Legislative Update – Week #4
Whereas most legislative weeks are four-day weeks, week 4 of the 2022 legislative session spanned all five days. My work life in retail was a six-day a week job (if not more), so this should not have felt burdensome, but it was somewhat long and stressful. Many pieces of legislation have been introduced and will be heard by their respective committees, as assigned. The goal at this point in session is to keep up with the topics, details, and purpose that each bill brings forward, which can be very difficult considering the multitude of bills. For me, it is imperative to prioritize what is coming to my committees (Local Government and Commerce & Energy) and to be well versed and prepared on these bills first before researching the others.
House Bill 1138 is a bill that did not get much mention but did receive a brisk debate in our House Commerce and Energy Committee this week. This legislation proposed an increase in the amount of money patrons could bet on video lottery machines (from two dollars to four) and increase the amount of winnings that could be collected per bet (from one thousand dollars to five). Regardless of how you personally feel about video lottery gambling, it is a fact that it brings in more than $160 million of revenue to the State and recently, income from video lottery gaming has increased nearly 30 percent. Without getting into the details of the debate, the Commerce and Energy Committee members voted to defeat the bill, and I think the reasons why were the concerns that increasing the bet limits could be detrimental to players having addiction tendencies. Also, the proponents failed to demonstrate the need for expanding bet limits to increase revenues for the private businesses that offer video lottery machines / gaming as sales have already been increasing. Gambling as a source of revenue for our State has always been controversial, but the voters has spoken five times (1989, 1992, 1994, 2000, and 2006) to establish and keep video lottery legal in South Dakota.
Probably the most controversial event of the week was on Wednesday when the House State Affairs Committee failed to advance Draft 579 entitled “Prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detectible”. The draft was presented by the committee on behalf of the Governor. It did receive a motion to introduce the draft to become a bill (legislation), but the motion died because no one seconded the motion. There is much written about this occurrence and my email has been active on the subject too. Governor Noem called this action unprecedented, and I think most would agree with that conclusion.
Looking forward to next week, I expect finalization of an amendment to Senate Bill 53 that moves the discussion forward of the Governor’s proposal to increase workforce housing opportunities. As you may remember, the Governor recommended an appropriation of $200 million (a combination of general funds and one-time federal funds) to fund a program to partner with local governments and developers for workforce housing infrastructure projects. As discussion progressed on how such a program could work, there is seeming agreement that a program that has a combination of grants and a low interest loan fund will most effectively help new construction start now and in the future. There was much input and collaboration from current developers of new home developments, the Governor’s office, and the legislators from the summer study on workforce housing to bring this favorable amendment to the original Senate Bill 53. Hopefully this comes forth this week and I can elaborate on it further. Remember, it will need to pass both houses of the legislature as well, so it is a long way to fruition.
Thank you for the emails and texts I received this week, I appreciate your input. mw