South Dakota’s 91st Legislative Session will convene at noon next Tuesday, January 12. After a few housekeeping procedures, the first order of business will be for Governor Daugaard to present his State of the State Address. He is expected to outline his legislative objectives for the 2016 Session, including his proposal to address teacher salaries and the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Education. (The full Blue Ribbon report is available online at http://blueribbon.sd.gov/)
In addition to education funding, another major topic of discussion will be the possibility of Medicaid expansion. In his budget address a month ago, the governor outlined a plan to expand Medicaid services to an additional 55,000 South Dakotans, in return for Indian Health Services honoring an existing Treaty obligation to pay the full health care costs for American Indians in South Dakota. The proposal is contingent on IHS, tribal, and legislative approval, and is far from decided. However, the governor’s office estimates that if IHS honors its Treaty obligations, the State will save $67 million in general funds; at the same time, Medicaid expansion is estimated to cost $57 million, leaving a potential net “gain” of $10 million.
Several bills have been pre-filed, including those brought forth by various interim committees which met over this summer. The County Government Study Committee is offering three “cleanup” bills dealing with obsolete or outdated statutes, and three designed to help counties address funding concerns. One would increase various fees that sheriffs and other county officials charge for services they provide. The fees that sheriffs can charge for providing civil process were last adjusted in 2007 and they cover, on average, less than half the cost of providing these services. Another would allow counties to impose sales and use taxes. The third bill would change the allocation of the alcoholic beverage fund. Currently, this tax generates about $14 million per year, with 75% going to the State general fund and the rest split among cities. The interim committee is recommending that the fund be divided three ways, with one-third going to the State, one-third shared among cities, and one-third shared among counties.
The interim Agricultural Land Assessment Oversight Committee is bringing in three bills: one to classify native grassland as noncropland, one to better clarify the definition of agricultural land for tax purposes, and one to appropriate $175,000 for SDSU to update the soil tables which are used to determine the productive value of agricultural land. The current tables are twenty years old, and are no longer accurate.
These bills, and others, will be covered in greater detail as the Session unfolds. You can find comprehensive legislative information online at: legis.sd.gov
I will again be serving on the House Transportation Committee (vice-chair) and House Taxation Committee. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com