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South Dakota Senate approves $600 million in clean water infrastructure

The annual "crossover" day at the Capitol marks final day for bills to pass out of at least one chamber. The Senate -- spending federal funds -- OK'd historic investment in clean water, as well as a new science laboratory, and workforce housing.

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The South Dakota Senate on Feb. 23, 2022.
SD.Net

PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Senate made a historic — perhaps unprecedented — investment of $600 million into clean water projects and earmarked another $150 million for workforce housing during a pivotal day Wednesday, Feb. 23.

With members dressed all in black to commemorate so-called "crossover day," when a bill must pass out of at least one of the chambers to stay alive in the session, the 35-member Senate voted in near-unanimity for clean water, workforce housing, and a $60,000 spend on a new state laboratory.

Before the vote on the clean water bill, Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, noted the eye-popping dollar figure — aided by the American Rescue Plant Act of 2021 — for the normally spartan Legislature.

"This is the largest, single special appropriation that I could find in my little, short history lesson I tried to dig through," Wiik said before the vote. "This is an incredible way to use this money to build infrastructure and provide long-term impacts for ensuring public health, protection of the environment, and facilitate growth without growing government."

The project, under Senate Bill 62 , would provide over half-a-billion to the Board of Water and Natural Resources to give grants for wastewater and storm water projects.

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In not missing a political moment in the GOP-dominated Senate, Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, stood to observe that the money was "fully a result of the leadership of Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress."

The body voted 35-0 for the bill, which has yet to hit the House of Representatives.

The Senate also green-lit other projects Wednesday, including more than $60,000 to repair the state medical laboratory and $150 million investment into workforce housing, a signature issue from Gov. Kristi Noem.

Under Senate Bill 53 , the general fund would send $50 million to the Governor's Office of Economic Development and $100 million to the South Dakota Housing Development Authority to, in turn, fund grants to builders. No project could pull from both accounts. And until June 30, 2024, fully 50% of the projects funded by GOED must go to communities smaller than 50,000 people.

"That way our smallest communities would have a good shot [at being funded]," said Sen. Casey Crabtree, R-Madison.

The body also approved on a narrower, 20-14 vote, a regulation structure for dispensaries of adult-use marijuana, should voters approve its sale and possession this coming November.

Under Senate Bill 150 , prime sponsor Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, said a business looking to sell marijuana must already be licensed to sell liquor under state law.

"If this bill passes, and the vote on Nov. 8 fails, this is words on a piece of paper," said Greenfield.

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Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, speaking on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
SD.net

Christopher Vondracek is the South Dakota correspondent for Forum News Service. Contact Vondracek at cvondracek@forumcomm.com , or follow him on Twitter: @ChrisVondracek .

MORE FROM CHRISTOPHER VONDRACEK:
The state's biggest political leaders have touted inbound migration, so-called "blue state refugees" who flooded South Dakota. But the biggest driver of partisan races this coming summer and fall appears to be a redistricting process, log-jamming Republicans in primaries and opening up new turf for Democrats.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Christopher Vondracek covers South Dakota news for Forum News Service. Email him at cvondracek@forumcomm.com or follow him on Twitter at @ChrisVondracek.
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