Tidying up Chapter 10-6

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One of the bills I have worked on throughout the summer deals with cleaning up Chapter 10-6, the chapter of state law dealing with property tax assessments.  Most of the work was done by staff at the Legislative Research Council in consultation with the Department of Revenue and several county assessors, so I can’t take much credit for the finished product.

While the State relies largely on sales and use tax for its general fund, local schools and political subdivisions are supported by taxes on real estate.

In the past, South Dakota levied taxes on a variety of personal property, ranging from jewelry to livestock.  The personal property subject to tax was based on self-reporting, leading some to suggest that the tax was immoral because it encouraged people to lie.  The personal property was repealed in 1978.  Today, local governments and schools rely on the tax on real estate.  This area of code has been frequently amended as policy makers have sought to craft a “perfect” tax system. 

The bill I have introduced, SB 70, is an effort to tidy up the current law without making any policy changes. Looking at the chapter as it is today, more than 70 sections of law have been repealed and a handful of others have been transferred to a different part of the Code; however, the numbers of those sections are still scattered throughout the chapter.  A few sections reiterate the same idea, some sections dealing with the same concept are in completely different parts of the chapter, and a few are no longer needed because they reflect fragments of the old self-reported personal property tax laws.

SB 70 is an effort to reorganize the chapter so – while it may not be more pleasant to read – at least it is easier to follow along.  The sections will be reorganized and re-numbered starting with 10-6-101 so they are easier for taxpayers and county directors of equalization to reference. 

If you are interested in more information about the state’s property taxes, the LRC has an issue memorandum written in 2016 titled “Property Taxation – A Modern History.”  You can find it on the LRC website sdlegislature.gov under the “References” tab.

2021 Session Starts Tuesday

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As a new Legislative Session gets underway on the second Tuesday in January, District 24 residents will have a new team representing them in Pierre.  After eight years in the House, I will be moving to the Senate, and Mike Weisgram and Will Mortenson will be joining the House. 

At the beginning of each Legislative Session, I reflect on ways to best represent the people who live in Hughes, Hyde, Stanley, and Sully counties.  I have learned that legislators don’t have to be an expert on every topic.  However, they need to be diligent in getting good information from those who are the experts. 

We are fortunate to have a media presence in Pierre that is committed to reporting on legislative activities.  In addition, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) website provides comprehensive information about bills and amendments, committee work, and floor action.  By going to the website www.sdlegislature.gov, you can find the texts of bills and see when they are scheduled for committee hearing. You can see what amendments have been offered.  You can listen to committee discussion and floor debate, and see how legislators voted on a bill.

The best way to contact me during session is to send an email to  Mary.Duvall@sdlegislature.gov.  When communicating with legislators, one key point to remember is that we are elected to represent the people who live in our district. E-mails, phone calls, and letters from those in my district receive more attention than those from outside the district.  Anonymous emails or those from out-of-state groups generally receive limited attention.

Emails do not need to be lengthy.  It’s enough to identify the issue – use the bill number if you know it – and explain briefly how it affects you.  Mass emails or copy-and-paste emails are ineffective.  It’s far better to explain one or two key points in your own words about why you support or oppose a measure.  If you can point out unintended effects, have constructive suggestions or workable alternatives, please let us know.

It’s a privilege to represent this district where many constituents are state employees who have an in-depth understanding of various aspects of state government.  Others in this district have areas of expertise that can help ensure state government works well.  I encourage you to contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions on the legislative issues we will be tackling over the next nine weeks.