Legislative Update – Week 4

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Last Friday during a press conference, Governor Daugaard and the Republican Leadership announced formation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force to improve the quality of education in South Dakota. The goals of the task force are:
– A quality system of schools that focuses on student achievement
– A workforce of great teachers
– An efficient, equitable funding system

Questions the task force will consider include:
– What is the nature of the teaching workforce? Where are there shortages? What should be done to address the issue?
– South Dakota is ranked #39 in per-student funding. Why doesn’t that translate to #39 in teacher salaries?
– Why have school reserve funds gone up?

Task Force members have not yet been named. Please be watching for more details. There will be opportunities for public input, with recommendations expected for the 2016 Legislative Session. This is the same approach the governor used in both adult and juvenile justice reform, as well as workforce development.

One issue the legislature is dealing with this year pertains to legislator salaries. Currently legislators are paid $6,000 per year, plus a per-diem for each day they are in Session or attending an interim committee meeting. For the District 24 legislators, the per-diem is considered taxable income because we all reside within 50 miles of Pierre.
HB1149 would specify that legislators are to be paid “at least” $6,000 per year. Both Representative Rounds and Duvall voted against this bill. HB1145 would allow per-diem for attending the Budget Address and the Swearing-In ceremony, and was supported by both Rounds and Duvall. SB170 would increase the salary to $10,000 per year. It has been referred to Senate Appropriations committee but has not been scheduled for hearing.

Road and bridge funding continues to be a major topic this Session. HB1131, introduced on behalf of the Governor, had a two-hour hearing in House Transportation committee and was referred to House State Affairs. SB1, a bill that came out of the Interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee, was amended by the Senate State Affairs committee to mirror the governor’s proposal. There are many details yet to be worked out on this issue. Briefly, the governor’s proposal would generate about $41 million for state roads and $10 million for local roads, with the option for counties and townships to levy additional property taxes.

Last week the Legislature passed HCR1004, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider and overturn the Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. The resolution is lengthy, but an interesting read. If you would like to read it, you may find it on the Legislative Research Council website at legis.sd.gov.
House Ag Committee killed a bill that would have limited the terms of conservation easements to no more than 100 years. While it was supported by some farm organizations, the majority of the testimony spelled out how landowners have the responsibility to know what they are signing when they enter into a conservation easement. In addition, there are specific reasons why a perpetual easement makes sense, such as when it is related to a state highway.

You may reach me at maryduvall@midco.net or by calling the House Lobby at 773-3851.

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