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Legislators to gather to discuss sales-tax bills

Legislators in the South Dakota State Senate congregate during the regular session in January. Legislators in each House and Senate will gather on Wednesday for a special session. (Republic file photo)

PIERRE — The South Dakota Legislature meets Wednesday in special session starting at 10 a.m. on proposed laws that would allow state government to begin collecting sales and use taxes on transactions between remote sellers and South Dakota customers.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard plans to speak to a joint assembly of lawmakers at about 10:30 a.m. in the House of Representatives chamber. Then the 70 representatives and 35 senators will stay in the House and meet as a committee of the whole.

Legislative Research Council Executive Director Jason Hancock said Monday he didn't have a schedule of witnesses but expected the state Department of Revenue to have people to testify.

Hancock said other people could speak too.

State Revenue Secretary Andy Gerlach said he and lawyer Michael Houdyshell would testify Wednesday.

"Procedurally, it will be handled very much like an ordinary bill hearing in committee. There will be a call for proponent testimony and opponent testimony. We will have a sign-up sheet. Committee questions will be permitted," Hancock said.

House Speaker Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, will be chairman. The hearing is on the House floor. Testifiers speak from the lower rostrum where the House chief clerk normally is.

"The purpose is to give each side an opportunity to make their case, and for legislators to be able to ask questions. Any action on any bills will be taken later, on the floor of the separate chambers," Hancock said.

He couldn't provide an estimate how long the joint committee of the whole would take.

The three bills, two on remote sellers collecting and remitting tax, and the third on when state officials take office, follow standard procedure, with action in one chamber and then the second.

The House and Senate chambers aren't air-conditioned. Hancock said there's only the 19th century strategy of opening windows overnight and closing them during the heat of the day, "which we will be doing between now and Wednesday."

The state Bureau of Administration buildings and grounds division plans to bring all available fans, according to Hancock. He didn't know how many but the Wednesday forecast is 90-plus degrees.

Unclear is whether lawmakers will finish Wednesday. There isn't a Thursday plan.

"Since we do not expect the special session to run more than one day, if it turned out that the Legislature needed additional time, the two motions could be combined into a single motion at the end of the day on Wednesday, adjourning for the day to a time certain the following day," Hancock said.

Lawmakers passed the remote-seller act in 2016 with nearly unanimous support of 33-0 in the Senate and 64-2 in the House. Prime sponsor of SB 106 was Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford. Lead House sponsor was Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon.

Co-sponsors were 13 top Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Daugaard's administration backed it. State Attorney General Marty Jackley argued the case to the U.S. Supreme Court on April 17, while the high court ruled in favor of states June 21.

Recent SD special session history

• This is the eighth special legislative session since 1997, when lawmakers returned April 14 to deal with emergency increases in the state's motor fuel taxes.

• Legislative turnover since 1997 has been nearly 100 percent. Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, was a House member then. Gov. Daugaard was a Republican state senator from Garretson in 1997.

• In 2000, lawmakers met Dec. 28-29 to approve sale of the state cement plant and put the creation of a state trust fund on a special 2001 ballot.

• The 2001 special session Oct. 23-24 dealt with legislative redistricting after the 2000 national census.

• In 2003, lawmakers gathered June 26-27 to create a state risk pool for people who couldn't get health insurance.

• The 2005 special session Oct. 14 saw legislators appropriate nearly $19.9 million to assist the deep underground research facility in the former Homestake gold mine at Lead.

• In 2011, lawmakers drew new legislative districts and new state Supreme Court districts Oct. 24 after the 2010 national census.

• The 2017 special session June 12 saw legislators establish laws for non-meandered waters over private lands.

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