Noem signs into law an efficiency study for universities and changes to project permits

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem put her signature on 15 more pieces of legislation Friday including two that stirred up quite a bit of talk across many parts of South Dakota.

Among the latest round of bills the Republican governor signed into law were:

SB 55 requiring the state Board of Regents to name a panel to seek administrative efficiencies that would potentially reduce tuition for students at South Dakota’s six public universities; and

SB 157 making significant changes in how county governments and circuit courts decide whether a project gets a building permit.

Noem testified twice at committee hearings for her permitting bill. She signed it into law despite a controversial change the House made on the way.

Representatives voted 41-26 for an amendment from Representative Marli Wiese (pronounced WEE-see), a Madison Republican. It says a majority of board members are needed to approve a permit. rather than the governor’s preference that it be a majority of those present and voting.

House members approved their version 45-22 and the Senate quietly agreed 21-7. Senate Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids made a brief statement asking senators to adopt the House version. No one else spoke.

The universities task-force legislation meanwhile flew low until the final weeks of the 2020 session. The final version calls for the regents to appoint 11 members, including four legislators from the Joint Committee on Appropriations that sets the budgets each year for the public campuses.

The regents have to report the findings back to the governor and the 18-member appropriations panel no later than November 15, 2021.

The task force grew from a seed of proposal by Senator Ryan Maher. The Isabel Republican originally wanted a plan for three campuses — South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, Black Hills State University in Spearfish and Black Hills State University-Rapid City — to share one administration.

The regents executive director, Paul Beran, testified against Maher’s proposal at its first hearing February 25. The regents have since decided to part ways with Beran.

The eight Republicans on the Senate panel including Maher voted that day to significantly broaden the bill, so that it would create a task force to also look at the other traditional campuses — South Dakota State University at Brookings, University of South Dakota at Vermillion, Dakota State University at Madison, and Northern State University at Aberdeen — as well as the struggling USD Community College for Sioux Falls.

The House appropriators further changed it, so the four legislators would come from their joint committee rather than the Legislature’s Executive Board. Beran again was the only testifier who opposed it.

That final version sailed through the House of Representatives 65-2 and the Senate 34-1.

All of the latest round of bills signed by Noem are listed here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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