No extra security for animal research

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

A bill that would have given animal researchers extra security against the terrorist acts of animal-rights extremists has been killed.

Members of the House State Affairs Committee voted 11-2 on Jan. 21 to defer HB 1078 to the 41st legislative day, effectively rejecting the measure. If passed, the bill would have concealed the identities of animal researchers and made it illegal for activists to enter property to ruin research projects.

Jim Shekleton, the Board of Regents’ lawyer, said the board proposed this measure to the Legislature because of violence against researchers across the country. So far, South Dakota has not experienced the terrorist acts of animal-rights extremists, but “the seriousness of the threat is there,” said Shekleton.

Dave Bordewyk, who was lobbying against the bill with the South Dakota Newspaper Association, said HB 1078 went too far. It included broad provisions for closing government records about research, and it would have criminalized releasing some types of information.

“Incidents of terrorism are a real issue, but this bill was an overreaction in terms of trying to deal with it,” he said.

Even though the bill was rejected this Legislative session, both Shekleton and Bordewyk think the measure will be back in the future.

“I was happy to see it killed,” said Bordewyk, “but I will not be surprised to see another.”

Shekleton said he was unsure if the Regents would bring the bill back next year, but in the past, the Regents have made it a priority “to advocate the interests of employees and students.”