Activity focused on legislation affecting all citizens of South Dakota is alive and well in your State Capitol. I am proud that my fellow Senators gave enough support to pass SB 58 which is a bill I introduced to expand the use of night vision for predator control. We know the true threats to our livestock when increased numbers of coyotes are not held in check.
I have enjoyed hearing from many of you who are supportive of increasing the sales tax to give a much needed increase to the average teacher salaries in our State. The legislative process can be interesting at times and we can see that when opponents to HB 1182 delayed action on the tax increase in the House of Representatives. This isn’t a true reflection of the support to tackle our teacher pay problem and I am fully convinced we will be voting on that same bill in the Senate within a few weeks. I still have reservations about increasing the sales tax and how much of a true impact it will have on our local property taxes along with school district funding. Machinery sales excise taxes are also included in the Governor’s plan to raise the sales tax which is another area that should be scrutinized. I plan to offer an amendment to keep machinery excise tax out of the increase because they are considered a separate portion of the tax code. This may have an effect of $3-4 million per year and I feel it is truly an equity issue since machinery is similar to vehicles where we have and will continue at 4% excise sales tax. Excise taxes exist in various other areas of our State statutes whether they are in the form of contractors, telecommunications, and energy where they are almost all at different levels. If we leave machinery sales excise tax at a different rate than the other sales taxes we will still be in line with streamline sales tax compacts. As I have said throughout this entire Session we need to pass bold legislation to increase the teacher pay in our State and I am committed to seeing that happen before we leave Pierre and close out the 91st Legislative Session.
Speaking of education we have been engaged in good debate over SB 159 which would allow insurance tax credits to support private schools in our State. This is an interesting concept but it also is in conflict with our state Constitution along with competing for the precious education funding for our public K12 schools. I don’t support SB 159 but I give credit to the legislators who are working hard on this issue to look for ways to educate all of the kids in our state the best.
This week in the State Senate SB 102 received favorable support to move forward which will allow the public universities to issue special event beer and wine licenses. Let me make this clear that it does not open up the dormitories and other on campus housing to alcohol allowance. The special event licenses would be for specific functions such as athletic and theater performances. I supported the bill but also understand how delicate of an issue we deal with in terms of alcohol on college campuses.
One other area that may be of interest to any of you is SB 140 which would remove the option for mandatory life without parole sentences for youth. I support this bill because we should look for any way possible to rehabilitate young people who made bad choices. Research on the development of youth brains shows that they certainly don’t always have the best ability to truly understand and make good decisions. This bill will still maintain the integrity of our justice system. Very few states still have the law on the books to allow for locking up kids for their entire life in prison like we do here in South Dakota.
I continue to work primarily on two areas with my legislation that will be up for a hearing soon dealing with eminent domain and a pipeline cleanup fund. SB 145 is the eminent domain bill that I filed which will require two landowner provisions: first that the utility company must have a Public Utilities Commission permit before authorizing eminent domain and secondly that the utility must first successfully acquire 80% of voluntary landowner before exercising eminent domain in court. I welcome your thoughts and support to pass SB 145. Also I am working on SB 146 which would place a 2 cent per barrel of oil tax on pipelines which don’t currently pay into the Federal oil spill excise tax fund. The current Keystone pipeline does not pay the 8 cents into the federal oil spill excise tax fund. I don’t think this is fair to our people of this state that some pipelines have a dedicated cleanup fund while other pipelines pay in nothing for a dedicated cleanup fund.
Please keep in touch on the issues that are important to you. I can be reached at 605-949-2204 and firstname.lastname@example.org