South Dakota Legislature roundup for Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Capitol News Bureau

BIG CHANGE: The House Education Committee might be rolling the calendar back, all the way to before George W. Bush as our nation’s 43rd president signed No Child Left Behind into law in 2002.

The committee has proposed legislation that would let the state secretary of education waive accountability standards under a specific set of conditions:

“If United States Department of Education waivers that affect school accountability
calculations are in place due to a nationally declared emergency, the secretary of
education may waive compliance with §§ 13-3-55 and 13-3-62 to 13-3-65, inclusive,
through December 31, 2024.”

The statutes require annual assessments of students in grades 3 through 8 and grade 11 and that the department establish a system that “all public schools make yearly progress in continuously and substantially improving the academic achievement of their students.”

The committee’s chair is Representative Lana Greenfield, a Doland Republican and a retired teacher.

AG PROPERTY: There’s a new bill from Representative Kirk Chaffee that proposes a lot of changes to what South Dakota classifies as agricultural land.

Chaffee, a retired Meade County director of equalization, serves on the Legislature’s Ag Land Assessment Task Force.

One of the topics at the task force’s only meeting in 2020 was how tree farms should be classified. Chaffee’s bill in part would add tree farms to the definition of ag land.

AG EXEMPTION: South Dakota Farm Bureau wants state law changed so it can offer a health-benefits program to its members.

Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack of Union Center, a businessman and rancher, is carrying the legislation.

It proposes that a health-benefits plan operated for a nonprofit agricultural organization, such as Farm Bureau or others, be exempt from state insurance regulations.

Farm Bureau has been working on the measure with the state Division of Insurance since November. It’s patterned after a system the Tennessee Farm Bureau has run for 17 years.

ULTIMATE PUNISHMENT: Senator Art Rusch, a Vermillion Republican and retired judge, is trying again to reduce who can receive the death penalty in South Dakota.

His legislation would make the death penalty apply only to the actual perpetrator of premeditated first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, employee of the corrections system or firefighter while performing official duties.

Among the co-sponsors is another retired judge, Senator Timothy Johns, a Lead Republican.

Last year, Rusch tried to repeal the death penalty for persons who were mentally disturbed and couldn’t understand the severity of their crimes, but the bill failed in committee.

ON THE ROAD: Holders of commercial learner’s permits in South Dakota would get twice as long under a proposal approved Monday by the state Senate. SB 30 would extend the duration to one year; currently a permit’s good for 180 days.

“It’s certainly a step in the right direction for workforce development,” Senator Casey Crabtree, a Madison Republican, said. The legislation now goes to the House for a committee hearing.

LIGHTER FARE: “I’m going to request that Buildings and Grounds install a chalkboard,” Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden quipped Monday, after the Senate’s computer vote-recording system failed to timely respond for Senate Secretary Kay Johnson. After adjournment, Legislative Research Council technology guru Randy Stockwell worked on it.

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