PIERRE—Legislation that eventually could help persons with disabilities have money set aside by family and friends in tax-free accounts for future expenses is headed to Gov. Dennis Daugaard's desk. The state Senate gave final approval 35-0 Thursday to a measure that calls for officials to see whether other states would allow South Dakotans to join their ABLE plans. ABLE stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience. The tax-free savings accounts are similar to college savings plans and health savings accounts allowed under section 529 of the federal IRS tax code.
PIERRE—The Legislature's fight over treatment of transgender students ended Thursday when the state House of Representatives failed to override Gov. Dennis Daugaard's veto. The legislation, HB 1008, would have restricted use of bathrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms in public schools to students of the same biological sex. Students who didn't want to use the facilities for their biological sex could have asked for a separate accommodation in another part of the school.
PIERRE—A state Senate panel rejected the latest attempt by some legislators to override the transgender participation policy for South Dakota high school athletics Thursday. The Senate Education Committee voted 5-2 to kill the legislation sponsored by Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, and Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. The House of Representatives approved the legislation 45-23 on Feb. 9. But the Senate committee's action Thursday might have derailed it for this year.
PIERRE—South Dakota's tax structure would change for solar facilities in an attempt to encourage their construction, under a measure that received final approval Thursday from the Legislature. The Senate voted 33-1 for the measure, HB 1177. The House of Representatives had earlier approved it 54-15. Its prime sponsor is Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. The change could be a great economic development tool, said Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown. He is the bill's lead sponsor in the Senate. South Dakota doesn't have any solar production now.
PIERRE—South Dakota farmers would pay higher inspection fees on agricultural fertilizers under a conservation measure approved Thursday by the state Senate. The fee increases would raise an estimated $1 million. The proceeds would be used mainly for research into proper application of fertilizers. The Senate vote was 28-6. "Water quality is imperative for us. It's life. It's the future," Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, said.
PIERRE—The state House of Representatives is poised to consider a new program that would help three schools attempt different ways of teaching American Indian students. The House Education Committee, after some hard questions from a few legislators, gave its unanimous endorsement Wednesday to the proposal. The idea came from the American Indian student achievement advisory council that Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed last year. "We have struggled with achievement at our reservation schools since time began," Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said.
PIERRE—The state Board on Geographic Names would lose its authority to take final action on offensive place names under a proposal that advanced Wednesday to the South Dakota Senate. The latest version of the legislation calls for the board to gather information and make recommendations for legislative action. If the Legislature agreed with a recommendation, the board would carry out the decision.
PIERRE—Democratic and Republican leaders of the state Senate agreed Wednesday there's no need for a law that would require a governor to receive the Legislature's approval to expand Medicaid eligibility. The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 7-2 to reject the proposal from Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, and Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown. The House of Representatives approved the legislation last week, 42-26. That version of the measure called for any expansion of 5 percent or more in the Medicaid budget to be subject to legislative approval.
PIERRE—Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is halfway home in seeking to make her office more efficient. The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would authorize the purchase of an electronic filing system and also would raise more revenue from fees to pay for it. One of the changes calls for a $15 surcharge for a paper filing that could be done electronically. A $50 late fee for annual reports would be reinstated. Copy fees would double to $2 per page. A convenience fee, up to $20 per transaction, also would be authorized.
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.