The Legislature passed the halfway point last week, and we are into the final three-and-a-half weeks of Session. Major topics continue to be road funding, education funding, property taxes, gun rights, and the death penalty.
The Senate passed, by a vote of 26-8, a road funding bill that was amended to closely mirror the governor’s funding proposal. The bill includes:
– Increasing the vehicle excise tax from 3% to 4%
– Increasing the fuel tax (including ethanol) by 2 cents per gallon each year until June 30, 2023
– Increasing vehicle registration fees by ten percent
– Increasing the farm truck registration fees to 70% of the commercial rate in the first year, and then to 75% the next year. Currently farm trucks pay 60% of the commercial rate.
– Allowing counties to assess an additional $1.20 per thousand dollars of valuation, and the townships to assess an additional 50 cents per thousand, for roads. The additional assessment would need to be approved by a public vote.
Both the House and Senate versions of the funding package have been referred to House State Affairs committee.
The House rejected a proposal that would have repealed the cap on property tax increases. While there was general agreement that some counties are underfunded, there was also a reluctance to undo the property tax limitations that were implemented in 1997. Part of the discussion includes the need for tax reform, starting with education funding. In 2014, over half of all property taxes went to fund K-12 education, while counties got less than a third. Municipalities got slightly over ten percent; townships and special purpose districts got the rest.
Eight different gun bills have been introduced this year. Two have been voted down in the Senate – one related to trespass associated with hunting, and one allowing certain legislators to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol building – and one has been rejected by House State Affairs committee, that would do completely away with the concealed carry permit. South Dakota is an “open carry” state, meaning that guns may be openly carried in most places (the exceptions are schools, bars, courthouses, and the Capitol building). A person who wishes to legally carry a concealed weapon must get a permit through their county sheriff. The permit is $10 and is valid for five years, and is issued to anyone who is at least 18 years old and passes the background check. The requirements for a concealed carry permit are listed on the Secretary of State’s website (www.sdsos.gov). Several bills would change the concealed carry permit laws, several deal with guns in the Capitol, and one would allow concealed weapons on public university campuses.
Four bills dealing with the death penalty have all been defeated in committee. SB121 would have repealed the death penalty, and SB122 would have allowed the death penalty only if a jury funds the defendant is too dangerous to be incarcerated. HB1158 and HB1159 would have allowed victims to state their opposition to the death penalty.
Complete legislative information is available on the Legislative Research Council website at http://legis.sd.gov/.
You may reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the House Lobby at 773-3851.