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).
On Friday, February 20th, at 9:00 AM the SD Senate Transportation committee will take on 2 bills.
** This meeting is important. Next Tuesday is the last opportunity for committees to get the bills from their chamber moved on to the floor. This committee does not have a scheduled committee meeting until next Wednesday.
Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. This would raise the vehicle excise tax from three to four percent. It also specifies this as to where the money goes:
Ninety percent of the revenue received pursuant to §§ 32-5B-1 and 32-5B-1.4 shall be credited to the state highway fund and ten percent of the revenue received pursuant to §§ 32-5B-1 and 32-5B-1.4 shall be credited to the local government highway and bridge fund.
Rep Steve Westra (R, Dist 13) and Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3) are the prime sponsors. This bill passed House Transportation and the House floor with no opposition. This bill removes and revises a lot of sections of code.
On Wednesday, February 11th, at 7:45 AM the SD Senate Local Government committee will take on 4 bills.
Deferred from the 9th. Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. This would drop the requirement of sixty percent in favor of issuing a bond down to fifty-five percent. This bill appears to be trying to make it issue to get bonds passed.
Deferred from the 9th. Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Patrick Kirschman (D, Dist 15) are the prime sponsors. This would get rid of the exemption allowing county commissioners to adopt a resolution waiving the prohibition of sale of tax certificates. I’ve seen in other states where some real estate investors flock to tax certificate sales. Is this some sort of issue in SD?
Rep Jim Bolin (R, Dist 16) and Sen Bill Van Gerpen (R, Dist 19) are the prime sponsors. This bill passed the House Local Government committee and House floor with no opposition. This appears to be a good step towards more transparency in government. That is a good thing!
Rep Sam Marty (R, Dist 28B) and Sen Craig Tieszen (R, Dist 34) are the prime sponsors. This bill passed the House Commerce and the house floor with no opposition. This changes the limit on leases from 25 years to fifty years.
On Tuesday, February 10th, at 7:45 AM the SD House Taxation committee will take on 4 bills.
Rep Jim Bolin (R, Dist 16) and Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. This bill changes the excise tax on motor vehicles exemption for “Any motor vehicle sold or transferred that is eleven or more model years old”. Currently this exemption is for vehicles valued at $2,200 or less before trade-in; this bill would change to a motor vehicle valued at $5,000 or less before trade-in.
Rep Mary Duvall (R, Dist 24) and Sen Mike Vehle (R, Dist 20) are the prime sponsors. This would change the excise tax on vehicle purchases from 3% to 4%. I thought all of Vehle’s tax increases were going to be in the transportation bill…
HB 1207 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Revise certain provisions concerning the school district pension fund and capital outlay fund tax levies, to provide property tax opt-out procedures for the capital outlay levy, and to revise the per student allocation.
Rep Justin Cronin (R, Dist 23) and Sen Tim Rave (R, Dist 25) are the prime sponsors. For most of this bill I will have to listen to the testimony to learn more about it. But one change is the per student allocation. The current allocation for school year 2015 is $4781.14 (that is currently in the law). This bill would actually split the per student allocation for School year 16 into two groups. The first half of School Year 2016 would have a per student allocation of $4,852.86, and the second half would have a per student allocation of $4,924.86. Finally the school year 2017 allocation would be $4,924.86 per student. That seems like an odd approach. I’ll have to hear the reasoning.
Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) and Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. I’ll have to listen to this one as well. Is this bill removing the limitation so local governments can raise the revenue they need for infrastructure?
On Monday, February 9th, at 7:45 AM the SD Senate Local Government committee will take on 4 bills.
Sen David Omdahl (R, Dist 11) and Rep Don Haggar are the prime sponsors. This would add an additional fifty dollar penalty for driving under the influence cases. This money would go to the clerk of courts and given to the county treasurer for use in the counties general fund. Finally, if the fifty dollar fee isn’t paid, it is “punishable by contempt proceedings”. Is this a new way for counties to raise revenues?
Sen Brock Greenfield (R, Dist 2) and Rep Michele Harrison (R, Dist 23) are the prime sponsors. This updates references from the 2012 edition of the International Building Code to 2015. This is an area that annoys me actually. If someone wants to find out how to comply with code they need to dish out $131 to find out what the code is for new buildings. This is a way for government officials to over-regulate without making it look like they are doing so.
Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. This would drop the requirement of sixty percent in favor of issuing a bond down to fifty-five percent. This bill appears to be trying to make it issue to get bonds passed.
Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Patrick Kirschman (D, Dist 15) are the prime sponsors. This would get rid of the exemption allowing county commissioners to adopt a resolution waiving the prohibition of sale of tax certificates. I’ve seen in other states where some real estate investors flock to tax certificate sales. Is this some sort of issue in SD?
On Wednesday, February 4th, at 10:00 AM the SD Senate Taxation committee will take on 3 bills.
Sen Deb Peters (R, Dist 9) and Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10) are the prime sponsors. This bill would remove the classification non-agricultural acreage and create a new property tax classification of leased residential property. The key reason for this bill appears to be found in the following sentence:
The maximum tax levy for a leased residential property as defined in section 1 of this Act for such school district shall be nine dollars and ten and six tenths cents per thousand dollars of taxable valuation.
Is this a way to try getting more money to school districts? I’ll have to listen to the testimony to be sure I’m understand this bill correctly.
Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) are the prime sponsors. This is another one I’ll have to listen to testimony on, its just an area I don’t have enough experience with yet.
This will be the first in a series of thirty-five posts looking at the SD legislative races going into Election Day 2014. To start the series I will look at District 1. This district is a very blue district, no Republicans were even found to run for a legislative seat. The district includes Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties; plus a weird N-NW portion of Brown County. Actually if you know where Dennis Feickert lives you will notice how the 2010 redistricting happened to put him in District 1, where he used to be in District 3. Some have said the odd shape of District 1 in Brown county has more to do with putting him in that blue district as part of the redistricting game.
Back in May I looked at the Primary election in District 1. Since all legislative candidates in District 1 were Democrat, there will be no general election for the legislative races. Here is the current status of District 1 going into the 2015 Legislative Session:
District 1 State Senator: Jason Frerichs
Jason Frerichs is the current Democrat Minority Leader in the State Senate. He sailed through the Primary Election and now the General Election with no opposition. During the 2014 legislative session he seemed to do a pretty good job keeping focused on some standard Democrat stances such as Medicaid expansion. If I were a Democrat (which I’m not), I would say he is doing a pretty good job in Pierre.
This previous legislative session he was State Senate prime-sponsor for House Concurrent Resolution 1017 (HCR 1017). If passed, HCR 1017 would have urged Congress and various federal agencies to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity”. I’ve spoken with many farmers around the NE portion of the state that would love the option to include industrial hemp in their options of crops to produce. Hopefully Frerichs will try again in 2015, his being a farmer helps to reinforce that the agricultural industry would benefit from allowing the production of industrial hemp.
Really the only thing that outright annoys me about Frerichs is the fact he had no Primary or General Election opposition in 2014. And that isn’t his fault, there just wasn’t anyone in District 1 stepping up to oppose him.
District 1 State Representatives: Dennis Feickert & Steven McCleerey
The House seat did have a Primary Election. Feickert won his re-election easily with 1,638 votes. Sisseton area farmer Steven McCleerey easily won the second seat with 1,350 votes. The third person in the race, Dustina Gill, did a lot of work traveling the district trying to get votes. But from the feedback I’ve heard in the district, she just wasn’t that good at actually engaging people. If Gill runs again she might want to re-evaluate how she interacts with potential voters. A lot of interactions can backfire if not done properly.
One thing worth noting about District 1 is that all three legislators fall in the farm/ranch category. I don’t think the average farmer in District 1 can say they aren’t well represented in Pierre!