PIERRE—The Legislature is one step away from approving major changes in how workers' compensation benefits are calculated for employees in South Dakota. State senators are scheduled to vote on final approval as early as this afternoon on changing the income determination. Under the new approach, known as aggregation, all of the current jobs the worker couldn't perform because of the injury would become the basis for compensation. The South Dakota Supreme Court decided last spring that aggregation would be the correct approach.
PIERRE — Legislation that would require cemetery officials to file annual financial reports cleared its first test by a Senate panel Monday. The prime sponsor of SB 70 is Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, but she arranged for Rep. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, to present the bill to the Senate Local Government Committee. Last year Novstrup hit a dead end in the House Commerce and Energy Committee with legislation that attempted to put more regulations on cemetery finances.
PIERRE—Sales of wine and beer would be allowed at events on state university campuses under a measure supported Monday by the South Dakota Senate without any ayes to spare. Senators approved the change 18-13. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives. Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, is prime sponsor of SB 102. He said wine and beer already are given away with the university president's approval. Private vendors, rather than the universities, would hold the licenses for wine and beer sales, according to Tidemann.
PIERRE—South Dakota's highway fund doesn't receive tax revenue on the electricity used to power hybrid- and electric-powered cars and trucks. The Legislature raised most motor-fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees last year to provide big boosts in state and county highway funding. But lawmakers decided against levying special fees of $40 for a hybrid and $80 for an all-electric. The free pass for electricity as a vehicle fuel became the argument Monday against raising tax rates on other fuels that weren't addressed last year.
PIERRE — Every year, through hundreds of votes cast over eight or nine weeks, the 105 members of the Legislature decide for South Dakota just what is the greater good. They've been at it for four weeks already this winter. From now through March 11, the lawmakers will go through the hardest work of that process. Medicaid expansion, Indian Health Service reform, teacher pay, school funding, property tax relief, a sales tax increase and government ethics lead the agenda.
PIERRE—Some members want to talk about better pay for the Legislature starting in 2017 if money can be found. They currently receive $6,000 per year for their two-year terms. They also receive mileage and expense payments of $125 per day during legislative session and other official business. Sen. Deb Peters and Rep. Mark Willadsen are suggesting each of the 105 lawmakers get $500 per month for expenses in April through December when they aren't in session.
PIERRE—A state lawmaker from the home of the Big Stone power plant wants the Legislature to tell the federal government to back off. Rep. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, is prime sponsor of a resolution asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its current clean-air plan. The companies that own the Big Stone plant spent $384 million on its new air-quality control system that was completed in December after three years of construction.
PIERRE—The governor, a group of Republicans and a group of Democrats separately filed new legislation dealing with ethics, contracts and conflicts of interest Thursday. The proposals came at the deadline for individual legislators to introduce legislation. Committees face their deadline today. The various measures, along with several others introduced earlier in the 2016 session, are responses to two scandals that unfolded in the past three years.
PIERRE—The state Senate reversed course Thursday and approved changes providing more favorable tax treatment for small parcels of agricultural land in South Dakota. The measure passed 18-17 after it had failed 17-18 on Wednesday, as Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, changed from a nay to an aye. The state House of Representatives, meanwhile, reaffirmed its opposition to creating a fourth class of property that would give more favorable tax treatment for leased residential housing. The housing measure failed on a 34-34 vote. It needed at least 36 ayes to pass.
PIERRE—Additional oversight by the Legislature is needed for government insurance pools operated in South Dakota for school districts, cities, counties and other public bodies, the state House of Representatives decided Thursday. House members voted 65-0 to put requirements on the insurance pools, in the wake of legislators learning in the past year that the Associated School Boards of South Dakota had run up an eight-figure debt operating its insurance program.