The Main Run of the 2016 Legislative Session ended two minutes before noon on Friday, with the passage of SB172, the state’s budget bill for the Fiscal Year which begins on July 1, 2016. This is the earliest a budget has been adopted … last year the House adjourned at 11:32 p.m. The Appropriations Committee adopted a new budgeting process that seems to have worked very well. This committee works harder than any other committee during the legislative session, generally meeting every day from about seven a.m. until noon, and then again after the floor session has ended in the afternoon.
The half-cent sales tax increase generated a lot of attention and discussion during the Session, as well as the bill dealing with transgender students. However, the legislature also tackled many other issues that are important to South Dakota. Several pro-life bills were passed, such as the one to prohibit abortions after a time when unborn babies are capable of feeling pain. The legislature also adopted an informed consent law pertaining to abortion-causing drugs, one to make it a felony to sell human fetal body parts, and one to require the Department of Health to post on its website the results of its annual abortion clinic inspections.
The legislature passed two bills dealing with autism. One would allow families with autistic children to set up a savings account to pay for needed services. Patterned after the college savings accounts, these ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts will enable families to save for housing, education, transportation, medical and other expenses, and be exempt form a $2,000 cap on conventional accounts. The legislature also adopted a bill which came out of a work group that would license people offering applied behavior analysis services.
Other bills dealt with elder abuse, juvenile justice, human trafficking, and open government.
The legislature is scheduled to meet again on March 29 to consider any gubernatorial vetoes. At this point, there are questions about SB159 dealing with insurance tax credits to pay for private school tuition, and SB136 giving a tax break to buffer strips along waterways. The governor is seeking advisory opinions from Supreme Court about the constitutionality of these measures.
Complete legislative information is available on the Legislative Research Council website at http://www.legis.sd.gov.