PIERRE — The Legislature's budget panel gave its crucial blessing Thursday to Northern State University constructing a science center paid through $25.1 million of gifts. The 15-1 vote by members of Joint Committee on Appropriations came after a hearing that ran more than one hour. NSU President Tim Downs portrayed the project as part of an effort to increase the university's enrollment by 500 students in the next few years.
PIERRE — Spink County would become eligible for special non-resident three-day waterfowl hunting licenses with legislation that flew through the state Senate Wednesday. SB 123 heads to the House of Representatives next. Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, spoke for adding Spink to a bloc of counties — Brown, Marshall, Roberts, Day, Grant, Clark, Codington, Deuel and Hamlin — where 500 of the licenses already are available.
PIERRE — Agriculture landowners in South Dakota could get 40 percent off their property taxes on buffer strips to help clean runoff flowing into lakes, rivers and streams under a measure approved Wednesday in the state Senate. Debate began Monday but there was a two-day delay to consider an amendment so that landowners wouldn't have to annually file for the reduction. Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, withdrew the amendment Wednesday. The vote was 34-0. The legislation, SB 66, now goes to the House of Representatives.
PIERRE — Employees of local governments in South Dakota would receive whistleblower protections for reporting possible wrongdoing under a measure approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives. Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, said they should have the same protections as state government employees already have. "It's pretty straight-forward," Haggar said. A coalition of Republicans and Democrats approved an amendment from Rep. Susan Wismer, D-Britton.
PIERRE — A state lawmaker wants South Dakota motorists to drive with Dignity on their cars and "in their hearts." Senators voted 35-0 Wednesday for legislation that would give vehicle owners the option of license plates showing the new Dignity statue. The sculpture, a Native American woman 50 feet tall receiving a star quilt, stands at the Interstate 90 rest stop at Chamberlain overlooking the Missouri River. Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, is prime sponsor of the SB 118. The measure now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
PIERRE — South Dakota lawmakers want to shut down the Legislative Planning Committee five years after it began. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to repeal the state laws that created it. Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, brought the legislation, SB 120. She also brought Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, who originally got the laws passed. "I feel like I'm shooting my own dog," Lust said. Given term limits, he said, it's possible that long-term planning can't work. "What it's become is not what was intended," he said.
PIERRE — A South Dakota legislative committee blocked an attempt Tuesday to start rolling back the 2016 sales tax increase. The legislation sought to strip four words out of a 2016 law that calls for revenue from remote sellers to be dedicated to reducing South Dakota's sales tax. The fight was over the phrase "to enforce the obligation." The dilemma arrived when several businesses, the latest Amazon, agreed to voluntarily start collecting and remitting sales taxes on mail order and Internet purchases.
PIERRE — Local business improvement districts in South Dakota could levy a lodging room tax up to 3 percent room prices under a proposal that began moving Tuesday through the Legislature. The 3 percent would be an alternative to the $2 maximum fee that already is permitted. "I think this is good policy," Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, said. He is prime sponsor of the measure, HB 1085. Lust said he thought the percentage should have been used from the start. He called the $2 fee "inherently unfair" because it is proportionately much higher for lower-priced rooms.
PIERRE — South Dakota judges would be allowed to set longer probation periods for juvenile offenders under legislation offered by two Brown County lawmakers. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously endorsed SB 164 as several influential members of the panel spoke against the 2015 juvenile justice reforms that originally set the probation periods. The 2015 law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, set maximums of four months for juvenile probation, eight months for intensive juvenile probation and 12 months total for all probation.
PIERRE — Child support and child custody are splitting the Legislature this year. At odds are lawmakers who want to adjust the child-support payment schedule for the first time since 2009 and lawmakers who want joint custody to become the presumed arrangement in divorce cases. Each side seems to have enough votes to block the other's legislation. The latest incident came Tuesday. A Senate panel decided Tuesday to delay its decision on whether to endorse changes in the child-support payment schedule.