SD Lawmakers Face A Final Sprint To Finish 2019 Session

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KELO Pierre

Look for the pace to burn intense the next few days at the South Dakota Capitol.

State lawmakers return Monday from a final break for what could be a rough finish.

They face a hard deadline to wrap up the 2019 session’s main run sometime Wednesday.

That means the 105 legislators have just 72 hours to get a lot done.

One group under pressure is the Joint Committee on Appropriations.

When lawmakers left Thursday night, the panel had far to go on finalizing two giant spending measures for state government. 

Its 18 members – nine from the House and nine senators – had spent Wednesday handling a hearing the governor’s two pipeline bills rather than talking numbers.

Then appropriators left a long list of agencies hanging Thursday because of a scheduling quirk that senators needed to be at their desks by mid-morning to start casting votes.

The panel returns Monday, facing an agenda that has 16 big areas of spending, including state government’s largest departments such as social services, education, corrections, the state universities and the court system.

New Governor Kristi Noem recommended her budget priorities in mid-January, calling for more than $4.8 billion of spending from state, federal and other sources for next spending year starting July 1.

She also requested more than $80 million adjustments for the three-plus months of spending left in the 2019 fiscal year.

Both bills need to get through both the House and the Senate before legislators hit the road again either Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

Then there are conference committees. Each panel of six lawmakers – three per chamber – meets to try to talk through differences on a piece of legislation where neither the House nor the Senate has been willing to give ground.

Five bills already are assigned to conference committees. More could be coming.

That’s because there are still six measures – two in the Senate and four in the House – that need decisions Monday whether to accept what the other chamber did.

One awaiting action in the House is whether industrial hemp should be legalized in South Dakota.

It’s passed in both chambers, but Governor Noem opposes HB 1191 as premature and dangerously confused with marijuana that would remain illegal in South Dakota.

She wants lawmakers to wait until 2020, after the U.S. Department of Agriculture finishes setting rules for industrial hemp late this year and her administration has time to make its plans.

14 senators who voted against industrial hemp last week found on their desks Thursday boxes of Dots candy and thank-you notes from Noem for sticking with her.

The small treats strengthened the feeling among legislators and lobbyists that the governor indeed might veto the hemp bill, especially after two Senate votes went 21-14 in a chamber where a veto override requires at least 24.

The House voted 65-2 for its version of the hemp bill a month ago. The decision Monday in the House is whether to accept the changes made by the Senate or go back to the negotiating table.

Further complicating the hemp question is finding the money for enforcement.

Senator John Wiik, co-chairman of the appropriations panel, said last week the 2020 state budget so far doesn’t provide enforcement funding for the state Department of Public Safety. 

Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican, said at least $1.2 million would need to be added for regulating hemp in the coming year. He voted against the hemp bill both times. So did four of the other eight senators on the appropriations panel.

Legislators however also have control over something that the governor wants. SB 178 calls for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department to expand Palisades State Park. 

The park previously covered 157 acres of forest and quartzite outcroppings along Split Rock Creek 21 miles northeast of Sioux Falls. Another 177 acres are being added.

The 34 campsites currently at Palisades are occupied nearly all the time. GFP wants to construct 70 more during the next five years in the additional area along the south end. 

Noem requested $500,000 as a trigger to get about $6.6 million from federal, state and other sources. Appropriators recommended $400,000, the Senate agreed 29-5 at that amount, but the House added a dollar to make it $400,001. The Senate now has the bill.

Senator Jeff Partridge, a Rapid City Republican, said he arrived at the $400,000 of state funding as the appropriate level of investment at this time. “This is a beautiful area,” Partridge said,

Some pieces of the 2020 budget moved into place Thursday night. The House approved SB 179 setting the property-tax levies that provide the local match for state aid to education.

Representative Chris Karr, a Sioux Falls Republican who is appropriations co-chairman, said state aid to K12 schools would rise 2.5 percent while the levies go down somewhat.

Karr explained that’s possible because taxable property values rose 5 percent for owner-occupied homes and commercial property. 

Still uncertain is how legislators want to handle additional revenue expected to flow into the state treasury from sales tax on online sales of goods and services. Partridge, author of a 2016 amendment dealing with the topic, is a player there.

The House set aside Partridge’s SB 86 Thursday night so that Karr’s HB 1265 could be used as the platform for a conference committee to start bargaining.

Lawmakers are considering two competing ideas that both use online-tax revenue for gradually reducing the 4.5 percent state sales tax rate back to 4 percent.

The House version from Karr would automatically decrease the rate by one-tenth of one percent for every $20 million of new growth, after being adjusted for the cost of living.

The Senate version from Partridge would let the appropriations committee decide each year whether to recommend the one-tenth of one percent reduction.

The Americans For Prosperity group, whose South Dakota director is former lawmaker Don Haggar of Sioux Falls, favors the House’s automatic reduction.

Haggar, who continues to have influence among some Republican lawmakers, was House speaker pro tem, and in line to be chosen speaker for this term, when he resigned from the Legislature two years ago.

Noem’s administration has been on the opposite side favoring the Senate version.

Large organizations such as the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the South Dakota Retailers Association and the South Dakota Farm Bureau also favor the Senate’s approach on the matter

Legislators will have one more day left at month’s end. They are scheduled to return Friday, March 29, for any vetoes the governor might issue.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


 

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