management Board hearings and have made it clear that government entities cannot restrict speech based on the viewpoint of the speaker.
The ACLU of South Dakota provided written testimony in opposition to House Bill 1028.
About the ACLU of South Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of South Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes North Dakota and Wyoming. The team in South Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of South Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of South Dakota.