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State economic development efforts under scrutiny

PIERRE -- The Legislature will spend time in the final three weeks of the 2014 session, and in the months afterward, looking at state government's activities in economic development.

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That includes the EB-5 immigrant investor program that has been the subject of state and federal investigations.

The joint Government Operations and Audit Committee will convene in the next 10 days or so to begin hearings that were ordered by the full Legislature.

The Senate State Affairs Committee, meanwhile, made a small but potentially significant decision Friday, keeping a specific piece of legislation active for the purpose of possibly adopting reforms.

SB 168 says, "The Legislature shall provide oversight and accountability to economic activities in the state."

The committee members voted unanimously to send it to the full Senate and keep it moving through the process until needed.

Tuesday is the deadline for a bill to clear its first house.

The bill is what's known as a "vehicle" in which real legislation can be inserted at a later date if needed.

The bill's sponsor is Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg. "At this time I still don't know whether or not something may be required," Brown told the committee.

He met no disagreement in asking for the bill to remain active.

Some legislators have been circulating a three-page amendment that would require an annual economic-development report, an evaluation plan for analyzing programs and an analysis at least every three years regarding effectiveness and costs.

The amendment would cover the Revolving Economic Development Initiative loan fund and the Future Fund grant program that began in 1987; and the Building South Dakota grant program started in 2012.