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.