PIERRE — I shudder to write about this. Why did Sen. Stace Nelson have to work so hard to ban legislators from sexual relationships with interns and pages? Nelson, R-Fulton, had to try twice this year to get it done. And if his version of the story is accurate, he tried in the past to privately draw attention to the problem. The joint committee on legislative procedure accepted one sentence from Nelson's proposed ban Wednesday.
PIERRE — State government officials fear protesters might try to disrupt traffic in South Dakota in an attempt to block construction supplies for the Keystone XL pipeline. The Legislature responded by giving final approval Friday to new restrictions sought by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. State senators voted 25-10. The measure, SB 176, has an emergency clause to take effect immediately upon the governor signing it into law rather than the standard July 1 date. The House of Representatives voted 55-12 for it Thursday.
PIERRE — The Legislature wrapped up the main run of its 2017 session Friday by approving two more measures dealing with investigations of government officials and reforming state laws on election campaigns. Lawmakers approved much of Secretary of State Shantel Krebs' massive rewrite of campaign laws and established a specific process for dealing with allegations of misconduct involving state government. Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said the campaign finance legislation ends the practice of allowing elected officials to keep money leftover in their campaign accounts.
PIERRE — Legislators scraped together enough money Friday to pay for an inflationary increase of 0.3 percent in state aid for K-12 public schools across South Dakota. The increase also would apply to special education throughout the state and for salaries at the four public technical institutes. The money came in the wake of predictions earlier this month that the funding couldn't be found. The $48,500 target salary for K-12 teachers rises to $48,645 with the increase in state aid, state economist Jim Terwilliger told legislators.
PIERRE — State government might need to tap its $157 million of reserve funds this spring or summer if tax revenues continue to lag, the Legislature's budget co-chairmen said Friday. The comments came as lawmakers approved $24 million of cuts to the current 2017 budget for state government that runs through June 30. Then they set a 2018 budget that starts July 1. It is $9.9 million smaller than what they passed a year ago. "We did not grow government. We reduced," said Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings.
PIERRE — Wholesalers would be allowed to pour wine and alcohol manufacturers could serve drinks at charity events in South Dakota under a measure that won final approval from state legislators Thursday. Next stop for SB 128 is the governor's desk for his decision whether to sign it into law. The legislation contains an emergency clause so it would take effect immediately upon the governor's approval. Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, said it was discovered last summer some events raising money for nonprofits were being conducted illegally under state law.
PIERRE — State senators made tens of millions of dollars in adjustments to state government's 2017 budget Thursday because tax revenue continues at less than planned. The House of Representatives will take up the 2017 budget revisions Friday. Both chambers also intend to debate the 2018 budget Friday. The cuts Thursday set the stage for a lean year ahead that starts July 1. "Revenues haven't quite lived up to our expectations so we've made some changes," Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, said about revising the 2017 budget.
PIERRE — South Dakota lawmakers decided Thursday the general education tax levy on agricultural property should increase slightly for the next 25 years to pay for building a new animal disease research and diagnostic laboratory at South Dakota State University. The Senate debated hard about the plan before approving it 29-6. The House of Representatives didn't argue at all before giving final approval 60-6. The original plan from Gov. Dennis Daugaard called for raising fees on many agricultural supplies. Livestock and crop organizations resisted that approach.
PIERRE — The state House of Representatives declined Wednesday to accept Senate amendments to HB 1157 that would pay for the new animal disease laboratory at South Dakota State University. The Senate on Tuesday kept the funding for the $3 million of annual bond payments but removed funding for the new agriculture future development fund that House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte wants. Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, made the Senate motion. House members agreed with Qualm's motion Wednesday to send the bill to a House-Senate conference committee.
PIERRE — Incidents involving a lawmaker and several interns led the Legislature's procedure committee to recommend Wednesday a rule prohibiting sexual relationships. The panel adopted one part of a proposal from Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. The rule, if adopted by the full Legislature, would be: "No legislator or legislative employee may have sexual contact with any legislative intern or page, and no legislative intern may have sexual contact with a page."