Both my Education and Commerce Committees have completed their hearings and are done, but that doesn’t mean things are slow. The full House will work to complete its agenda and devote time to compromises between Senate and House bills.
This Session I provided leadership on three bills: the Big Stone School Fairness Bill to allow the Big Stone School to remain open without consolidation; the Bicycle Passing Safety Bill to establish objective safety standards when passing a bicycle; and the Emergency Municipal Election Appointment Bill to allow emergency appointments to a municipal election board in the event a member falls ill or otherwise can’t participate in the election. As a new legislator, I’m especially grateful all three bills successfully made it through the legislature and now await the Governor’s signature. From what I’m told, that doesn’t happen too often for new members.
Two main themes dominated discussion this Session. The Juvenile Justice Bill has moved through the full Senate and House committee. I’ll hear it on the House Floor this week. I anticipate broad bipartisan support. The bill seeks to change the way the court system deals with minors – while holding them accountable for their actions, it provides for evidence-based programs to help keep youth in their communities for treatment and probation rather than sending them to jail.
The other main theme is Highway and Bridge Funding. Like the Juvenile Justice Bill, it has moved though the Senate and House committee and will be heard by the full House this week. The bill addresses some of the imminent road and bridge infrastructure needs in our state. If it passes, the Senate and House versions will be reconciled in committee. The current House proposal calls for (1) an increase in vehicle excise tax from 3% to 4%, raising $27 million for the state; (2) increasing fuel tax 2 cents per year for three years, raising $13 million for the state; (3) increasing vehicle registration fees 20%, raising $14.8 million for local use; and (4) allowing, but not requiring, counties to increase wheel tax on actual number of wheels up to 12 and allowing counties to tax up to $5 per wheel, raising about $500,000 for local use. The estimated total comes to $40.2 million for state use and $14.9 million for local use. There is also a separate proposal to increase the interstate speed limit from 75 to 80 mph.
Two bills generated most of the email this week:
The River Basin Natural Resource District Bill, SB2, would establish a new level of government, and eventually a new taxing authority to manage the nine districts this bill establishes. The bill also mandates a “pilot water management plan” for the Natural Resource District that includes Grant, Deuel and small portions of Codington and Brookings counties that could be used as a guide for a water management plan in each of the remaining river basin natural resource districts. No funding source is specified. The bill did well in the Senate, but I anticipate resistance in the House. I do not plan to support it.
The other bill that generated lots of email was the Youth Minimum Wage Bill. If passed, the measure would exempt South Dakota workers under age 18 from the $8.50 minimum wage voters approved in November. Both the House and Senate approved the bill, and it now sits on the Governor’s desk for his decision. Although I support a youth minimum wage, I voted against this bill because I don’t believe its right for legislators to vote against the will of the people.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon!