Capitol News Bureau

Legislature's Executive Board Discusses Variety Of Topics

PIERRE, S.D. - South Dakota lawmakers might consider changing again the system for valuing agricultural property.

They also could take longer, deeper looks at improving access to mental health services and funding special education.

The three issues topped the agenda Friday for the Legislature's Executive Board.

The agricultural land assessment panel is weighing possible changes that have been developed at South Dakota State University.

The Legislature approved the current system 10 years ago. It tries to determine the full productivity value for a piece of farm or ranch property.

SDSU faculty member Matthew Elliott is suggesting the panel look at other ways to value property using most probable use or actual use.

The ag assessment task force meets Tuesday.

On mental-health access, Senator Deb Soholt said her study panel would meet a fifth time on November 19 to make recommendations for the 2019 session.

The Sioux Falls Republican said they probably would ask for funding for a statewide 211 telephone service. She said people could use it for seeking mental-health help or reporting any incidents of abuse.

The mental-health group also likely will ask the Legislature to appoint five separate groups to spend the next year working on specific issues.

One example would be providing mental health services in communities rather than sending so many people to the state Human Services Center at Yankton.

"We became very clear on what the issues are and how to move forward," Soholt said.

Senator Brock Greenfield is chairman for the leadership group. The Republican from Clark told Soholt, "I commend you for your guiding hand."

Representative Mary Duvall presented some recommendations from the panel that studied special education enrollment and funding.

The Pierre Republican said lawmakers agreed a legislator should serve on the board that oversees the state's extraordinary cost fund for special education. 

She said they also proposed accelerating the time period so disability allocations are considered every two years rather than the current three.

There also should be an annual inflation adjustment for special education and the $5.5 million that goes into the extraordinary cost fund each year should go up another $1 million.

Senator Jim Bolin said the study committee also wants a task force on special education. The 13-member group would deliver its report by December 2020.

The Canton Republican said there could be "serious problems" if larger-enrollment school districts decide to seek money from the extraordinary cost fund.

The fund is available to districts that need help.

"It's going to be a mess," Bolin said.

He said the Executive Board "did the right thing" in deciding to study special education funding and mental health services.

"We have to grapple with these in the most cost-effective manner we can," Bolin said.

Legislators also received eight memos on various issues. Here are some highlights.

Brand Board: State officials estimated last year the livestock program would be in a deficit by the June 30, 2019, end of the current fiscal year. Legislation that mght have solved it deadlocked in the 2018 session.

Since then, legislative staff received final numbers from fiscal 2018. Receipts were higher and expenses lower than expected. The bottom line was a $481,828 ending balance, rather than the $330,047 expected.

"Using the projected FY 2019 numbers, the Brand Board would then be anticipating a $45,763 ending cash balance rather than a deficit of $106,018," Anita Thomas, the LRC's principal attorney, wrote. 

"Whether a doubling of the board's current fees is necessary to ensure solvency or whether an increase of some lesser amount would be sufficient remains to be determined," she wrote.

Property-tax exemptions: Senior research analyst Amanda Jacobs reported that tax-exempt land and buildings totaled $17.6 billion in 2017, more than 15 percent of $91 billion in total assessed value.

In comparison, tax-exempt land and buildings in 1997 totaled $1.4 billion, more than five percent of $25.8 billion in total assessed value.

E-cigarettes: South Dakota doesn't have a vapor-specific excise tax or special tax for e-cigarettes, according to legislative attorney Emily Kerr. There are other state laws regulating e-cigarettes, such as banning sales to people younger than age 18. 

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