PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A new South Dakota law lets state government agencies be more competitive in hiring people during a tight labor market.

Starting July 1, many new hires can be allowed an additional amount of as much as three months of salary for moving expenses, with a $15,000 maximum.

The same change will apply July 1 to many current employees who get transferred to another duty station.

The move must cover at least 50 miles to qualify.

That’s an upgrade from the current moving reimbursement of an amount up to one month of salary.

Republican Rep. Mike Weisgram and Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff sponsored HB-1153, which passed through the House 66-4 without debate and the Senate 32-3.

Weisgram presented the legislation to the House Appropriations Committee on February 15. He said state agencies would be expected to handle any additional moving expense from within their existing budgets.

“At a time when our employment market is tough everywhere, the state must keep up and stay competitive, so we can continue to provide necessary government services to the people of this state,” he said.

The new law also clarifies that state government employees are eligible to receive meal expense reimbursement when they participate in an agency event that occurs during meal time in their community.

“Sometimes a lunch meeting is the only time that works and is the most efficient time for a meeting,” Weisgram said. “Employees many times attend lunches that are part of a larger event, like a conference or training, and our employees should be reimbursed for that expense, too.”

The state Finance Board discussed the moving allowance change Tuesday. The state auditor’s office sought guidance on how to handle a current request from South Dakota State University for a new hire who starts work in September.

Steven Kohler from the state Bureau of Finance and Management said agencies can offer moving allowances under the new criteria before July 1, but those offers would apply only for new hires who start their jobs on July 1 or after.

State Human Resources Commission Darin Seeley told House Appropriations members that 191 state employees received moving allowances in 2022 and nearly 500 during the past three years.

Republican Rep. Chris Karr focused on the unknown fiscal impact. “I wish I had a better grasp on that,” he said. 

Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen had chaired the state Finance Board during his years as chief of staff for the previous governor, Dennis Daugaard. He said moving expenses would be “a relatively small aspect” of most state agencies’ budgets.

“I don’t know how you would ever quantify a fiscal impact,” Venhuizen told Karr. 

Karr said it reminded him of legislators’ discussion of prison impact statements, which lawmakers stopped requiring this year.

“We all know that there’s a little bit of buffer in some of these budgets. How much? At some point we’re going to be asked to increase it, no matter how small,” Karr said.