PIERRE — The 2016 session of the Legislature ended its main run Friday. Here's a look at some of the courageous events that occurred and the people at the center of them: Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, and Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls "Be bold," urged the co-chairs of the governor's Blue Ribbon task force on teachers and students. Sly and Soholt spearheaded the drive to improve teacher pay in South Dakota.
PIERRE—The state Public Utilities Commission meeting Tuesday features some major decisions about construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline through South Dakota. The commission will decide whether to accept the company's choice of Eric Munz as its public liaison officer and the company's choice of Ryan Coleman as its third-party compliance monitor. Munz worked on easements and access issues for TransCanada's Keystone and Keystone XL pipelines. Coleman works for a Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based consulting group.
PIERRE—State legislators adopted the statewide property-tax levies for general education Thursday for the 2017 tax year, but at least a few lawmakers didn't seem to understand the math. The agricultural levy remains the same at $1.568 (one dollar and 56.8 cents) per $1,000 of taxable land value. Yet, that actually is a decrease. Here's why—and this is the spot where some House members became high-centered Thursday. As part of the broader school-finance changes approved this year, the pension levy for schools will be rolled into the general-education levies.
PIERRE—The Senate and the House of Representatives adopted four pages of changes to the current 2016 budget for state government Thursday without a struggle. Meanwhile, the 18 members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations finished preparation of the 2017 budget bill they've worked on since mid-January. If all stays on schedule, the Senate and the House could have the budget bill adopted by noon today. The budget, traditionally, is the final act taken during the main run of the legislative session.
PIERRE — Unless the governor disagrees, the Legislature rather than a state board shall have the final word on offensive or insulting place names in South Dakota. The House of Representatives voted 67-0 Wednesday to restrict the power of the state Board on Geographic Names. Under HB 1060, the board could act only on a name change for a geographic place name that has been identified by state law as being offensive or insulting. The board could hold hearings to consider recommending names for the Legislature to consider as offensive or insulting.
PIERRE — Most abortions performed in week 20 or later after fertilization would become a crime in South Dakota under a major change by the Legislature. State senators gave final approval Wednesday 26-7 to the legislation. SB 72 now goes to the governor for his review. Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, was prime sponsor. His lead sponsor in the House was Rep. Isaac Latterell, R-Tea. Their measure finds that unborn children can feel pain in week 20 of a pregnancy and makes an abortion unlawful at that point except for a medical emergency.
PIERRE—State senators voted 25-10 Wednesday for the third and final piece of Gov. Dennis Daugaard's plan to increase teacher pay and reform school finances in South Dakota. The legislation restructures the funding formula for school districts to base spending per teacher rather than per student, sets caps on school reserves, creates boundaries for capital outlay taxes and counts six categories of other revenue as part of a school district's local effort.
PIERRE—The state House of Representatives strongly supported a package of legislation Tuesday intended to help improve education of American Indian students in South Dakota. Two of the three measures go to the desk of Gov. Dennis Daugaard next for his review. SB 81 creates a tuition assistance program for training paraprofessionals to become teachers at public school districts with high enrollments of Indian students. Its estimated cost is $430,000. Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, called it "a grow your own" concept. House members voted for it 61-5.
PIERRE — Life sentences for juvenile offenders would be outlawed in South Dakota under a change approved Tuesday by the state House of Representatives. The legislation appeared to be dead Monday morning after the House State Affairs Committee voted 7-6 against it, with House Republican leader Brian Gosch, of Rapid City, casting the tiebreaker. But Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, and Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, worked to have the House revive SB 140 on Tuesday and then pass it 50-17. Tieszen is its prime sponsor and Johns is the lead sponsor in the House.
PIERRE — Even Rep. Lance Russell admitted he couldn't resist voting for a property tax reduction for buffer strips Monday, regardless that it originated among the Legislature's Democrats. Russell, R-Hot Springs, joined most of the rest of the state House of Representatives and supported allowing grass strips planted on cropland along water bodies to be assessed at a lower value for property taxes as non-cropland.