PIERRE—Raising the state sales tax to pay teachers isn't proving as easy in the Legislature this year as raising taxes and fees on motor vehicles and fuels was last year. We can see when a highway or a bridge needs work. We don't see how many teaching applications our school offices don't receive. The question raised by legislators who don't want to raise the sales tax is simple: What will we get for our money? The answer isn't as simple as more miles of resurfaced highway or bridges replaced.
PIERRE—With nine working days left, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday there isn't sufficient time in the 2016 legislative session to decide if government-funded Medicaid health services should cover more lower-income working people in South Dakota. Daugaard said a special legislative session could be held later this year or the matter could wait until the 2017 session next January if necessary.
PIERRE—The state Senate faces what might be the final vote today on expanding the regulation of conflicts of interest by public officials. The requirements would cover all of South Dakota's K-12 public education system if state funding is involved and the members of 22 state boards, commissions and authorities. The proposal from Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, would require disclosure of business conflicts, followed by determinations whether the arrangements are fair and reasonable and aren't contrary to the public interest.
PIERRE—The state Senate decided Monday timber harvests are an agricultural practice and shouldn't pay state and local sales taxes on motor fuel for off-road use. The vote was 33-2. The House of Representatives voted 53-2 for it on Feb. 8. The legislation, HB 1120, now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard. His administration opposed the bill at two committee hearings. Overcoming a governor's veto requires two-thirds majorities of 47 in the House and 24 in the Senate. The legislation's prime sponsor was Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland.
PIERRE—Funding received final approval Monday from the Legislature for a study on designing a modern diagnostic laboratory on animal diseases. The state Senate voted 35-0 for the appropriation of $1,575,000. The legislation, HB 1080, now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his review. The House of Representatives previously approved the funding 66-2. Officially, the legislation calls for expansion and upgrade. The money is in place from a livestock disease-testing fund, Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, said.
PIERRE — South Dakota's state government received official notice Friday that the federal government would start reimbursing at 100 percent for services to Indian Health Service patients who are sent to receive additional care through non-IHS facilities. Currently the federal government reimburses those non-IHS facilities at the standard Medicaid rate for a state. The state government pays the remainder. The change would make the federal government responsible for the full amount.
PIERRE— The state House of Representatives faced three different tax increases in the span of two days this past week. How the lawmakers responded showed stereotypes were misleading. One test came Monday on the governor's proposal to increase the state's 4 percent sales tax to 4.5 percent. The vote was 47-21 in favor for HB 1182. The second test came Tuesday on a South Dakota Municipal League proposal to allow cities to charge another 1 percent of local sales tax.
PIERRE — Two multiple family housing projects planned for Aberdeen and Sioux Falls received variances Friday from the state Public Utilities Commission so they can use master metering for electricity. The commission's rules call for individual metering on projects that receive state or federal funding but allow exceptions. The lease agreements call for the landlord, Lloyd Companies, to pay all utilities at each. Lloyd Companies lawyer Jacob Quasney said there will be a single water heater at each location and electric heating and cooling.
PIERRE — State Rep. Lee Schoenbeck said Friday he will not be resigning from the Legislature after all. Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, had declared Monday night and confirmed Tuesday morning he was resigning effective Wednesday. Before leaving the Capitol on Wednesday, he said he would talk with family and reconsider the decision. By Friday morning, he had decided he would serve the remaining 10 days of the 2016 legislative session. "I just never expected to have as many friends and constituents contact me," Schoenbeck said in a telephone interview.
PIERRE — The proposal to sell 132 acres of property at the South Dakota Developmental Center campus at Redfield cleared the state Senate on Thursday. But a Senate amendment means the legislation must return to the state House of Representatives for final approval. Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, said half of the proceeds would be put in a permanent trust fund that benefits the center while the other half, minus expenses, would be placed in state government's general fund.