I look for long days, short fuses, and a frenzied pace during the last three days of Session. We have a lot to get done before Session ends on Wednesday.
Major bills heard this week included:
Pipeline Riot Bills
Construction of the Keystone XL pipeline may begin in SD as early as this year. In preparation for dealing with pipeline rioters like was seen in ND, the legislature passed two bills.
SB190 makes sure the pipeline company has skin in the game by requiring it purchase a bond to cover the costs that local governments incur when prosecuting rioters.
The companion bill, SB189, sets up the legal mechanism for the state to pursue money from the people or companies that do or finance the damage.
There have been numerous complaints about the bills, some valid, some not. For example, the concern that the bills violate constitutional freedom of speech and assembly are false. Protesters are welcome to “legally” assemble and speak their mind. They are not however welcome to riot, burn cars, and throw bombs. There is a difference between peaceful protesters and terrorists. Peaceful protesters are welcome in SD. Terrorists are not.
A valid concern about the bills is they came late in session. The lateness required the legislature to suspend the rules to hear them. The later the introduction, the less input possible from the public. I agree with critics about the concern. That weighs heavily on me. Ultimately, the decision is left up to the 105 elected legislators to decide which is most important, to hear the bills now, push them off until next year, or call a special session.
I thought it in the best interest of South Dakota tax payers to hear them now, and I supported both bills.
Sales Tax Reduction Bill
There are different opinions how the amendment offered by Senator Jeff Partridge in 2016 was meant to work when it was placed on a bill to increase teacher pay. The amendment provided sales tax relief to gradually return the 4.5 percent rate back to 4 percent if future revenue was generated from online sales-tax.
Now that we have begun to generate online tax, we’re trying to figure out the mechanics how the tax rate roll-back should occur.
The House and Senate have different ideas. The Senate version would let the appropriations committee decide each year whether to recommend the rollback based on overall financial status of the state. The House version would create automatic rollbacks whenever certain online tax income thresholds were reached.
The bill to legalize industrial hemp production is now heading back to the House after the Senate made amendments to get it passed. It previously failed in the Senate under the requirement of a 2/3 majority vote. The amendment changed the bill so only a simple majority was required, but it also changed important financial provisions of the bill.
The governor continues to oppose the bill as premature. She is concerned about law enforcement challenges to distinguish hemp from marijuana. The plants are apparently indistinguishable. Of course, marijuana remains illegal in South Dakota.
Further complicating the hemp question is finding the money for enforcement. So far, the 2020 state budget doesn’t have any money allotted to provide enforcement funding for the state Department of Public Safety.
It would not surprise me to see the governor successfully veto this bill.
This week the big item is approval of the budget. Governor Noem recommended her budget priorities in mid-January, calling for more than $4.8 billion of spending from state, federal and other sources for next spending year starting July 1.
She also requested more than $80 million in adjustments for the three-plus months of spending left in the 2019 fiscal year.
Both bills need to get through both the House and the Senate before we close out the main run of session this Wednesday.
That’s it for now. I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve you in the SD Legislature. It is a privilege that I will never take for granted. Major thanks go to my beloved wife Kathleen who covered our chiropractic office when I was in Pierre, and to our amazing neighbor Ryan Thorson who numerous times brought his farm equipment over to blow out our snow. I could not serve you without the help of these special people.
Life is good. Have a great week. – Fred