The people’s business, done behind closed doors

Perhaps the most important piece of legislation to come before the South Dakota Legislature received a hearing Monday.

It was the first, and likely last, public discussion of SB 235, a plan empowering the South Dakota Board of Economic Development to issue refunds, er, reinvestment dollars, to large companies for the sales and use taxes they paid for a project.

“The reinvestment payments would be available for new business projects costing at least $20 million and for existing businesses replacing equipment of at least $2 million,” reports Pierre newshawk Bob Mercer, who had a very pointed blog post on this same topic.

The plan was almost completely assembled in closed-door meetings. Legislators, sensitive to the media and public paying too close attention to such a proposal, rolled it out in a press conference Thursday. Both Republican and and Democratic leaders attended the presser, and all endorsed it heartily.

Monday in Pierre, the plan was given a hearing. No one spoke against it, and now it rolls ahead.

This may be a wonderful thing for South Dakota. It may spur investment and create jobs and boost the state’s economy.

It does nothing, however, to dismiss the theory that South Dakota politics and government are decided in private meetings, where the public and the press are not welcome.