Main Run ends

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The Legislature adjourned at about 4:00 on Friday afternoon after passing the general appropriations bill for the fiscal year which begins July 1.  The total budget is slightly over $5.5 billion.  Of that amount, nearly half (49 percent) is for education.  Taking care of people accounts for 36 percent, and protecting the public accounts for ten percent.  The remaining five percent is for all the rest of state government.

Despite earlier concerns about not being able to find the 0.3% increase for education, appropriations committee members were able to find cuts in other areas to raise teacher salaries, provide a slight increase for community support providers, and help state employees with health insurance costs.  This budget is $71 million lower than the current FY17 budget.  It also reflects a reduction of 41.6 FTEs for the state.

The funding bill for the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory in Brookings was passed on a vote of 29-6 in the Senate and 60-6 in the House.  It redirects about eight cents/acre of the agricultural land property tax relief to make bond payments for the lab.  Farmers and ranchers will see the remaining property $2.2 million property tax relief reflected in the general school levy.  SB35 reduces the levy for ag land from $1.568 per thousand dollars of valuation to $1.507.

Other key components of the lab funding include taking $8.6 million from the Livestock Disease Emergency Fund, the Animal Remedy Fund, and SDSU/ADRDL in one-time money. The remaining $50.1 million will be bonded for 25years at four percent interest.  In addition, annual operation expenses of $800,000 will be covered by an increase in registration fees on pet foods and animal remedies.

During the 2017 session, several bills were passed to address issues contained in IM22.  These include a limit on lobbyist gifts, creating a government accountability board to investigate allegations against state officials, requiring more disclosure in campaign finance, doubling the amount of time state officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving office, and creating whistleblower protections for government employees who report suspected abuses.

We are scheduled to return on March 27 for Veto Day.

If you have questions about any of these topics, or would like more details on them, please contact me at maryduvall@midco.net

ADRDL package coming together

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As the legislature worked through crossover day last Thursday, we passed a package of bills to help pay for the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory (ADRDL) in Brookings.  House bill 1157 establishes a specific fund to pay for the lab and other future ag development needs within the regental system or the state’s technical institutes.  The first project for the fund will be to make $3,350,000 annual bond payments for the ADRDL.  In its current form, the bill also allows an additional $2 million each year to be directed to other needs.

The second bill in the package is SB35, which contains the annual adjustments for the general school fund levy.  An amendment will be offered on this bill to redirect the increased sales tax dollars from 2016 that were to be used for ag land property tax relief in the future.  This relief has not happened yet, but was planned for 2018.  Ag groups are asking that this money – which would account for about 13 cents per acre statewide – be directed instead to the agriculture future development fund.  That will amount to an estimated $5.5 million.

Senate bill 172 is the third bill in the ADRDL package.  In its original form it contained a variety of fees to help pay for the lab.  Amendments will be offered to remove those fee increases from the bill, with the possible exception of an increase on pet food to pay for annual operations and maintenance at the lab.

I expect these bills will all end up on a conference committee to iron out the final details.  At this time it has broad support from agricultural groups, legislative leadership, and the administration.

Two bills were offered at the last minute to promote agricultural development.  HB1187 would have revised the standard of review when courts consider appeals of conditional use permits.  It failed on a vote of 31-36 on the House floor.  It was later reconsidered, and failed a second time on a vote of 33-34.

House Bill 1188 was a bill to target state grants or low-interest loans for counties and municipalities which have adopted ordinances that prioritize new economic development activities.  Three state agencies were specifically identified in the bill:  Department of Transportation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Department of Agriculture.  The bill failed on a vote of 30-37.  However, opponents have agreed to work with the prime sponsor of the bill, the Municipal League, and the SD Association of County Commissioners to refine the idea and bring in legislation next year if needed.

At the request of custom harvesters, HB1124 was introduced to allow employees of custom harvesters to transport 1,000 gallons or less of diesel fuel without a HazMat endorsement on their Class A CDL permit.  States are allowed to enact this provision under federal highway rules.  Neighboring states have adopted this provision, or are in the process of doing so.  It passed the House 64-0 and came out of Senate Transportation committee on the consent calendar.

We are in the final two weeks of the Main Run.  All bills will have to be dealt with by Tuesday, March 7.  The final three days are reserved for concurrences or conference committee meetings for bills that were amended in the second chamber.