South Dakota Legislature roundup for Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Capitol News Bureau
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CHARGE IT UP: Next stop is the governor’s desk for a $50 annual fee that most South Dakota lawmakers want to charge people who own and drive electric vehicles on the state’s highways.

Senators voted 29-6 Monday for final passage of HB 1053. The chamber’s Transportation Committee chair Mary Duvall was lead sponsor there.

The House voted 51-18 February 2 for the legislation. Representative Mark Willadsen was prime sponsor. There were 30 co-sponsors in the House and 12 in the Senate.

The bill drew zero opponents at its two committee hearings. No one from Governor Kristi Noem’s administration appeared as a witness at either one.

CLEAR MESSAGE: Representative Phil Jensen learned Monday that House Republican and Democrat leaders had zero interest in requiring South Dakota’s governor or three members of Congress to answer questions every year.

Jensen, a legislator since 2009 who’s served during the Rounds, Daugaard and now Noem administrations, wanted to have the governor take questions from lawmakers for an hour each year after delivering budget recommendations to them.

He also wanted the Legislature’s two presiding officers to invite the state’s two U.S. senators and one U.S. representative each year to speak to the Legislature about the state of the federal government and take questions from lawmakers for two hours.

However, Jensen had no one else helping sponsor HB 1156 and the House State Affairs Committee voted 13-0 to kill it. Said Representative David Anderson, “I guess I just don’t think this is necessary.”

BUSY, BUSY, BUSY: The hearing on Jensen’s bill came on the first morning of the Legislature’s crossover week, when non-spending bills and resolutions must be moved out of their first chambers by Thursday.

The House committee’s bulging workload was another factor for some. The panel began the meeting before sunrise at a few minutes after 6:30 a.m. CT, worked for more than three hours, then returned in the late afternoon to try to finish what wasn’t yet done among the eight bills on the agenda. “I’d like to welcome everyone here at this beautiful hour of the day,” the chair, House Republican leader Kent Peterson, said to open the meeting.

Wednesday the burden will be worse, when the panel has 15 more bills on its agenda and the start time again is 6:30 a.m. Also playing into the situation was that lawmakers, at least in the leadership desks, might have reached their mental and physical limits on jamming more into the session.

The first week each year features speeches on three consecutive afternoons from the governor, the state Supreme Court chief justice and a tribal government leader. At the same time, lawmakers have fully embraced the concept of four-day work weeks on their session calendar. And the state Constitution limits the Legislature to no more than a 40-day session; this year there are 37 session days.

PASS THE SHOVELS: Then, there’s the House Appropriations Committee that has 15 new bills on its agenda for Tuesday morning, plus 14 “below the line” that still need action. The Senate Appropriations Committee has a mere six on its Tuesday agenda, including four from chairwoman Jean Hunhoff. Every year there’s an all-out push by appropriators in the final weeks to wrap up the general budget bill and make dozens of decisions on special spending bills, but this session might require much heavier lifting.

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