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SD House votes to alter definition of ag land

PIERRE — The state House of Representatives decided Wednesday that South Dakota needs different criteria for classifying land as agricultural for property tax purposes.

House members voted 37-33 in favor. HB 1097, which stemmed from a major dispute in Pennington County, now goes to the Senate.

Approximately one dozen Pennington County supporters of the bill perched at the front of the House gallery for the series of votes Wednesday.

One of the key changes is the income from agriculture that would be required.

Current law says at least one-third of a family’s gross income must come from agriculture. The proposal would make that threshold $1,000.

Landowners who get property re-classified as agricultural would benefit because the general-education levy for public schools is lowest for ag property.

The bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. Mike Verchio, R-Hill City. The bill fell short by one aye Tuesday on a 35-34 vote.

Verchio, now in his sixth year as a legislator, immediately declared his intent to seek a reconsideration vote.

He took that vote Wednesday and succeeded, as House members voted 39-31 to reopen debate on the bill.

Verchio picked up an aye from Rep. Isaac Latterell, R-Tea, who was excused Tuesday.

Seven of the legislators changed sides. Moving from aye to no were Republicans Jim Bolin of Canton and Anne Hajek of Sioux Falls and Democrat Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge. Switching from no to aye were Republicans Timothy Johns of Lead, Fred Romkema of Spearfish, Tim Rounds of Pierre and Manny Steele of Sioux Falls.