Tom Katus on the Bad Billboard Bill

Posted: March 7, 2012 by firewalker2012 in General



By Tom Katus*

The BAD BILLBOARD BILL, SB 157 has passed and will go into law.  The vote:  42 to 26.  It took 10 BILLBOARD Lobbyists, being paid tens of thousands of dollars by the BIG BILLBOARD CORPORATIONS to get this vote!  We had 0 dollars and the people to represent.  You now know what runs your State Government!


A sad day for the citizens of South Dakota, and local control of its municipalities and counties…


–Lisa Modrick

Scenic Rapid City Committee, Inc.




— Sign at Occupy Rapid City Rally, March 3rd.


The people of Rapid City and West River are livid about the majority of East River’s Legislators’ arrogance to override a local initiative, for which scores of us circulated petitions to have a vote on billboard control. That vote of 6,000 + was more than 2/3rds majority of the people.  I am certain that citizens of Brookings, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Watertown, Mitchell, and Pierre would feel similarly affronted if an initiated measure in their city, securing more than 2/3rds of the vote were overturned by the Legislature.


The undue influence of moneyed interests in the federal government has lead to widespread cynicism of the people and a Congressional approval rating of 11%.  Now the East River majority in the SD Legislature is acting equally irresponsibly and thwarting the will of the people.


We have many divisions in this State, including age, gender, race and partisanism.  However, the greatest division remains the split between East and West River.  When I served in the Senate and when I ran for State Treasurer, my major theme was to work hard to overcome these East/West Divisions and bring ALL South Dakotans together.


Last month, I lead a delegation of Legislative Fellows selected from throughout the US by our State Department to visit Nepal. We spent a week meeting with political leaders and non governmental organizations (NGOs) assisting them with their constitutional review.  Nepal is transitioning from an authoritarian centralized government to a federal democratic system. I was asked to address their National Lawyers Association, on behalf of our group, on the US Constitutional review process culminating at Independence Hall in Philadelphia in July, 1789.  I stressed that perhaps the greatest strength of our federal system is extensive LOCAL CONTROL.  A fellow delegate who is a Councilman from Concord, New Hampshire reinforced this view.  The Nepalese were very impressed with LOCAL CONTROL, and are hopeful they can institute it in their country.


Thus, it is particularly disheartening to return to SD to find that a majority of our East River Legislators has overturned the people’s will.   Governor Daugaard has made some excellent strides in reaching out to ALL our people. His positive decisions on Valhalla and the Black Hills Playhouse are commendable. Vetoing this onerous legislation, would certainly reinforce his strength in the Republican Heartland of West River.  While such a stance may irritate the deep pocket sign companies, it will definitely make him more popular with 6,000+ Rapid City voters and the tourism industry. Tourism has much greater economic impact on the State than three wealthy sign companies and their 10 paid lobbyists!.


But regardless of the politics of any such decision, a veto would be the right thing for ALL the people of South Dakota.  I am hopeful that he will once again rise above politics and do the right thing. I urge Governor Daugaard to veto SB 157.  I am confident that we would have sufficient strength in the SD House of Representatives to sustain his veto.




Tom Katus served as a State Senator (2007-08), is a member of Scenic Rapid City and Occupy Rapid City.




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