COLUMNISTS

Hog housing

ff_admin
Farm Forum

During the 1921 Legislative Session in Pierre, lawmakers turned piggish and voted themselves some money.

They did it in a somewhat sneaky but legal and creative way. It’s no surprise that even then, we South Dakotans managed to send a few sluberdegullions to Pierre to do the state’s business.

In 1921 they took an uncomplicated bill that merely provided a tiny bit of money for a pig shed at the State College in Brookings and gutted it. Then legislators backfilled the bill with wording to grant all of them some travel dollars.

In doing so, the 1921 session invented a legislative term that has withstood the test of time.

That long-ago South Dakota Legislature wanting in the worst way to get $200 to cover more of their travel expenses originated the term “hog housing.” Incidentally, two hundred bucks in those days wasn’t exactly chopped liver.

Legislators back then may have picked the State College hog house bill because it was, after all, just an obscure hog barn with few involved constituencies having interest in it passing or failing. When compared to the financial needs of legislators, it came in a distant second.

Loss of a smelly old hog house probably wasn’t going to bring state government to its knees. Legislators probably believed that college hogs could scrunch up close to a straw stack and easily survive the winter.

As it turned out, the selection of that hog house bill in 1921 provided a catching, colorful and head-scratching name for this unique legislative procedure.

It could have been worse, you know.

What if legislators had selected a bill that sought to help pest houses, ducks, something to regulate saloons or soda fountains or, heaven forbid, houses of ill repute?

Think of the name we would be using today for this legislative procedure if they’d picked the wrong bill.

Perhaps in 1921 legislators may have passed a bill intended to help ranchers who raised buffalo. We might have had a legislative procedure we’d be calling a Buffalo Bill today.

As it turned out, hog housing was probably the best pick of the litter.

Sending a bill into the hog house hopper doesn’t take place often, but it does happen.

A few months after the 1921 hog housed bill passed, the state auditor refused to approve requests from legislators for their new-found travel money, stating that the manner in which the travel funds were authoized was unconstitutional.

Courts ruled otherwise. Legislators got their $200, and the hog house term is now in place, stuck like pig manure to a boot.

There are many hog house examples through the years. In later years, an unrelated bill was hog housed to become an income tax bill, but it didn’t get anywhere.

It’s a term included among the state’s official on-line list of where in the system a particular bill might be, such as signed by the governor, vetoed by the governor, on the governor’s desk or on a conference committee schedule, for example.

Perhaps you’ll be reading during the current session of a bill stripped of its original provisions and amended to accomplish a different purpose.

In fact, there is now a bill before the 2014 Legislature seeking approval for a “swine unit” at South Dakota State University.

If you’d like to make a comment, e-mail the author at cfcecil@swiftel.net.