SD Legislature starts final weekBudget, economic development, school sentinels all on agenda.
By: Chet Brokaw , The Associated Press
PIERRE — The main run of the South Dakota legislative session is coming to an end. On tap this week: passage of the state budget, as well as votes on measures to spur economic development and allow schools to arm teachers.
Here are five things to know as the Legislature heads into its final week:
The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, which includes both House and Senate members, will decide today how much revenue to expect for the rest of the current budget year and the new budget year that starts July 1. The panel will then know how much can be spent in the next state budget. The committee will meet later in the week to put the finishing touches on the spending plan so the House and Senate can pass the budget by Friday, the end of the main run of this year’s legislative session.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed a $4.1 billion state budget, with $1.3 billion of that to come from general state tax funds.
Lawmakers will consider changing the budget to expand Medicaid to provide medical insurance for thousands of additional low-income people, but that proposal is expected to fail because the governor wants to delay a decision for a year or more. The Legislature also will look at plans to increase state aid to school districts.
Tuesday is the deadline for bills to be passed by both chambers, so the House and Senate will work long hours today and Tuesday to debate and vote on measures that have already been approved by one chamber. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are reserved for each chamber to consider amendments made by the second chamber to pass a bill. For example, if the House makes an amendment to a bill that was originally passed by the Senate, the Senate has to decide whether to accept the changes made by the House.
If the Senate does not accept the House amendments, a conference committee will be appointed to try to negotiate a version of the bill acceptable to both chambers.
The exception to the deadline is the state budget, which will first go the House and Senate floors on the final days of the session.
Both chambers have passed a bill that would allow South Dakota school districts to arm teachers, other personnel or volunteers with guns in an attempt to prevent tragedies like December’s gradeschool shooting in Connecticut that left 20 children dead.
The Senate passed the measure last week, and it now returns to the House for consideration of changes made by the Senate. One of those changes would allow school district residents to refer a school board’s decision to arm teachers to a public vote. The House is expected to decide today whether to accept the Senate version of the bill.
Supporters argue that the bill leaves the decision up to each school district, and those in rural areas might want to arm teachers because schools are far from law enforcement agencies. Opponents contend that arming teachers could make schools more dangerous, lead to accidental shootings and put guns in the hands of people not adequately trained to shoot in emergency situations.
Legislative leaders of both political parties have put together a plan they say will not only help recruit large industrial projects to the state, but will also help bring smaller projects to rural communities. That plan will get its first hearing today in the House State Affairs Committee, where extensive new language will be added to a bill that currently reads: “The Legislature shall enhance economic development opportunities for the state.”
The plan would focus on giving tax breaks only to large projects that would not otherwise be built in South Dakota. A qualifying project would get a refund of all or part of the state sales tax paid on construction. But the contractor’s excise tax paid on the project would be put into a special fund, which also would get a portion of the unclaimed property the state gets from abandoned bank accounts. The special fund then would be used to support housing, infrastructure, workforce development and other programs needed to spur development.