ACLU of South Dakota Opposes Bill Restricting Speech at Water Management Board Hearings

February 9, 2021 1:00 pm

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ACLU of South Dakota
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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.

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