Previewing the 2020 SD legislative session


PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The 2020 South Dakota legislative session begins on Jan. 14. Republican Rep. Manny Steele says the budget is going to be a big story for the upcoming session.

“Because of the situation of the weather that has been all year, and the farmers and ranchers, the economy has been hit, and it’s going to be one of the things that we’ll need to be addressing,” Steele said. “Naturally hemp’s going to be back, and it’ll be interesting to see how that goes, if the governor vetoes it, if it can be overridden.”

“What I would prefer to see happen on hemp is we take that bill up right away, we pass it or we don’t pass it, and we move on,” Republican Rep. Jon Hansen said.

“Well we’ve been hearing a lot about hemp,” Democratic Rep. Erin Healy said. “So that will definitely come up again this year.”

Healy also says a mental health bill is coming.

“My task force that met to discuss reducing the overall use of mental, acute mental health hospitalizations, we are going to be introducing a bill as well that would make it easier for people to have access to mental health for crisis situations,” Healy said.

Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba brings up driver’s licenses when highlighting his priorities.

“I’m going to bring back my bill to do driver’s licenses in Spanish,” Nesiba said. “That this is an important workforce development issue. It’s important for people in my own district in District 15, I think it’s an enhancement to public safety. And so I’m hopeful we can get a broader coalition.”

He also brings up Dakota’s Promise scholarships for lower-income students.

“South Dakota has been really inadequate in terms of our need-based funding for our college students, and this would be a proposal that would have some state money, and then have that state money matched by foundation money from our, both from our public and private institutions, and I’m hopeful we can get that done as well,” Nesiba said.

Nesiba and Hansen also have the budget in mind.

“The state budget is going to be a big talker once again this year for a number of reasons,” Hansen said. “Number one, the state is going to lose a fairly significant source of revenue. It’s a win for taxpayers in the state. Prior to this coming legislative session, the state was taxing internet access, so on your phone, just on your fiber optic internet connection. That tax is going away.”

“Right now, our budget looks pretty good for this current fiscal year running through June 30th, but on the horizon there’s concerns, really two threats to our 2021 budget,” Nesiba said. “One is that federal legislation has changed the way that we tax internet services, and that revenue is going to go away and that’s going to be $10 or $20 million of lost revenue. And second, I think there’s just some softness in the economy. It’s been a really a hard couple of years here for our farmers.”

“With the economy being what it is this year, we’re going to have some cuts, the way it would appear to me,” Steele said. “Where do we cut, and how much, and to what departments? This will be a major challenge for the things that we have going this year.”

Lawmakers also bring up an issue that has generated a lot of headlines recently: meth.

“I’ve got a proposal that’s going to go after those dealers to try to allow for law enforcement to work up the distribution chain of meth or whatever drug it is, find those dealers and bring them to justice,” Hansen said.

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