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As some readers have noted my blog posts have slowed down dramatically since the SD Legislative session ended (for reference, I’ve had over 350 blog posts so far this year). That slowdown will end this Friday, April 10. I had to take some time off from blogging after the legislative session to get other projects caught up. By Friday this blog will be setup on a new web hosting service and I will be back doing consistent blog updates.
Below is my priority for blogging in 2015 now that the SD legislative session is done:
- Get information out to voters/constituents about the SD legislature. With the SD legislative session done that won’t change my commitment to reporting about committee meetings. As the year continues I will do blog posts about the SD legislative interim committee meetings.
- Report on political events. I will continue to attend a variety of political events and provide reports of what was said or done. I will continue to cover as many events as financially feasible. I have plans for going to a variety of events. Some are non-partisan and some are definitely geared towards Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Constitution Party members, or Independents.
- Follow up on legislation from the 2015 session. Water bills, ballot access bills, tax increase bills, etc… This summer I will plan on following up on what I feel were some of the more important bills to pass (or not pass) from the 2015 SD legislative session.
- Editorialize my viewpoints. I try very hard on my blog to be fair and treat everyone and all viewpoints with respect. But I am not unbiased. I will continue to add my opinions coming from a libertarian-leaning viewpoint. I will however work hard to ensure that I differentiate what I am reporting from my opinions. To me it is not only possible, but highly desirable.
- Federal posts. I haven’t done as many posts looking at federal issues as I used to. As the 2016 election gets closer that will likely change.
- Other posts. Occasionally I like to do posts that don’t necessarily fit into any of the above categories. That will likely continue.
I believe 2015 should be an interesting year to blog about! After all there are already signs of politicians positioning for the 2016 and 2018 elections.
On Monday, March 30, the SD legislature held the final day of the 2015 session. The whole purpose of this final day was to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. I’ve blogged about the three bills vetoed before (and a cliff note version here). SB 136 was the only bill of the three to have the veto overturned. SB 100 and SB 159 both had the veto sustained.
Here are the three bills that were considered for a veto override and how they ended up:
Sen Deb Peters (R, Dist 9) and Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10) are the prime sponsors. Sen Peters pushed hard on the Senate floor to override the governor’s veto of SB 100. She framed it as a way to look at whether government is getting in the way of affordable housing. She also noted that SB 100 doesn’t actually change the tax rate for leased residential property in its current form. That would have to be a discussion for a future legislature once enough data was collected from this new classification. Most of the opposition to this bill seemed to stem from a belief that property tax savings would not be passed on to tenants, thus it wouldn’t do anything for affordable housing anyhow.
The Senate failed to override the governor’s veto. 24 yes votes were needed and the final roll call vote ended up 22-10. Personally I was happy to see this one fail. Yes this was being touted as a way to possibly decrease taxes on leased residential property. But other states have taken such moves and actually implemented systems that do the opposite. Plus, in order for this bill to work it would have required all of the landlords across the state to change the classification of their property just so the state could collect data. I find it quite unlikely that would happen.
Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23) and Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3) are the prime sponsors. SB 136 is an odd bill to talk about. It has to do with how taxes are applied to certain electric cooperatives and certain municipalities. Sen Brown didn’t really spend too much time talking about the bill. It had passed overwhelmingly the first time through the Senate, and there was nobody speaking on the governors behalf to sustain the veto. The Senate voted 31-1 to overturn the governor’s veto.
On the House side it was up to Rep Novstrup to push for the veto override. He pushed the fact that the Revenue Department was imposing a tax on a tax. There weren’t any Representatives that stood to speak on behalf of sustaining the governor’s veto. The veto override passed through the House by a vote of 63-1. That made SB 136 the only successful veto override of the 2015 legislative session.
Sen Brock Greenfield (R, Dist 2) and Rep Tona Rozum (R, Dist 20) are the prime sponsors. I thought Sen Greenfield made a pretty good case as to why the veto should be overridden. He noted it was through a reinterpretation of tax law by bureaucrats that these coaches suddenly were subject to sales tax. It was also noted that the only amateur coaches impacted by this bill would be for the American Legion and VFW leagues. Greenfield noted it has been harder and harder for these organizations to find coaches, and that between self-employment taxes and sales taxes it is getting even harder. Many of the other Senators speaking on behalf of the bill focused on the good that baseball programs do for the youth in SD.
The Senate vote for the veto override of SB 159 was 21-11. That was three short of the 24 votes needed for a veto override. I will admit I didn’t really care one way or the other about the bill. But I think in Greenfield’s final push to override the veto he made a good case and that this veto probably should have been overridden.
Monday, March 30, is the final day of the 2015 legislative session. After the House and Senate are done there are two interim committee meetings on the schedule. During session I tried to follow what was going on in each committee. I plan to continue this during the interim as much as possible.
It is also worth noting that the Rules Review committee had its first meeting on March 13th. The meeting was mostly organizational and the minutes can be read here.
Here are the two meetings being held on March 30:
Executive Board – Agenda – Beings 15 Mins after session ends.
This is mostly an organizational meeting. A lot happens with this committee during the interim so it is one I plan to watch all year long. § 2-9-4 sets for the powers and duties of the executive board:
(1) Instigate research and collect information concerning the government and general welfare of the state;(2) Investigate and make recommendations concerning important issues of public policy and questions of statewide interest;(3) Prepare a legislative program in the form of bills, or otherwise, as in its opinion the welfare of the state may require, to be presented to the Legislature;(4) Cooperate with the administration in devising means of enforcing the law;(5) Study, inquire, make recommendations and propose bills in any phase or branch of state government so deemed advisable and necessary;(6) Appoint and name committees from the members of the State Legislative Research Council, and assign to such committee or committees appropriate subjects and projects of whatever character and nature the executive board deems advisable. Each member of the council is entitled to membership on one study committee of his choice insofar as practicable;(7) Conduct legislative oversight and management analysis of the executive branch of government by means of a selective program of performance auditing and cooperate with the administration in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative methods; and(8) Review and make recommendations for further legislative action regarding the opinions of state and federal courts which have sought to interpret the intent of South Dakota legislative acts.
As can be seen above the duties of the executive board are pretty critical. It is definitely a committee that is worth watching year-round.
Appropriations – Agenda – Beings 5 Mins after the Executive Board meeting.
Here is the agenda for this committee:
1. Call to Order
a. Determination of Quorum
b. Remarks from the Co-Chair(s)
2. 2015 Session Review
3. Letters of Intent
4. Summer Study Topics / Interim Work Plan
5. Other Business
6. Set Future Meeting Dates
I am particularly interested in the 2015 Session Review from an appropriations perspective.
Monday, March 30, is the final legislative day in 2015. Both the House and Senate will convene at 10:00 AM to consider whether to override Governor Daugaard’s veto of three bills. I‘ve blogged about the three vetoes before. Here is the cliff note version of each bill:
This bill creates a new property tax classification of leased residential property. Technically the bill in its current form is a way for the state to collect data about how many leased residential properties there are in the state so that data can be used to push for a new tax levy in the future. This would theoretically allow for lower property taxes that can be passed on to families struggling to pay their rent. That is what proponents of the bill were saying. Personally I believe the bill would have done the opposite long-term. Long-term I believe this classification change would open up the door to property taxes per unit when dealing with rental situations. That could end up being one heck of a large tax increase. In a state where there are few sources of revenue, this bill could open a Pandora’s box of new revenue enhancements.
Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23) and Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3) are the prime sponsors. This bill would prevent a tax from being taxed. I really don’t understand the Governor’s veto of the bill. It just doesn’t align with how I am reading the bill. Perhaps I just haven’t studied this particular bill enough.
Sen Brock Greenfield (R, Dist 2) and Rep Tona Rozum (R, Dist 20) are the prime sponsors. This bill is actually pretty simple. It exempts amateur baseball coaches from Sales and Use Tax if the team is a 501(c)(19) non-profit. I believe it may have been harder for Daugaard to veto if it hadn’t been specific to one certain type of amateur coach.
On March 26, 2015, the Brown County Democrats held their monthly meeting at the Eagles club in Aberdeen. Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1), Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1), and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) were all guest speakers to give their perspective about how the SD 2015 legislative session went. In this post I’ll pull out some of the highlights of what they each had to say (and keep my editorial comments to a minimum)
Frerichs was the first legislator to speak. He opened up by noting that the Senate Democrat caucus actually gained one member in 2015. Along those lines he noted it would have been nice to keep Chuck Welke in the Senate, but he was defeated last fall by Sen Brock Greenfield (R, Dist 2). He noted that each additional person in the Senate gives the Democrat caucus a little more power, but they need to work on getting at least a third of the Senate to make any real headway. I would agree, in 2016 the Democrats should work hard on getting twelve seats in the Senate if they truly want to have any impact in Pierre.
When talking about this session, Frerichs noted a big theme of this session was that big issues were being avoided. The issues he brought up that were ignored this year include Medicaid Expansion, teacher pay, and teacher recruitment. He believes those issues were “brought up, and placed on top, and placed to the side. And that is unfortunate.”
When talking about the roads bill SB 1 Frerichs noted that the Governor wanted the roads bill and “wants it bad”. He noted the first time going through the Senate he voted no to SB1 quite easily because it really didn’t do much for local governments. Frerichs noted that the conference committee for the bill was one of the worst he has ever seen in Pierre (and I would agree). He noted the bill kept getting delayed during the conference committee process and that the House was holding it up. From his perspective it wasn’t even a Republican vs Democrat issue. It was purely the House trying to control the bill. On the Senate side he noted the Democrats were being lobbied hard to vote for SB1, because they were a couple of votes short in the Republican caucus. Frerichs said that was a good opportunity for the Democrats to push for more local money. The final bill he felt was more “leveled out” so he voted for it the second time. (My summary of what is in SB 1 can be read here).
Frerichs then went on to talk about the water management bills SB 2 and SB 3. Both of these are bills he worked hard on to get passed and will continue to work with going forward. SB 2 creates nine river basin natural resource districts. He also mentioned it creates a pilot project in his area of the state and has a legislative oversight taskforce. He believes there will be a lot of work implementing SB2. He noted that the districts will be a work in progress. When talking about the districts he doesn’t think they will solve all of the water problems; but he does think the program will get the state down the right path of managing the water in the river basins. He said “we shouldn’t just sit back and let mother nature rule us.” That was an interesting segway into his next point. He noted the legislature also passed legislation providing funding for the pine beetle situation west river (SB 152). He noted that west river is fighting to save their property and their economy from a mother nature problem. Further, he finished that thought by saying “This is our pine beetle problem of the east”.
McCleerey said if he had to sum up the session in one word it would be “frustrating”. He believes there is a lack of leadership “coming from the other side” and coming from the Governor’s office. He believes that is an unfortunate situation for the people of South Dakota. When talking about the youth minimum wage bill (SB 177) he felt the Governor should have used a veto. That seemed to tie into the lack of leadership points he made.
Briefly McCleerey mentioned something I have noted and plan to a post about in the future. He felt the time being put in while at Pierre is not sufficient. It was frustrating for him that session ended so early every day, and then on Friday they would be out of there at 1:30 pm.
McCleerey also took a few minutes to talk about the highway bill. He noted that when campaigning transportation funding was one of his top issues. But he was hesitant to vote for the bill because it was a such a “poor bill from the start”. The addition of the interstate top speed of 80 mph made the bill even worse for him. He did vote yes to the bill in the end.
Looking to the future McCleerey stated he believes the 2016 legislative session will be about Medicaid expansion and education funding. After that he believes the next two session will be about the Governors race. He doesn’t believe anything substantial will be done in 2017 and 2018 from his perspective. (I agree with him on these points, I would say the run for Governor in 2018 has already started, but that is a topic for a different post).
Talking about bills before the Health & Human Service’s committee, McCleerey mentioned HB 1080. HB 1080 allows investigational treatments to be used by patients under certain conditions. He was happy to the bill passed so it could help people out.
McCleerey was disappointed to see the tanning bed prohibition for minors (HB 1166) was not passed. He says cancer is increasing at an extreme rate. He says the bill was stopped by “small business libertarian types”. He felt it was almost embarrassing that the bill could not be passed, even though it had been amended many times to work out the differences. He felt it was wrong to choose between cancer and small businesses. Going further, he noted that a bill was passed to allow the use of a chemo therapy pill to treat cancer (SB 101) but the legislature couldn’t pass a bill to prevent cancer.
At the end of his time McCleerey noted the Republicans “are a split party”. He hopes the Democrats can capitalize on the split that is evident in the SD Republican party.
Feickert began by saying it was a disappointing how few bills the transportation committee actually took up this year. He noted that many of the bills that went before Transportation dealt more with updating the dates referenced in law. He was truly disappointed in SB 1 because there was discussion about where the road funding bill should go. Due to politics, he said that there was a push to get the transportation funding bill taken out of Transportation and put into State Affairs. The committee actually voted to keep the bill in Transportation. Then the next day it voted on the House floor to force the bill out of Transportation and into State Affairs. He said from that point on the massive transportation bill really didn’t have any involvement from the Transportation committee. (This is another issue that deserves a separate post, Feickert has a good point about the politics of this bill).
When going into specifics about SB 1, Feickert noted he was not happy with the tiered property tax portion of the bill. He said this new method of funding roads is “worse than an opt-out”. He believes the tiers are going to hurt big population counties. When it comes to property tax funding he felt the Governor’s original proposal was much better, but that was changed on the Senate floor.
Feickert also felt it was bad that the bill asking for a study on taxing agricultural land by its actual use was not passed (SB 4). He felt the study would have been able to show what the impact would be if a production-based property tax was implemented. Many opponents of the bill said it would negatively impact school funding. Feickert said the study should have been approved so it could be determined if that was true. Along the same lines he mention the bill that would have created a new leased residential property classification (SB 100). SB 100 was vetoed by the Governor. He feels the same arguments for SB 100 should have been used for SB 4. But at the same time he questioned whether landords would actually have passed savings on to renters if SB 100 had been implemented and a new lower tax levy was created for it.
Overall I would say all three legislators tried to make the case that it is hard to serve in a party that is in a super-minority. But all three noted that division within the Republican party does allow for them to have power at certain times. If they can get more numbers in the 2016 election it might open a new door for Democrats. (That is a BIG IF at this point).
Reps Kaiser and Deutsch have shown a commitment to constituent communication during the 2015 SD legislative session
Open government and transparency are huge issues for me. I would say anything that elected officials do to improve communication with constituents should be applauded for the commitment it shows towards the goal of open government and transparency. During the 2015 SD legislative session Rep Dan Kaiser (R, Dist 3) and Rep Fred Deutsch (R, Dist 4) showed their commitment by posting why they voted the way they did on every House floor vote. This is something I noted US Rep Justin Amash doing two years ago and hoped more would follow suit. Luckily SD had two Representatives willing to step up to this informative, yet potentially dangerous, thing for a politician to do.
Kaiser has actually done this both during the 2014 and the 2015 SD legislative sessions. After every vote he goes to his public Facebook page and posts a link to the bill that was just up for a vote. He also adds how he voted and why. Actually he did make one change from 2014 to 2015. In 2014 he waited until session was done each day to post his all of his votes. During the 2015 session he posted most of the directly after doing the vote.
Deutsch is a freshman legislator this year and has also posted each vote taken on the House floor. His public Facebook page can be browsed to find the links to each bill voted on. He also adds how he voted and why he voted a certain way for each vote.
Both legislators should be applauded for this commitment towards communicating with constituents. This communication shows a commitment to legislative transparency. It is rare to find politicians willing to openly communicate so often. Actually such communication also makes my job as a blogger much easier. This constant communication from these legislators lets me understand why they vote yes or no when I feel they should have voted the other way. Sometimes I will find there is a point of view I didn’t take into account when originally reading the bill. And often that point of view was not mentioned on the House floor (that is an issue for another blog post).
On bill I followed with interest this year was HJR 1001 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which called for an Article V convention. Below are the posts from each of these two legislators about their vote. I am using this vote as an example of what can be learned because this happened to be a close vote (39-30) and these two legislators voted differently.
Here is Rep Kaiser’s post about HRJ 1001:
Here is Rep Deutsch’s post about HJR 1001:
For a constituent that is looking to find out the why of certain votes in Pierre these posts are invaluable. In just a couple of sentences each legislator was able to summarize the why of their vote. Additionally these posts can be commented on. If anyone wishes they could ask the legislator to expand upon their reasoning.
Beyond these two I have seen an increase in Facebook usage from other legislators as well. Not every legislator is going to post on Facebook about each of their vote (although I wish they would). But many have stepped up and done more frequent posts than was seen in past years. Typically these are posts about bills a particular legislator is the prime sponsor of. I applaud the legislators that have been doing this as well.
Hopefully in the 2016 session there be even more legislators willing to communicate more often with constituents through Facebook. Even if they don’t post every vote, any increased amount of communication works towards transparency in Pierre. That is a winning scenario for constituents!
PS. If you do try looking through old Facebook posts on pages such as these you have to deal with the silly highlights feature that annoys the heck out of people. Here are the steps you will have to take in order to deal with this problem when on a Facebook page:
- Scroll down the page until you see the word “highlights” as pictured below:
- Click on “highlights”
- Click on “all stories”
- You will now see all posts on that page as you scroll down. Without choosing “all stories” it will omit many posts and cause a lot of frustration.
PPS. I know this is a post about SD legislators. But I should notice I’ve seen this done at the City Council level as well. Recently Aberdeen City Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen posting during city council meetings. I applaud her for doing so and I hope she will keep it up.