Newcoming Representative Betty Olson to go after open fields doctrine
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State Rep.-elect Betty Olson of Prairie City, a rancher who campaigned on protecting landowner rights, plans to introduce a bill during the 2007 state Legislature to restrict the power of conservation officers to enter private land.
“It was one of the main reasons I got elected, so I guess that’s what they want me to do,” Olson said by telephone Sunday night.
Legislation in past sessions to restrict the use of the so-called “open-fields doctrine” by state Game, Fish & Parks Department officers has been a contentious issue. In 2005, the South Dakota Senate passed a bill that would have required officers to get landowner permission before entering private property — unless they needed to respond to emergencies, kill crippled animals, had reasonable suspicion of lawbreaking or had to investigate such reports.
The legislation, SB122, passed the 2005 state Senate 19-15 but failed in the House 27-43. In 2004, an identical version of the bill passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Olson said she would fashion her bill after SB122.
“I talked to some of the legislators, and they said to just leave it the way it is,” Olson said. “There’s nothing there that would restrict legitimate law enforcement. And it protects our property rights. There’s nothing in there that would hurt a hunter, either.”
Still, Rhoden has doubts about Olson’s bill changing things.
“I don’t know that there’s much sense in revisiting that,” he said. “It was pretty clear last time that we didn’t have the political muscle to get it done.”
Olson said, however, that she’s ready to try.
“I suppose it will stir things up,” she said.