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).
Today SD Governor Dennis Daugaard signed the massive roads and bridges funding bill into law. During the legislative session I’ve mostly avoided blogging too much about the bill. That is partly due to the fact there were two versions of the bill to begin with, one was Senate Vehle’s proposal (SB 1) and the other was Governor Daugaard’s proposal (HB 1131). Daugaard’s version of the bill was killed. But then the contents of that bill were used replace the contents of SB1 via hoghousing. SB 1 went through many changes both in committees and on the floors of both chambers. Now that the bill can no longer be changed it is worth looking at what is actually in it.
SB 1 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Revise certain taxes and fees to fund improvements to public roads and bridges in South Dakota, to increase the maximum speed limit on interstate highways, and to declare an emergency.
The bill has 31 sections. Here is a brief summary of what each section appears to do (this is cut down a lot from my original draft).
Section 1 – Section 1 creates a local bridge improvement grant fund. This fund can be used by any local government to construct, reconstruct, or repair bridges. It will be up to the Transportation Commission to determine who gets the grant money. In order to receive the grant a county must have “adopted and annually updated its county highway and bridge improvement plan pursuant to the provisions of section 3 of this Act”. The county must also have imposed a county wheel tax per § 32-5A-1.
For those unfamiliar with the wheel tax, it currently allows counties to tax each vehicle $4 per wheel up to a total of $16 (basically up to four wheels). If a county has not implemented this already existing tax the state will not help them out with this new grant money. Spoiler alert! Section 25 of this act actually increases the wheel tax from $4 per wheel to $5 per wheel. It also changes the total amount from $16 (four wheels) to $60 (12 wheels).
Section 2 – Section 2 authorizes the Transportation Commission to create rules (pursuant to Chapter 1-26) to decide how local governments will apply for and how they will choose which projects will get the grant money.
Section 3 – Section 3 authorizes the Transportation Commission to create rules (pursuant to Chapter 1-26) to set the requirements for a “county highway and bridge improvement plan that details proposed county highway and bridge improvement projects in a county for the next five years.” Any county that doesn’t create the plan will not be allowed to receive the grant funds created in section 1 of this act.
Section 4 – This section amends § 32-11-34, Local government highway and bridge fund.
This section of the bill states that every quarter $1,750,000 will be transferred from the Local government highway and bridge fund to the newly created local bridge improvement grant fund. Currently the money in the older Local government highway and bridge fund is allocated to the counties and municipalities as laid out in § 32-11-35. Now the change in this bill will take $1.75 million out of that fund each quarter and place it in the new grant fund created in Section 1 of this act. I wonder if there will be some municipalities and counties unhappy with this change. It could lead to fewer funds for counties and municipalities that choose not to play by the rules set forth by the Transportation Commission. It also seems to be a way to co-opt funds meant for all the counties and municipalities into areas favored by the Transportation Commission.
Section 5 – Section five changes the vehicle excise tax (§ 32-5B-1) from its current 3% to the new rate of 4%. That is actually quite a large increase.
Section 6 – Section six amends § 32-5B-1.4. It just makes sure that if a dealer licenses a vehicle for use at the dealership that they also pay the new 4% excise tax.
Section 7 – This is the section where many of the new gas taxes are implemented and amends § 10-47B-4. Here are the changes in this section:
- Motor fuel (except ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, biodiesel, biodiesel blends, and aviation gasoline) has its tax increased from $0.22 to $0.28 per gallon. This is the six cent increase being reported by the media.
- Biodiesel and biodiesel blends are added to the exemptions in this section. Previously it was only ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol, and aviation gasoline listed as exempt.
- Special fuel (except jet fuel) has its tax increased from $0.22 to $0.28 per gallon.
- Ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol has its tax increased from $0.08 to $0.14 per gallon.
- A new section of gas tax is created for biodiesel and biodiesel blends ant it is taxed at $0.28, unless it meets the requirements of Section 10 of this act (that is coming up).
Section 8 – This section just sets the fuel excise tax rate for motor fuel and special fuel at $.28 per gallon. This section was used in conjunction with Section 7.
Section 9 – This section sets the fuel excise tax rate for ethyl alcohol and methyl alcohol fuel to $.14 per gallon. This section was used in conjunction with Section 7.
Section 10 – This expands upon the gas tax imposed on biodiesel or biodiesel blends. It says the tax “shall be reduced by two cents per gallon in the quarter after biodiesel production facilities in South Dakota reach a name plate capacity of at least twenty million gallons per year and fully produce at least ten million gallons of biodiesel within one year as determined by the secretary of revenue.” So if enough biodiesel is created in the state there will be a two-cent reduction in the tax. But then it goes on to say that the two-cent reduction will be “repealed in the quarter after thirty-five million gallons of taxed biodiesel and biodiesel blended fuel are sold”. I wonder how the biodiesel industry feels about the short-term and slight tax-break. Personally I think it complicates things and biodiesel should just count as normal motor fuel…
Section 11 – This section of the act repeals old session laws that deal with the fuel excise tax rate and with biodiesel.
Section 12 – Section 12 increases the fees for noncommercial motor vehicles as set in § 32-5-6. Here are the increases:
- Vehicles 2,000 lbs or less goes from a $30 fee to a $36 fee.
- Vehicles 2,001 lbs to 4,000 lbs goes from a $60 fee to a $72 fee.
- Vehicles 4,001 lbs to 6,000 lbs goes from a $90 fee to a $108 fee.
- Vehicles over 6,000 lbs goes from a $120 fee to a $140 fee.
Section 13 – Section thirteen changes the fees for noncommercial vehicles other than automobiles, pickup trucks, or vans (§ 32-5-6.3). Here are the increases:
- Vehicles 8,000 lbs or less goes from a $100 fee to a $120 fee.
- For vehicles over 8,000 lbs there is an incremental fee every 2,000 lbs. That fee goes from $10 to a fee of $12 per 2,000 lbs.
- Currently vehicles over 20,000 lbs the license fee is 60% of the fee that would be for commercial vehicles of the equivalent weight. This act says any vehicles from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016, will now pay 70% of the fee that would be charged for an equivalent commercial vehicle. From July 1, 2016, on it would go up to 80% of the fee that would be charged for an equivalent commercial vehicle.
That seems to be a large increase for the vehicles over 20,000 lbs. One thing I wonder though. This act was signed with an emergency clause saying it will take effect on April 1, 2015. The new tax for vehicles over 20,000 does not take effect until July 1 per this section. This section also removes the language for the current 60% rate on those vehicles. Does that mean that any of these vehicles that get their license tabs renewed in April, May, and June of this year don’t have to pay the fee?
Section 14 – Section 14 increases the license fee for noncommercial motor homes (§ 32-5-6.1). Here are the fee increases:
- Motor homes 6,000 lbs or less goes from a $90 fee to a $108 fee.
- Motor homes 6,001 lbs to 8,000 lbs goes from a $120 fee to a $144 fee.
- Motor homes from 8,001 to 10,000 lbs goes from a $150 fee to a $188 fee.
- Motor homes over 10,000 lbs are have a fee of $30 for every 2,000 lbs over 10,000 lbs. That fee is raised to $36.
Section 15 – Section 15 increases the fees for recreational vehicles and noncommercial trailers and semitrailers (§ 32-5-8). Here are the increases:
- 1,000 lbs or less goes from a fee of $15 to a fee of $18.
- 1,001 lbs to 2,000 lbs goes from a fee $30 to a fee of $36
- 2,001 lbs to 3,000 lbs goes from a fee of $45 to a fee of $54
- 3,001 lbs to 4,000 lbs goes from a fee of $60 to a fee of $72
- 4,001 lbs to 5,000 lbs goes from a fee of $75 to a fee of $90
- 5,001 lbs to 6,000 lbs goes from a fee of $90 to a fee of $108
- 6,001 lbs to 7,000 lbs goes from a fee of $105 to a fee of $126
- 7,001 lbs to 8,000 lbs goes from a fee of $120 to a fee of $144
- 8,001 lbs to 9,000 lbs goes from a fee of $135 to a fee of $162
- 9,001 lbs to 10,000 lbs goes from a fee of $150 to a fee of $180
- Each 1,000 lbs over 10,000 lbs current gets of a fee of $15 per 1,000 lbs. That fee is increased to $18 per 1,000 lbs.
Section 16 – This section changes the licenses fees for motorcycles (§ 32-5-9). Here are the increases:
- Motorcycles with a piston displacement of less than 350 cubic cm goes from a fee of $14.50 to a fee of $18
- Currently motorcycles with a piston displacement over 350 cubic cm has a fee of $17, now motorcycles with a piston displacement from 350 cubic cm to 1,000 cubic cm will have a fee of $21.
- Motorcycles with a piston displacement of greater than 1,000 cubic cm will have a fee of $24
An interesting side note: the legislature passed SB 94 this year, which imposes a license fee on electric-powered motorcycles. This act also amends (§ 32-5-9). Does that mean the LRC has to fix the language of SB 94 before it can take effect this summer? The Governor signed SB 94 into law first, but SB 1 takes effect first.
Section 17 – Section 17 increases the fee for the issuance of metal numerical license plates to dealer (§ 32-6B-21) from $84 per year to $101 per year.
Section 18 – Section 18 increases the fee for the issue of metal numerical license plates to motorcycle dealers and trailer dealers (§ 32-6B-23) from $20 per plate to $24 per plate.
Section 19 – Section 19 increases the fee for the issue of metal numerical license plates to an auction agency (§ 32-6B-36.3) from a fee of $84 yearly to a fee of $101 yearly.
Section 20 – This section changes the county levy to match federal aid to roads and bridges (§ 10-12-13). This is an odd one that tiers counties. Currently counties can levy an annual property tax not to exceed $1.20 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. Now three tiers are setup for counties depending upon the counties total taxable valuation:
- A levy not to exceed $1.20 per $1,000 of taxable valuation if the counties total taxable valuation is $1,000,000,000 or less.
- A levy not to exceed $0.90 per $1,000 of taxable valuation if the counties total taxable valuation is more than $1,000,000,000 but less than $2,000,000,000
- A levy not to exceed $0.60 per $1,000 of taxable valuation if the counties total taxable valuation is $2,000,000,000 or more.
That seems like it would provide fewer funds for larger counties. But this section of the bill also removes the need for matching federal aid grants to be used. Removing that provision means the counties can repair their infrastructure with local control and potentially much cheaper.
This bill also makes the levy exempt from the property tax relief set forth in Chapter 10-13 if Section 21 of this Act (coming up next) is followed. But each year after a tax is implemented it can be raised “by applying the growth and the index factor pursuant to the provisions of § 10-13-35.”
Section 21 – Section 21 says that a county may pass a resolution to implement a tax as laid out in Section 20 above by a 2/3 vote on or before July 15th. Most importantly the increased tax levy is subject to the referendum process, so voters can stop a property tax increase if they want to. I like the ability of the tax increase to be stopped by the voters, it ensure the county truly makes the case for higher tax levies.
Section 22 – Section 22 allows the voters of organized townships to authorize an annual property tax levy not to exceed $0.50 per $1,000 of taxable valuation for the “secondary road capital improvement fund for projects and purposes as defined in section 23 of this Act”.
This secondary road capital improvements tax levy is in addition to the levy already authorized by § 10-12-28, which currently limits township levy to no more than $3.00 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. This new levy is also in addition to the levy set forth in § 31-13-22, which currently limits township snow removal reserve fund levy to no more than $0.60 per $1,000 of taxable valuation.
If all three of these levies are added together it means a township can levy no more than $4.10 per $1,000 of taxable valuation.
Section 23 – This section authorizes townships to create the secondary road capital improvement fund used in Section 22 of this act. The fund can be used for “the purpose of constructing, reconstructing, repairing, and maintaining secondary roads, bridges, and culverts under the jurisdiction of the township board of supervisors.”
Section 24 – Section 24 expands the scope of the Department of Transportation (DOT). Here are some bullet points for what Section 24 does:
- The DOT has to establish “performance standards designed to measure the overall condition of the highways and bridges on the state highway system”.
- The DOT has to establish 10-year goals for maintenance of the conditions.
- The DOT may use standards that meet the requirements set forth by the US DOT. I have a feeling that may will be interpreted by DOT as must.
- The DOT will provide a report by the 4th Tuesday in Jan to the House and Senate committees on transportation relating to the current and projected status of the highways and bridges.
- The report will also show the progress towards the 10-year goal.
- Finally, if for some reason the projection shows the 10-year gold will not be met, the DOT has to provide how much more money they want to keep the 10-year goal on track.
Section 25 – This section increases the wheel tax (§ 32-5A-1). The wheel tax increases from $4 per wheel to $5 per wheel. It also changes the total amount from $16 (four wheels) to $60 (12 wheels). I believe the increase from 4 to 12 wheels is likely to cause some people to be unhappy for sure… But it will be a good way for counties to raise some extra revenue.
Section 26 – Section 26 revises the maximum speed limit on the Interstate (§ 32-25-4) from 75 mph to 80 mph. As someone who does a lot of long-distance travel I like this change.. But… I hate that this was added to SB 1. This section is NOT germane to the subject of the bill and should have been introduced as its own piece of legislation. Yes, the title of the bill was amended to make it germane. But that just created a different issue because bills are only supposed to have one subject matter.
Section 27 – This section repeals the inventory tax on fuel in storage (§ 10-47B-14). If I remember the testimony on this section correctly it sounds like most gas stations do not follow the provisions of this bit of code being repealed. Removing this provision prevents small business owners from being fined for not complying with a law too few people understood. I thought this was good, but also feel it maybe should have been done as a separate piece of legislation.
Section 28 – This section repeals the inventory tax on special fuel and jet fuel (§ 10-47B-15). Just like Section 27 I feel it is a good change, but it is questionable if it should have been included in SB 1.
Section 29 – This section repeals § 10-47B-16. It sets for the method to determine the amount of fuel to be taxed by inventory tax. The code being repealed in this section relate the code being repealed in Section 27 and 28 of this act. Just like Section 27 and 28, I feel this should not have been included in SB1. It simply isn’t germane to the purpose of this bill.
Section 30 – This section repeals § 10-47B-17. This bit of code being repeals also works in conjunction with the code being repealed in Sections 27 and 28 of this bill. Technically I think Sections 27, 28, 29, and 30 of this bill should have been introduced as its own piece of legislation. That would have been a single subject matter bill that followed the SD constitution.
Section 31 – This is the emergency clause portion of the bill. It makes the act take effect on April 1, 2015, instead of waiting for summer like most bills.
Here are the bills on the SD House floor for Tuesday, March 10. This is the last day that bills can pass the second chamber. To make sure they can get through the calendar, this session begins at the special time of 10:00 AM! This is a LONG list, but some of this will actually go pretty quick, with little or no actual floor debate.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
Amended HJ 34th LD: SB 1, SB 99, SB 106, SB 39, SB 52, SB 53, SB 54, SB 55, SB 91, SB 92,
SB 109, SB 152, SB 174, SB 176, SB 181
SECOND READING OF CONSENT CALENDAR ITEMS
SECOND READING OF SENATE BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
Removed from Consent Calendar
This bill was amended in Senate Local Government committee to remove the references to “for-profit” and “nonprofit” and just saying business (which would include both kinds already). The bill was also amended to remove the Class 2 misdemeanor for failing to file a fictitious name statement. The amended bill passed Senate Local Government 6-1. As amended this appears to be a good bill. It basically treats all businesses the same under this law. The bill passed on the Senate floor 32-1 and House State Affairs 13-0. I like the bill. It ensures nonprofits have to follow the same fictitious name filing rules as other businesses.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed Senate Ed 4-1. It was amended on the Senate floor and passed 26-7. The amendment on the Senate floor took away the incentives for current teachers. This bill was amended last week in House Ed. The amendment allows a school district to negotiate through a teacher’s designated collective bargaining representative. However the language is permissive. Meaning the school district doesn’t have to work through a union for this incentive if it doesn’t want to. The amended bill passed through House Ed 11-3. This bill shouldn’t have any problems passing the House floor.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This was a hoghouse vehicle bill. It passed through the Senate without opposition after Senate State Affairs filled the bill with its actual content. It was slightly amended in House Ed and passed that committee 14-0. Section 2 of the bill explains the purpose of this task force pretty well:
There is hereby established the school district boundary task force. The task force shall examine the boundaries of the existing school districts and recommend possible changes to those school district boundaries. The task force will also recommend a process for addressing minor boundary changes in the future once the moratorium established in section 1 of this Act has ended. The task force will not discuss or make any recommendations regarding school district reorganization.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed the Senate with no opposition. It was slightly amended in House Judiciary and passed that committee 12-1. This bill would require the “state veterans service officer or state fieldmen veterans service officer shall be a veteran who has served in the armed forces of the United States and is a citizen of the United States”. It then says all other employees of the Dept of VA shall be veterans if available. I can understand giving preference to veterans for these jobs. But I really can’t see a provision that says a veteran must fill these positions. That just isn’t good policy.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed through the Senate and through House Ag without opposition. This has been an interesting bill to listen to, I’ve learned a lot. It seems the bill is set to give a process for dairy producers and electricity providers to settle stray voltage disputes (something I had not heard about before). If the farmer believes stray voltage has negatively impacted a cow, then the PUC would be brought in. There are provisions built-in to make sure neither side of the dispute are doing so in bad faith. It is an interesting bill, and should pass the House easily.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed through the Senate and through House Appropriations without opposition. This bill appropriates $500,000 from the Unified Judicial System court automation fund to the Unified Judicial System for the purpose of providing incentive payments to attorneys participating in the rural attorney assistance program. The bill also increases the number of attorneys that can participate in the program from 16 to 32. The bill also has an appropriation of $300,000 for renovating the Supreme Court law library in the state capitol building. Another $100,000 is appropriated to award grants to counties for projects related to the improvement of courthouse security. Then another $400,000 to help address the negative cash balance in the law enforcement officers training fund.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This passed Senate Appropriations 7-1 and the Senate floor 31-0 and House Appropriations 8-0. This bill appears to increase the fee from $15 to $20. That extra $5 would go directly to the law enforcement officers’ training fund.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill was amended in Senate Commerce and Energy and passed that committee 7-0. It passed the Senate floor 32-2. It was then hoghoused in House Taxation and passed that committee 14-0. This bill would basically change how wind energy facilities are taxed. Currently they are taxed in a way that makes them noncompetitive compared to neighboring states. This bill would allow SD to compete in the wind energy industry. The new version of the bill also has an emergency clause, so it could take effect immediately after being signed into law.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed Senate Taxation 4-3. It was amended on the Senate floor to remove the new levy for this classification. The amended version of the bill passed. 25-8. This bill would remove the classification non-agricultural acreage and create a new property tax classification of leased residential property. The bill had a slight amendment in House Taxation and passed that committee 10-5. This is a bill I don’t like.
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 it can be determined if property tax changes can be made. This would theoretically allow for lower property taxes that can be passed on to families struggling to pay their rent. Personally I believe the bill would do 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.
Additionally I don’t think enough property owners will go down to the County office and change the classification of their property just so the state can collect data. It is a bad bill that should just go away.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill flew through the Senate and through House State Affairs without a no vote. The 5% sampling this bill calls for may have headed off some of the troubles encountered during the 2014 election.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed the Senate and then House Appropriations without opposition. This was in the governor’s budget address. ACA has made this contingency fund unnecessary.
* Deferred from yesterday!
This bill passed the Senate and House State Affairs with no opposition. This is part of the Governors and Chief Justices initiative to reform SD’s horrendous juvenile incarceration rates. This bill would mirror some of the steps taken to reform the incarceration rates for adults. Parts of this bill has some good ideas and changes. But until the state actually looks at reducing the number of victim-less offenses that are crimes, there will continue to be an outrageous number of people in SD locked up for no reason. But having said that, I do think this bill provides an improvement over what is currently.
This is the bill that keeps going downhill. I can’t even think of how to summarize it. So here is what I said before the bill hit House State Affairs:
And now it is time to look at the bill I wish would go away. It is sad to say that about a bill I originally supported (even if I had some slight reservations about portions of it).
This bill comes as a request of the SD State Board of Elections. It was amended in Senate State Affairs and passed that committee 7-2. After passing through committee I wrote a post focused on one problem with the bill: it ignores the fact that SD has already admitted having early petition deadlines for Independent candidates is wrong.
There are other problems with the bill after being amended in Senate State Affairs however. Here are a few of the problems:
- During testimony for the bill, the committee decided to tackle the problem of placeholder candidates. The bill was amended to add a section that would only allow a party committee to replace a candidate on the ballot under the four following scenarios: because of illness with two doctors notes, or there is no other nominee, or the candidate is appointed/elected somewhere else, or the candidate moves and swears to the SOS that they aren’t moving back… I also hate placeholder candidates. But really? This amendment is NOT germane to the subject of this bill. It also has too many ambiguities to be realistic. I’ll stop talking about this particular amendment now..
- In a sneaky move to make it harder for Independent candidates…. Another amendment changes election law so that those registered with a party affiliation cannot sign an independent candidates petition. Wow, this is an easy one to fix though. It might be time for people to change their registration from Republican or Democrat to being independent. Even if this amendment has good intentions (which I don’t believe), it is hard to image anyone can say that further restricting ballot access for independent candidates is nothing but an attempt to hold power by the current majority parties.
- Of course the bill also has the change that all petitions must be received by the SOS on the deadline, instead of mailed certified by that time. For those in distant and remote districts that change can be HUGE.
The Senate State Affairs Committee was not the only place this bill was messed with
. The Senate floor had a couple of amendments. First there is an amendment further specifying details about the doctors form for a candidate to withdraw? Really? The second amendment on the Senate floor revises the signatures needed to gain ballot access from 1% of voters who voted for the party’s candidate, to 1% of the registered voters of that party (or non-party).
The amended bill passed the Senate floor 25-8. Too bad.
As I said before. I believe the petition process in SD needs to be changed, if not completely overhauled. But this doesn’t seem to be the way to do it. Perhaps this would be a good workgroup or taskforce during the 2015 summer. Then come to the 2016 legislative session with a full set of election changes that can be proposed. Right now the changes in SB 69 are purely focused on making things go smooth from the viewpoint of those actually runnign the election. But that smooth sailing comes at a cost. This cost will make it harder and harder for anyone not in the majority party to gain office. That is just wrong on so many levels.
Perhaps I was wrong at the top of this post. This may not be a committee meeting worth listening to. Not if there is any chance the committee will ignore the constitutional and potentially unethical changes this bill would make to current election law………
The bill was further amended in House State Affairs. Here is part of what the latest round of amending does:
- A candidate wishing to withdraw their candidacy due to a sickness no longer needs two doctors notes, and it no longer has to be diagnosed after petition filing. But yes, a doctor verification is still needed…….
- There is also a provision added where a candidate can withdraw if it is found their employment conflicts by law with the office being sought.
- Letting people registered as “other” count on new party petitions.
- Changing President or VP that is not nominated by convention can file petition starting in Dec, instead of Jan.
- The terms “Independent” or “no party affiliation” are defined as: “any voter who writes Independent, I, Ind, the field is blank, no party affiliation, no party, no choice, nonpartisan, or line crossed off in the Choice of Party field on the voter registration form.
- The term “Other” is defined as: “any voter who writes any other nonrecognized political party in the Choice of Party field on the voter registration form.”
- Petition deadline date is once again changed, it now changes from “last Tuesday of March” to “last first Tuesday of March”. This will likely make some legislators happy that were not agreeable to the new quicker deadline.
- The amendment added earlier to remove the registered mail option has now been undone. Legislators can once again mail their petitions.
The new amendments some of the problems with the bill. Personally I think the placeholder candidate portion of the bill should be taken out altogether. I still feel the bill is not a good one to pass. I understand what the Board of Elections is trying to do. But honestly the bill looks like it is still trying to put smoothness of the election process of the rights of people of any or no party to run for office. Yes, it is likely true that the two big parties (well, on big party) in SD will continue to win office. But that doesn’t mean that party should pass a bill that will make it harder for those not within their party to get elected. That just is not a good small government policy……
This is a hoghouse vehicle bill. It is just sad so many legislators have voted yes to a bill that contains no actual legislation.
This is a hoghouse vehicle bill. It is just sad so many legislators have voted yes to a bill that contains no actual legislation.
This is a hoghouse vehicle bill. It is just sad so many legislators have voted yes to a bill that contains no actual legislation.
This is the massive infrastructure funding bill. It has been heavily amended in Senate State Affairs, the Senate floor, and now House State Affairs. It did have one interesting addition in House State Affairs, that was an amendment to allow vehicles to drive 80 mph on the Interstate. Other than that I am going to wait until after the bill is amended on the House floor so I can see one finalized bill. It just changes too much everytime it is looked at to try keeping up with the changes. There are too many other pieces of legislation to keep up with, and enough others keeping an eye on this particular bill.
House Appropriations hoghoused this bill. Originally it dealt with the Medicaid contingency fund. Here is the entirety of the new bill:
Section 1. On June 29, 2015, the state treasurer shall transfer to the legislative priority pilot program contingency fund, which is hereby created, the sum of one million dollars ($1,000,000) from the South Dakota risk pool fund created by § 58-17-120. The contingency funds are to be made available in accordance with the provisions of §§ 4-8A-9, 4-8A-10, 4-8A-11, and 4-8A-12. The contingency funds shall be used to fund legislative priority pilot programs. Interest earned on money in the fund shall be deposited into the general fund.
This hoghouse vehicle bill was re-hoghoused in House State Affairs to have this as its content:
Section 1. That § 13-39-29 be amended to read as follows:
13-39-29. The secretary of education, through the director, may receive, acquire, have charge of, and operate all properties for the purposes authorized in this chapter. The secretary may acquire by gift, subject to the provisions of § 5-24-12, or purchase real and personal property for the use of career and technical education and may dispose of or transfer the same whenever the purposes of this chapter are benefited. The secretary may not purchase, lease, sell, encumber, or alienate any real property without the consent and prior approval of the Legislature. The Bureau of Administration shall provide risk management services for any properties used to provide postsecondary technical education pursuant to this chapter.
This bill passed the Senate Appropriations committee 9-0. It was amended on the Senate floor and passed 33-0. It originally appropriated $7,994,449 for disasters, the Senate appropriation amount changed it to $5,214,003.
This was amended in House Appropriations. to appropriate $6,829,400.
This was amended in Senate Appropriations and passed 6-3. It was then amended on the Senate floor and passed 30-4. I’ll have to listen to this testimony. For some reason I can’t recall what was said about it on the Senate floor.
This bill was amended in House Appropriations to remove all of its amendments.
This bill passed Senate Appropriations 8-0 and the Senate floor 25-10. Most notably this bill would change the “per student allocation” to $4876.76 for 2016, that is up from $4781.14 in 2015.
It was amended in House Appropriations to take effect July 1, 2017.
This one is for the special education formula. It looks similar to the percentages increased in SB 53. This bill passed Senate Appropriations and the Senate floor without opposition.
It was amended in House Appropriations to take effect July 1, 2017.
This was amended in Senate Appropriations and passed 9-0. It then passed the Senate floor without opposition. I haven’t had time to look at all the changes, but so far I haven’t seen any red flags.
It had some more amending done in House Appropriations. But I haven’t had time to research. Just too little time to research appropriations bills and the rest of them.
This was amended by Senate Appropriations from $200,000 down to $1. It then passed the committee 8-0. It was amended on the Senate floor to give it an emergency clause and passed 34-0. This would appropriate funds for the Board of Regents to use for the South Dakota need-based grant fund.
This was amended in House Appropriations from the $1 placeholder to $150,000. That is $50,000 short of original amount asked for.
This was amended by Senate Appropriations from $200,000 down to $1. It then passed the committee 8-0. It was amended on the Senate floor to give it an emergency clause and passed 34-0. This would appropriate money for the Board of Regents to use for the South Dakota critical teaching needs scholarship program.
This was amended in House Appropriations from the $1 placeholder to $150,000. That is $50,000 short of original amount asked for.
SB 109 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Establish a grant program for adult community residential services designed to reduce the risk of recidivism, to provide a report to the Legislature, and to make an appropriation therefor.
This bill passed Senate Appropriations 8-0 after being amended. Before being amended, this bill appropriated $250,000 to fund the alternative care program being created by this bill. In addition, $4,000 of that money can be used for administration of the fund. The amendment changed the appropriated amount down to $1. It passed the Senate floor 30-2.
This was amended in House Appropriations from the $1 placeholder to $150,000. Only $100,000 short of original amount asked for.
This bill passed Senate Appropriations 8-0 after being amended. This appropriates $1,900,000 to continue the fight against the pine beetles. As usual the bill was amended down to $1 so the bill could advance. The bill passed the Senate floor 32-1.
This was amended in House Appropriations from the $1 placeholder to $500,000.
This bill passed Senate Appropriations 8-0 after being amended. This bill originally appropriated $3,950,000 to the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority for the purposes of making upgrades and improvements to the Ross Shaft at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. As usual the bill was amended down to $1 so the bill could advance, but the actual appropriation amount can be determined later. It then passed the Senate floor 31-2.
This bill was also amended to remove all amendments. That restored the $3,950,000 to be appropriated.
It was then amended again to remove the amendment that removed all amendments, thus restoring all of the amendments from before the previous amendment. (say that ten times fast!)
It was then amended from the $1 placeholder to $2,000,000.
SB 176 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Provide for the development of online resources and a rubric of textbook analysis for use in school districts, to make an appropriation therefor, and to declare an emergency.
This bill originally appropriated $500,000 “to the Department of Education for the purpose of providing for the development of online resources and a rubric of textbook analysis that meets South Dakota content standards, both of which shall be made available for use in school districts at no cost.” It was amended down to $1 and given the emergency clause. It passed Senate Appropriations 9-0 and the Senate floor 34-0.
It was then amended from the placeholder $1 to a new placeholders of $2 (to force it into committee).
This bill was amended in Senate Appropriations to put the dollar amounts down to $1 and passed that committee 9-0. It passed the Senate floor 34-0. Here is what the bill originally appropriated:
- $3,199,548 to the Board of Regents to freeze tuition charged to South Dakota residents enrolling in state-supported courses.
- $735,896 to the Department of Education to be distributed to the postsecondary technical institutes to reduce the tuition charged to South Dakota residents enrolling in state-supported courses.
It was Amended in House State Affairs from the $1 placeholder to the new placeholder of $2.
On Monday, March 9th, at 7:45 AM the SD House State Affairs committee will take on 5 bills.
This bill was amended six times in Senate State Affairs and passed that committee 9-0. The Senate floor further amended the bill and passed it 26-8.This is the massive infrastructure funding bill being carried by Sen Mike Vehle (R, Dist 20) and Rep Mary Duvall (R, Dist 24). The Governors version (HB 1131) was killed. Now that we are on week 8 and Appropriations are on the stage I will pay more attention to this massive set of tax and fee increases.
Sen Dan Lederman (R, Dist 16) and Rep Steve Westra (R, Dist 13) are the prime sponsors of this hoghouse vehicle bill. Senate State Affairs passed this bill 6-0 and Senate floor passed it 31-3. It’s just sad so many Senators were willing to pass a bill that had no legislation in it.
Sen Dan Lederman (R, Dist 16) and Rep Steve Westra (R, Dist 13) are the prime sponsors of this hoghouse vehicle bill. Senate State Affairs passed this bill 9-0 and Senate floor passed it 32-2. It’s just sad so many Senators were willing to pass a bill that had no legislation in it.
I wonder if this is the bill that keeps getting hinted about relating to medicaid expansion in SD.
Sen Dan Lederman (R, Dist 16) and Rep Steve Westra (R, Dist 13) are the prime sponsors of this hoghouse vehicle bill. Senate State Affairs passed this bill 9-0 and Senate floor passed it 30-4. It’s just sad so many Senators were willing to pass a bill that had no legislation in it.
The Committee on Taxation is the source of this bill. This bill was hoghoused in Senate Appropriations. Originally it was focused upon economic development incentives. It passed Senate Appropriations 9-0. It was trimmed down slightly on Senate floor and passed 34-0. From reading the bill it appears to be a good idea. But I’ll have to listen to testimony, it might not do as much as those of us pushing for an open and accountable government would want.
On Friday, February 6th, at 9:00 AM the SD Senate State Affairs committee will take on 6 bills.
They moved this meeting to an earlier time and different room. With the bills being taken up I’m not sure there will be enough time for this lineup.
SB 1 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Finance improvements on the public highways and bridges by establishing or increasing the motor vehicle excise tax, taxes on fuel, motor vehicle registration fees, and wheel taxes, to provide for the distribution of certain revenue, and to establish certain state and local planning and reporting requirements concerning the condition of public highways and bridges.
This is the massive infrastructure funding bill being carried by Sen Mike Vehle (R, Dist 20) and Rep Mary Duvall (R, Dist 24). I honestly still haven’t had time to actually dig into this bill, or the Governors version (HB 1131). I still haven’t had time to fully study either of the two bills. Instead of commenting on this massive tax and fee hike, I’ll just repost this summary provided by Sen Novstroup at a recent cracker barrel in Aberdeen (PDF version). When (if) I get time I hope to actually dig deeper into both proposals.
This bill would allow artisan distillers to get their product out the market. There are a lot of restrictions for these artisan distillers included in the bill. As a fan of whiskey I truly would love to see this change happen. Current law makes it hard for artisan distillers to get started. This would make artisan distillers to use a program that is almost exactly like the artisan wineries.
I am outright opposed to this bill and its sister bill HB 1069. My House State Affairs committee post for Jan 26 explains why. But basically an Article V convention has far more risks than potential gains.
HB 1069 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Limit the authority of delegates to a limited Article V convention to vote for unauthorized amendments contrary to legislative instructions and to provide a civil fine for the violation thereof.
This bill had an amendment in House State Affairs to fix a reference to the HJR. This bill passed House State Affairs 9-3 and the House floor 38-31. Rep Jim Stalzer (R, Dist 11) and Sen Ernie Otten (R, Dist 6) are the prime sponsors.
I am outright opposed to this bill and its sister bill HJR 1001. My House State Affairs committee post for Jan 26 explains why. But basically I do not believe delegates can have their authority limited in an Article V convention.
This bill passed House Taxation 13-1 and the House floor 65-2. Rep Roger Solum (R, Dist 5) and Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23) are the prime sponsors. I think it is good a direct wine shipment is moving through the SD legislature. I still think a couple provisions make it unusable in reality, but it is a start.
Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23) and Rep Jim Stalzer (R, Dist 11) are the prime sponsors. All I can say about this bill is “WTF”. Really? This bill would make it harder for citizens to get initiated measures on the ballot. It would appear this is in response to the minimum wage increase being passed last year. I believe this is a bad move on Sen Brown’s part. It has been said this will stop outside groups from creating crazy initiated measures on the people of SD. The problem is these outside groups generally have money and will be able to meet the new thresholds OK. Instead of outside groups, I feel this bill would hurt true in-state grass-roots efforts to get an initiated measure on the ballot. I’m no fan of initiated measure in general, but they do serve a potential purpose. Hopefully this will die in committee.
Updated 1-25-15: Changed references from “pair of professionals” to “para-professionals”… That whole part of the cracker barrel makes so much more sense now!
Today was the first of four Cracker Barrels to be held in Aberdeen this legislative session. As I noted previously, legislators from Districts 1, 2, and 3 were invited to attend. None of the District 1 legislators were able to attend. However, there was a Legislative Cracker Barrel taking place today, so those legislators were at that event (they have three more Aberdeen Cracker Barrels to attend, so no big deal). Also missing from this Cracker Barrel was Rep Tulson (R-2).
As usual the event was hosted by the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce and was held in the NSU Centennial Rooms. Chris Haar acted as the moderator. The legislators were each given five minutes to recap the session so far. Then people from the audience were allowed to ask questions of any or all of the legislators. Finally each legislator was given two minutes for a wrap-up.
Before the legislators spoke the NSU President, Dr Smith, was allowed to speak for a few moments. He gave an overview of some successes for the numbers NSU has in enrollment. Most notably though, at the end of his little speech he had some things to say about education during this legislative session. Smith noted that there isn’t a lot from NSU on the legislative agenda this year. But, he said he is very interested in salary policy as it has become harder for the University to attract faculty. Smith encouraged the legislators not to rely too heavily upon the Consumer Price Index (CPI) “as the barometer” for setting pay. Smith would like to see a number of 3, although he guesses many faculty members believe that number is too low.
Now, on to what the legislators had to say (this is a LONG post, I apologize ahead of time for any spelling and grammar errors that I haven’t found/fixed):
Opening Remarks – Each legislator was given up to five minutes to recap the session thus far.
Representative Dan Kaiser (R-3) – Kaiser lightheartedly mentioned he was the only one without a family member on the panel… Kaiser mentioned HB 1083, which would allow volunteer fire departments to collect civilly due to a fire being started due to negligence. Currently a municipality and state can collect civilly. He the prime sponsor of that bill in the house. Kaiser also mentioned a bill that Rep Feickert (D-1) is working on that would allow counties to set the wheel tax. He said that might be a good option to allow counties to find funding for fixing their roads.
Representative Al Novstrup (R-3) – Novstrup noted that most of the bills going before the legislator so far this session have been department bills. These bills originate from State departments, thus they are usually non-controversial and often focus on clean-ups.
Senator David Novstrup (R-3) – Novstrup had a handout he made available for the cracker barrel with a high-level comparison of the transportation funding proposals from Highway Needs summer study (SB 1) and the Governors Highway funding bill. Here is a scan of the document Sen Novstrup handed out. I will give a had-tip to the Senator for bringing this hand-out with.
Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2) – Greenfield noted that there is a desire within the legislator to do something for transportation and education funding. He hopes to see something significant come out of this session on those issues. But he noted that not many people elect their legislators to raise taxes, so a balance must be maintained. Greenfield mentioned SB 34, which will assist veterans by revising the administration of certain benefits. He noted that when the bill was before the Senate State Affairs Committee they amended the bill to give it an emergency clause so it could take effect immediately after being signed into law. It has now passed the Senate and should easily pass the House.
Representative Lana Greenfield (R-2) – Rep Greenfield noted that she is on the House Health and Human Services Committee. She said the HHS committee “has proved to be kind of a firestorm”. In particular she called out HB 1058 and HB 1059, and she has received communications from constituents that as written the bills are not good. She noted the Dept of Health is working on an amendment to HB 1058 to make it work.
My Thoughts – The only thought I have on the opening remarks is in regards to Rep Greenfield’s comments on HB 1058 and HB 1059. Previously I blogged my thoughts about 1058 as not being as big of a deal as many believe it to be. I still think that is somewhat true. However there is language that could definitely be tightened up to ensure the DOH does not abuse it power. I am happy to hear the DOH is reworking the bill, and look forward to see what changes are proposed. I still feel however that too many are attacking this bill without having read it and are making claims about forced immunizations that simply isn’t in the language.
Transportation funding through a tourism tax – The panel was asked about a proposal out there that would fund education through a 1% tourism sales tax. The questioner noted there is not connection between tourism and education. He also noted school districts have the ability to tax and decide what to pay their people. He said we shouldn’t be looking to the state to know what to do, people know what to do.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Greenfield agreed there is no link between tourism and education. He doesn’t think that particular plan has a lot of support. Greenfield noted a broad view has to be looked at in regards to education. In particular there are shortages in many industries and fields, not just education. He noted baby boomers are retiring and that innovative ways must be found to replace shortages in the workforce.
Rep Lana Greenfield – She doesn’t believe “throwing another penny” at education will get more teachers. Instead she believes people like Dr Smith are doing a good job promoting his University, and Greenfield believes that is the way to get some excitement about teaching. Greenfield says there needs to be a way to promote the teaching profession and get people excited about entering the field.
Rep Al Novstrup – Novstrup noted that the tourism industry in SD is already taxed at 8.5%, which is the highest of any industry in the state. He doesn’t believe it makes sense to go after more money in a sector that is already paying such a high tax rate.
Sen David Novstrup – Novstrup noted that sometimes people get the impression that education is only talked about the last week of session. He contends that is not true and that education is talked about the whole session. Novstrup notes it is talked about in committees and “in the hallways”. He also said there may be better ways to use the current money that goes into education that can better utilize the money.
My Thoughts – I think it is fair to say none of the panel members that spoke were necessarily in favor of using a tourism tax to support education. I would agree. As Rep Novstrup noted, tourism already has the highest tax in the state. It just doesn’t make sense to go for more revenue in that area. If a 1% tourism tax is added I believe it would negatively burden that industry compared to other industries.
Teacher Shortage – A question was asked about how to solve the teacher shortage.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Greenfield noted there are proposals going around. One suggestion was to find para-professionals who would be interested in going back to school to become a teacher and receive some financial support for doing so. He said another proposal that came from school administrators was to streamline the teacher certification process. That would mean less schooling time would be needed to get teachers into the schools. Greenfield noted there has been some resistance to that approach because it means there wouldn’t be enough of an age difference between teachers and students if a twenty-year old completed a streamlined teacher curriculum. He likes proposals to get adult professionals that would consider going back to school for a couple of years in a streamlined 2 year course and become a teacher. Greenfield says Secretary Schopp was “rather hesitant” about such a proposal. He was bringing forth these proposals because the thinks everyone needs to look at innovative approaches.
Rep Dan Kaiser – Kaiser also likes the idea of taking professionals in their 30’s and 40’s would could take a fast-track teaching degree and return to the workforce as teachers. He also believes that too much negative is focused on the negative aspects of teaching, especially by the media. Therefore he believes positive aspects of the profession must be focused on. He says ways must be found to motivate people. He thinks the talking points about education must be changed to make headway.
Rep Al Novstrup – Novstrup noted this issue is partially geographic. He noted that smaller towns have a greater amount of shortages than large towns. In addition he noted that certain types of teachers, such as math and science, are have greater shortages. He believes scholarships in these areas of need may be a solution. This has worked in getting more lawyers to small SD towns; and could work the same for teachers. As long as those teachers agreed to stay in a small SD town for so many years, then they would get their education for free. He also noted that perhaps certain teachers are not needed in all schools. Novstrup said using technology, such as with video camera feeds, that small towns can utilize teachers they would not otherwise be able to afford.
Rep Lana Greenfield – Rep Greenfield says school say they are getting very few applications for jobs; when they used to get a lot of applicants for any teaching job opening. She noted that forty-six cents of every dollar the state gets goes towards education. Additionally she noted that thirty-nine cents of each dollars goes to Medicare and Medicaid. That doesn’t leave much money for anything else. Greenfield also noted the shortage of teacher is a nationwide issue. She believes the problem is that people are not going into the profession. She spoke with Dr Schopp about the proposal to get teachers ready in two years, and Schopp had resisted because the board of regents wouldn’t go for it. Rep Greenfield doesn’t think age is an issue. She noted that many SD students are getting duel credits in HS and if done right they are already getting out of College in two years.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield was the first to answer this, and he had more to say. He says when talking to school admins they say that salary is part of the problem. But he said the admins are saying federal and state teaching requirements also need to be part of the conversation. He believes that perhaps the legislature is putting too many burdens on teachers. Teachers having to satisfy the needs of bureaucrats cannot truly focus on their job.
My Thoughts – Actually I think Sen Greenfield did the best with his second answer on this. Any solution to the problem will have to focus on those local teachers. I believe if teachers are more empowered there will be much greater job satisfaction and the industry can start to grow again. Yes, increased teacher pay is also likely part of the answer, but I do not feel it is the only answer.
*** (this is the halfway point of the event, I think I’m getting better at shortening these posts… I’m under 2000 words.. barely.) ***
Transportation Funding – Question about whether the legislators support the concept Daugaard’s transportation funding proposal (even if they don’t like certain specifics). The questioner noted that State, Counties and Townships all need money.
Sen David Novstrup – Sen Novstrup noted he handed out the flier earlier because he wants to ensure its known that there is more to the proposal than a gas tax. At this point Sen Novstrup believes something needs to be done, but he is not sure what. Novstrup said something must be done this session. He believes everyone and every industry must have “skin in the game”. It shouldn’t target specific sectors, but should include everyone to get the revenue. At the same time he believes the money must be shared at all levels, including the county and township levels.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield says he believes all the legislators support more resources for transportation funding. But he feels that since most of the bad roads in SD are at the town and county level, so priorities need to take that into account. He says at the same time the state roads must be maintained to keep their current good condition.
Rep Dan Kaiser – Kaiser’s main priority is to keep taxing and spending at the lowest government level possible. Especially at the local level. He noted that County Commissioners can act much quicker than a state legislature in dealing with road issues. He also noted that local County Commissioners are much easier to keep accountable than the legislators in Pierre. Therefore he is focused on solutions that are “closer to home”.
Rep Al Novstrup – Novstrup focused on his agreement that SD must be frugal with its money. But at the same time money must be spent now on maintenance so more money doesn’t have to be spent in the future to fix roads.
Rep Lana Greenfield – Rep Greenfield says not everyone is on the same page in this conversation. She noted that some are talking about roads that fall under different levels of government. Additionally she noted that west river legislators don’t even see this as an issue because they don’t have the same county road infrastructure as we do on the east side of the state.
My Thoughts – I agree that any proposals need to look at local solutions. The legislature must find way to allow counties and townships to solve their problems. Currently they are restricted by SD codified law from doing so on many fronts.
Medicaid Expansion – Question about what to do for those not covered since SD decided not to expand Medicaid.
Rep Lana Greenfield – She noted that it would cost SD too much money to expand Medicaid. Most notably she noted that if Medicaid would be expanded it would be hard to balance the budget (SD has a balanced budget requirement). She noted that it is easy for the Federal government to say they will give free money away to the states. Then later down the road the Federal government will “take the training wheels off” and at that time SD will have to fund Medicaid without assistance promised by the Federal government.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield noted that many times the states are “left holding the bag” for promising free money that they don’t keep their promises on. He is concerned about how the law (ACA) was crafted. He said this law was created to help those that do not have healthcare, yet the program specifically keeps these people out of the system, unless they go on Medicaid. He also noted that the Federal government would not allow SD to tailor a solution to fit the needs of this state. He has noted that four states have now received waivers, so maybe that is possible for SD to try again so we can get a SD customized plan. Finally he noted that our short legislative session makes it hard to work out deals with the federal government.
Rep Al Novstrup – Rep Novstrup noted that kids, the elderly, the handicapped, and those unable to care for themselves are all taken care of by the current system in SD. He noted that the group being discussed it able-bodied adults. He says Medicaid expansion is asking one group of able-bodied adults to pay for another group of able-bodied adults. He also wondered what happened with Obamacare (ACA) being the fix for that situation.
My Thoughts – I couldn’t agree more with all three that answered this. Specifically I do believe that Medicaid expansion would eventually cause SD to break its balanced budget portion of the constitution; or at least further defund education to expand Medicaid.
Perpetual Tax Increase – A question was asked about the perpetual tax increase included in the Governors Highway funding proposal. The questioner also noted that farm trucks getting treated as commercial trucks would be cost prohibitive for farmers. He noted the 2290’s (IRS Federal Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax) have partial exemptions for farming.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield noted that a perpetual two-cent increase “will not fly”. He said he has never seen a built-in multiplier done with a gas tax. As to the increasing cost of plates for farm trucks. He has heard from both sides of the issue that oppose making farmers get commercial plates. Current commercial truckers have noted that if farmers are forced to get commercial plates, then they would be forced to go into competition with the current commercial truckers to make the extra cost pay off. Greenfield has talked to farmers that have said the same thing. Because of that, he doesn’t see this as a “palatable” solution, especially in rural areas.
My Thoughts – I have spoken to farmers and truckers on the issue. Many of them have raised the same concerns as what Sen Greenfield mentioned. I do believe such a move might force farmers to also joint the market of commercial trucking. That may not be bad. But whether it is good or bad, it is worth considering it as a side-effect.
Give Bike Riders Room – Question about the proposed law to give bikers three feet of room on the road (HB 1030).
Rep Dan Kaiser – Rep Kaiser noted that this bill is really just a matter of education to get people to understand current laws. He noted the law proposed would require a three-foot minimum for a car passing a bike. He said a current law on lane driving (§ 32-26-6) requires drivers to stay completely within a single lane unless there is an intention to pass. So right now, if a car is going to pass a bike, it must go to the other lane as if passing a car. If this new bill were to pass, it would then change this so that a car could pass within three feet of the car, instead of to the other lane as they are supposed to do now. Kaiser feels the current law is much safer for a bike rider. He noted that three feet in the city might not sound like a big deal, but out on the highway those three feet is not enough space. He thinks more focus need to be placed upon current laws and educating drivers that bicycles and motorcycles are supposed to be treated just like a regular car when being passed.
My Thoughts – I actually looked at this bill before it hit the transportation committee on Jan 22. At that time I forgot to comment on this part of the bill. Personally I probably would have supported this part of the bill before hearing the current law. But now that Kaiser has explained the current law is actually much great than three feet I am inclined to believe this bill is too risky for bicyclists. I agree with Kaiser, educating the public about current law would probably be better than passing a newer law that would make it less safe for bicyclists. This new law would also create different rules for different types of vehicles, that just makes codified law more complicated.
I just realized something, this was the first question Sen Greenfield didn’t take part in.
Oil Spills – A question about what the legislature can do about the recent oil spills and land destruction.
Sen David Novstrup – Sen Novstrup noted the authority asked about has to do with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Rep Al Novstrup – Rep Novstrup noted there are four safety levels for moving oil. The first and safest level would be to move no oil. The second safest is to utilize pipelines. The third safest means is to use rail. And finally the fourth and least safest method is to use trucks. So of the three choices, he would prefer pipelines because it is the safest.
My Thoughts – Personally I hope more innovative ways will be found to create cheap energy without fossil fuels in the near future. Until then it is necessary to use oil. So I would agree that the safest method should be used.
Drones – Question about private drones being used in regards to hunters and private property rights.
Sen David Novstrup – Sen Novstrup noted the FAA has put a stop on drones commercially until the regulations are out. But he noted that for hobby use there aren’t any restrictions. There are no plans that he knows of for drone laws in SD at this time.
Rep Dan Kaiser – Kaiser noted the Supreme Court has ruled about aircraft over private property before. He believes this is an important issue that needs more research. Kaiser noted drones are becoming more popular, and many of them have little cameras on them.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield believes drones going over private property would be trespassing. he noted the FAA has specifically exempted commercial aircraft from trespassing laws. Those laws would not likely apply to drones. The questioner asked Greenfield about the ND law restricting use of drones in wildlife. He noted it would likely be illegal to use drones to hunt if it goes over private land, because it would be trespassing in the same if a hunter sends his dog onto private land.
My Thoughts – First, I think there was some confusion here. As this article notes, it is already illegal to scout wildlife using drones. Further, the new bill being proposed in ND is actually aimed at groups, such as PETA, that are harassing hunters with drones. Personally I think a more timely drone conversation would revolve around a proposed bill in ND that would prevent law enforcement from using drones over personal property without first obtaining a warrant. As police departments find ways to expand their capabilities, it might be worth looking at ways to safeguard the rights of SD citizens from overzealous police departments. No matter what I expect drones to come up more often in the next couple of years. This previous summer when I attended DakotaFest for the candidate debates I noticed there were drone demonstrations going on for agricultural use. Drones are here, it is time to start having these conversations now!
Protecting the Elderly – A question about the financial abuse being caused by family members on the elderly, this was mentioned during Chief Justice Gilbertson’s State of the Judiciary speech.
Sen David Novstrup – Sen Novstrup noted he believes it was brought up to raise awareness of the issue. Right now there doesn’t seem to be an answer, and he believes if more people work on it a solution may be found.
Rep Dan Kaiser – Rep Kaiser said the discussion has to include education about the problem. He noted there are many con artists job that would apply to such situation. But sometimes the families might have to approach law enforcement if such activity seems to be happening.
My Thoughts – I don’t really have any thoughts on this one. I heard about this during the speech, and would hope it is not happening very often. But the fact Gilbertson raised the issue makes be believe it must be happening quite often. If it is happening I would support very strict measures. There is NEVER a reason for fraud, especially against the elderly.
Constitutional Convention – Question about whether the legislators support and Article V Constitutional Convention to pass a balanced budget amendment. HJR 1001 is the resolution in question. The question was about how the federal government being forced to do a balanced budget would impact SD financially.
Rep Al Novstrup – Rep Novstrup is in support of the balanced budget amendment for the federal government (he is a co-sponsor of HJR 1001). He said there will be pain felt if the balanced budget amendment is passed. Novstrup said our current national debt could lead to disaster if the interest rate goes up to five percent. He believes it would be more painful to not balance the budget.
Rep Dan Kaiser – Kaiser is not in support of an Article V convention. He does have concerns about the federal government overspending and would like to see a balanced budget. But he feels there is too high of a risk that there would be a runaway convention. He doesn’t believe the convention can be held to just one topic. Further, since the US has a fiat currency and a money manipulation policy, the budget would never truly be balanced. That would be because the private bank the Federal Reserve could simply print more money to make it appear the budget is balanced; when it reality it wouldn’t be.
Sen Brock Greenfield – Sen Greenfield shares the same concerns of Kaiser’s. He noted last year he was leaning the other way. But he has grave concerns about a runaway convention. Greenfield many groups of the other end of the political spectrum from him also want an Art V convention; and he wonders about their motivations. He believes that there needs to be fiscal constraint in DC. But he doesn’t trust them. Since they don’t follow the constitution now, he wonders if they wouldn’t find loopholes with such an amendment.
Rep Lana Greenfield – Rep Greenfield is not supportive of an Art V convention. She fears a runaway convention could cause more harm than potential good.
My Thoughts – This has been an interesting issue for me. Years ago I supported an Article V convention, much for the same reasons as Rep Novstrup state. However since then I have studied more, and have changed my stance. A year ago I wrote a blog post explaining the main reasons why. At its core my biggest fear is of a runaway convention. I just don’t think it’s worth the risk; especially since I don’t think a balanced budget amendment would actually change any behavior in DC.
Wrap-up – Each legislator was given two minutes for final words. I lost my audio for this portion. But from my notes I don’t think anything was missed. Wrap-ups are usually filled with fluff. This was actually a pretty interesting Cracker Barrel for being so early in the session. There were some interesting questions.
PS. I made it in under 4500 words!!
PPS. Oh wait. My PS put me over 4500 words…
Yesterday the 2015 South Dakota legislative session opened with the State of the State address from Governor Daugaard. There weren’t any huge surprises from what Daugaard had to say. Actually, if anything there might have been some surprised about what he didn’t say. The bulk of the State of the State address was spent talking about infrastructure (roads and bridges) and juvenile justice reform.
Last year there was a summer study conducted by the Highway Needs and Financing Interim Committee. This committee was spearheaded by Senator Vehle (R-20). Last summer I attended the SD Ag Summit where Senator Vehle and two other panelists spent their time trying to push for higher taxes. Shortly after that I attended a public hearing before the committee in Aberdeen. Vehle seemed much more open-minded in this hearing, and didn’t seem to push for taxes near as much. Coming out of that study came the first Senate bill of the 2015 legislative session: SB1. The reason I bring up Vehle’s bill is that Daugaard specifically said during his State of the State address that he would NOT be supporting SB1 and instead would be proposing his own set of tax increases he feels would better suit the state going forward.
I’ll wait until actually reading the legislation before going into depth about the governor’s proposal. But there is one part of his proposal I think is worth looking at. Daugaard proposes that the state replace the federal government in funding of some local infrastructure projects at the County and township level. That would allow the counties and townships to complete infrastructure projects without the extra requirements that the federal government often puts on such projects. Here is an excerpt of what I reported from the Aberdeen transportation meeting, and why I feel this proposal from Daugaard is so important:
Brown County highway superintendent Dirk Rogers testified later in the hearing. He had a lot to say, and it was all well worth listening to. A big point he made was that oftentimes receiving federal dollars on a transportation project would actually hurt the county. The requirements placed on such projects by the federal government often raise the cost of doing the project to a large extent. He said often the money received from the federal government only covers the additional costs to the project that were caused by the federal requirements. If the county does the project without the federal government involved it would be done much cheaper; and often much better quality because it is local experts used.
If the counties can truly save money and increase quality it would only make sense for the state to make that work. I do realize this approach means the state will need more money in transportation funding. The only part I don’t necessarily agree with Vehle and Daugaard on is that massive tax increases will be needed to make such a change. Tax increases may be necessary, but there are also other parts of the budgets which can potentially be cut and placed into infrastructure. Personally I don’t think the legislature will try offsets, but it is possible to do so. Beyond that I will wait to read the Governor’s proposed legislation before actually commenting on the difference between Vehle’s massive tax increases in SB1 and those proposed by Daugaard.
Juvenile justice reform was another big area for Daugaards speech. Most notably he wants to reform the juvenile justice system similar to what Public Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) has been doing for adult criminals, which was passed in 2013 as SB 70. Personally I feel the PSIA was the wrong way to go because it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of people in South Dakota being called criminals. Rather the PSIA changes how people are charged, sentenced and handled. There are still massive amount of South Dakota citizens convicted of crimes that have no actual victim; this is especially true for drug-related offenses. The Governor and AG currently appear to believe PSIA was the right direction for justice in South Dakota, and therefore feel making similar changes for juvenile offenders would also be good. I will do a series of its blog posts on this proposed legislation, and I will likely testify about the bill when it hits committee. Right now I can foresee the proposed changes to juvenile justice passing the legislature with little resistance.
Other than those two items Daugaard really didn’t have much to say. It was obvious however that he specifically avoided any mention of K-12 public education (except for briefly talking about dual-credit courses). During the 2014 election season the Democrats made funding public education and teacher wages a top issue. Now that the election is done it is clear that such conversations had little or no impact upon the Governor. The Democrat super-minority in the legislature will likely try to proposes legislation to increase school funding or teacher pay; but any such legislation will probably die in committee. Personally I think the Democrat Gubernatorial candidate, Susan Wismer, can take part of the blame for this conversation ending. There were some Republicans who were willing to look at increased funding for public education last year, but they also wanted to look at ensuring school boards and school superintendents were spending the money properly. Any mention of that would cause Wismer to go on the attack and basically say all teacher pay problems were caused by the legislature and that the school districts were only victims. This approach caused some Republican legislators to remove themselves from the conversation, and close a potential means for Wismer to actually make some headway in what she stated was a top priority.
As the session goes on I expect to do a good number of posts about infrastructure funding the juvenile justice reform proposed. At this time I don’t see any reason that the governors two proposals won’t go through. The executive branch in South Dakota in reality holds the greater amount of power, and the current Republican super-majority legislature seems quite content following the Governors marching orders.