Greetings from our State Capitol as we are working through various pieces of legislation. All 105 legislators make the trip to Pierre with ideas from our home districts along with proposals that come from organizations. I enjoyed having the Langford Area senior government class recently visit the Capitol and we had a chance to talk about the current issues in this legislative session.
Agriculture continues to be the number one industry in our state and I am proud to represent a heavily predominant agriculture district and to personally be an advocate for production agriculture in Pierre. This Session issues such as taxation of agriculture land, safety zone hunting, predator control, machinery sales taxes, and allowing industrial hemp production have all come to the forefront.
Specifically dealing with agriculture taxation, I am disappointed that we couldn’t get adequate support from enough legislators to pass the actual use designation for native grassland to be valued as non- cropland. On a positive note, I am glad that we have given unanimous Senate support to SB 136 which will allow a non-cropland taxation classification for grass buffer strips around streams and lakes. Senator Jim Peterson brought SB 136 and I am proud to be a fellow sponsor and supporter of his commonsense voluntary proposal.
Eminent domain is a real issue in northeast South Dakota and I was pleased to bring a landowner focused piece of legislation. The two main parts of SB 145 is to require a Public Utilities Commission permit before eminent domain may be exercised and secondly that at least 80% of the landowners must voluntarily agree to the easements before eminent domain will be allowed. This bill was defeated in the Senate Judiciary Committee on a partisan vote but I am committed to keep working on this important issue this Session.
I brought SB 144 in an effort to have the legal weight allowance based on axles for trucks and trailers to round up when measuring the distance between the axle groups. There is a federal formula that figures the legal weight allowed and in writing SB 144 we want to follow the guidelines but give the benefit to the truck operator. At this point we are waiting on determination from the federal highway administration if we can use this round up method. SB 144 may have to wait until next year to proceed as we await that federal interpretation of the federal formula.
After over two hours of debate on the House Floor, we still don’t have an education funding bill coming over to the Senate. It was encouraging when HB 1182 (the half cent sales tax increase dedicated to teacher salaries) passed the House Appropriations Committee on a unanimous 9-0 vote. However, it was equally discouraging when two delay maneuvers kept the House from hearing the bill earlier this week and then it didn’t pass the two-thirds required for passage by one single vote today (Thursday, Feb. 18). The motion for reconsideration was passed and the bill will be heard again, most likely early in the week of Feb. 22. We eagerly await this bill on the Senate side. Democrats stand united in supporting education funding as our top priority in the 2016 Session.
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