Legislature enters week 5


Last Friday the House ended their work week by spending nearly an hour debating a bill dealing with the death penalty.  Right now a person convicted of a capital offense can be found not guilty, not guilty by reason of insanity, guilty, or guilty but mentally ill.  If a person is found guilty by reason of insanity, they are hospitalized.  Those found guilty or guilty but mentally ill can be sentenced to life in prison or executed.

The law currently prohibits juveniles from being executed; the law also prohibits intellectually disabled from being executed.  HB 1123 would add those with “severe mental illness” from being executed.  The definition of “severe mental illness” refers to a substantial disorder which significantly impairs judgment, behavior, or ability to cope with the basic demands of life.  In these cases, the guilty person would face life in prison.

An amendment was added to specify that the severe mental illness must have manifested itself and been documented prior to the commission of the crime.  The bill passed 45-20 and will now be considered by the Senate.

On a much less emotional note, the House defeated a bill that sought to exempt those under 18 years of age doing less than $1,000 worth of sales in a year from having to collect and remit sales taxes.  According to the prime sponsor, the bill was being brought because lemonade stands were being shut down in Texas and other states for not remitting sales tax.  However, the SD Department of Revenue already exempts casual or occasional sales made by an individual who is not engaged in the business of selling at retail.  This means that kids in South Dakota can continue to have a lemonade stand or pumpkin patch and not have to keep track of whether or not they have made $1,000 worth of sales.

The House Transportation committee approved a bill that would permanently enact Daylight Savings Time in South Dakota, if the six states surrounding us also enact permanent Daylight Savings Time.  The committee also passed a bill that would change South Dakota from a five-year replacement schedule for license plates to a ten-year cycle.  There was some concern among committee members that ten years is too long a time frame because plates lose their reflectivity over time, making them hard to read.  However, the prime sponsor indicated that by doubling the time for plate replacements, it would allow for millions of dollars to go to local roads and bridges.

The House Local Government committee approved a bill allowing county commissions to permit tax breaks on riparian buffer strips in the county for a river, lake, or stream which is tributary to any of the water bodies approved last year for the tax break.  Any local option buffer strip would be assessed at 60 percent of its agricultural income value.

The deadline for introducing bills and joint resolutions was last Friday.  A total of 553 bills and joint resolutions were brought in this year, compared with 394 last year.  Bills have to pass the house of origin by the last Friday in February, meaning that committees will be busy the next three weeks as they sort through their bill log.

Start of Week Four


A year ago the third week of the Legislative Session included the resignation of a House member, DAPL protesters on the front steps of the Capitol, and legislators receiving threats about their efforts to repeal IM22, which had been declared unconstitutional.

In contrast, the third week of the 2018 Session included introduction of a spate of bills covering everything from open school enrollment to hunting mourning doves.  The deadline for all bills to be introduced is Thursday, Feb. 1.

One of the bills we deal with every year is the Governor’s Omnibus Water Funding Bill.  This is the annual request to appropriate dedicated funds for water, wastewater, and solid waste projects. There are no general funds in this bill.  Instead, the legislature passed bills in 1992 and 1993 to dedicate some of the revenues from on-line lottery ticket sales and tank inspection fees for the program.  The Water and Environment Fund also receives some of the contractor’s excise tax, tipping fees, and tire fees.

The Omnibus bill is developed through the annual state water planning process that ends with a public meeting conducted by the Board of Water and Natural Resources. This year’s proposal includes $7.5 million to provide grants and loans for drinking water, wastewater, and watershed projects, and another $2.5 million for solid waste disposal and recycling projects.  The bill also provides money for engineering studies and technical assistance for Clean Water and Drinking Water projects.

The Governor’s Omnibus Water Funding Bill has a 25-year history of successfully helping local project sponsors build water, wastewater, and solid waste projects that are important for South Dakota’s quality of life.

Last week in House Transportation committee, we heard a presentation on intersection safety, including the use of roundabouts.  According to the Department of Transportation, there are more than 11,000 intersections on the state highway system.   Many of these are where local roads, such as county roads, meet a state highway.

There are around 17,000 intersection crashes each year.  More than 27% of fatal and serious crashes occur at intersections.   For many intersections, where a minor road meets a state highway, a stop sign is the most effective way to control the intersection.  However, roundabouts are most effective for improving safety at larger intersections where there is a similar volume of traffic  from each direction.  In these cases, DOT will do a traffic analysis and cost analysis and determine if a roundabout is warranted.

The roundabouts are designed to accommodate truck traffic, with a center island surrounded by a truck apron to allow the rear wheels of the trailer to ride up over a sloped curb.  Cost of installing a roundabout is $1-2 million.  The DOT currently has eight roundabouts planned for installation in the state.

As we work our way through Session, committee activity is picking up.  Among the bills that will be heard is Transportation committee is a bill to exempt South Dakota from daylight savings time.  This bill has been tried – and failed – before in the Legislature, primarily because the vast majority of South Dakota’s population lives within an hour of the border.