2019 Main Run is Over

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Thanks to dire warnings about a blizzard scheduled to descend upon Pierre in the middle of last week, the legislators got busy and held the 39th Legislative Day from 12:30 a.m. until 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13. The final orders of business were to pass the bill allocating $1 million to the governor’s Second Century Habitat Fund, make some adjustments to last year’s appropriations bill, and approve the FY20 budget.

Looking back, a total of 475 bills and joint resolutions were introduced this year.  Less than half – 46% – made it through both chambers.  The governor vetoed two bills before legislators left town; both vetoes were upheld.  Legislators will need to return to Pierre on March 29 to consider any additional vetoes and to officially adjourn sine die.

A large amount of work done throughout the legislative session revolves around the appropriations process.  The final budget totals nearly $4.9 billion, with about $1.7 billion each in general funds and federal fund expenditure authority, and $1.4 billion in other funds.  The number of FTEs is slightly over 14,000.

A few of the big picture budget items include a ten percent increase for nursing home reimbursement rates and a 6.5 percent increase for community support providers.  Education and state employee salaries are both slated to increase by 2.5 percent.

While the 2019 Session is mostly done, conversations are already taking place about issues to tackle next year.  Among these are school capital outlay taxes, special education needs and funding, and mental health services.  An informal work group spearheaded by the Agriculture Department will address our laws concerning pesticide drift.  Another work group will be analyzing the state’s vehicle license plate system, to see if we need all 142 different types of license plates and whether a five-year life span for plates is the right length of time.  And, if Governor Noem signs SB66, there will be a nine-member interim legislative committee working with rural electric co-ops and municipal utilities to determine which entity should provide electric service in areas being annexed into the municipality.

 

We’re down to the final three days

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Last Friday was the deadline for all bills and joint resolutions to pass both Houses of the Legislature.  While the Senate finished their work about five o’clock, the House didn’t wrap up until about 7:30 that evening.  A large part of the day was spent debating the governor’s proposed Second Century Habitat Fund.

SB176 originally proposed taking $1 million of one-time money from the General Fund to provide a grant to the habitat fund within the South Dakota Community Foundation.  The Joint Committee on Appropriations amended the amount to $500,000 and sent it to the Senate, where it passed 25-9.  The House made a minor amendment, to make sure the bill ended up in conference committee, then voted 36-28 in favor of it.  However, since the bill has an appropriation and an emergency clause, it needed a 2/3 majority – or 47 votes.  The bill was reconsidered three more times and amended three more times before finally passing on a vote of 47-19.

The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.  Legislators expressed concerns about using general funds for this purpose.  There was also a desire to make sure the habitat funds did not go to those operating hunting preserves.

On Friday the legislature also passed two bills brought in by Governor Noem to help the state, counties, and municipalities deal with potential law enforcement expenses from rioting associated with anti-pipeline protests.  SB189 penalizes people or groups for “riot boosting.”  Our current laws on rioting date back to 1877, and carry felony penalties.  SB189 creates civil legal remedies to pursue out-of-state money funding the riots aiming to shut down the pipeline build.  SB190 creates the Pipeline Engagement Activity Coordination Expenses (PEACE) fund, which will be funded by a surety bond from the pipeline company as well as money from the riot boosting fund.

The final three days of Session are reserved for conference committees, to iron out differences between bills passed by each chamber, as well as finalize the budget.  Legislators are scheduled to return to Pierre on March 29 for Veto Day.