Looking back at a legislative week can feel like reviewing the scorecard of a baseball game. A proper “scoremaster” scorecard in baseball reveals all the elements of a game on one sheet of paper (i.e., player names, positions, at bats, strike outs, hits, errors, stolen bases, runs, etc.). The scorecard works great for a baseball purest like me. Unfortunately, there is no such scorecard for a session week, so I do my best with a spiral notebook.
This week Wednesday, February 23 was “crossover day”. Crossover is a milestone date during the legislative session because it is when all legislation must leave its house of origin (House or Senate) so it can be addressed in the opposite body. In other words, all senate bills had to clear the Senate and all house bills had to clear the House by the end of the business day. My spiral notebook reveals that we dealt with 42 bills on Wednesday with a total of 105 bills voted on for the week. While not all of these bills required a significant amount of deliberation, some did. A few that required deliberation and debate included mandatory sentencing for people committing multiple offenses of DUI, establishing provisions (rules and taxation) concerning the sale of adult use marijuana if the voters legalize recreational marijuana in the fall, and appropriation bills (spending tax money) on one-time expenditures like new buildings for our technical schools.
I am pleased that funds needed to repair, preserve, and improve the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre received unanimous support this week with a 68-0 vote! Additionally, the approval of an appropriation for funding a Master Plan for renovations for the Capitol Lake made this a good week for central South Dakota. Related, the House also approved an appropriation for the erection of the South Dakota Sioux Code Talkers Memorial to be placed on the Capitol grounds. We have always been proud of our Capitol grounds, and the upgrades to be accomplished in the upcoming years will be exciting.
Two notable and much talked about pieces of legislation failed to garner enough support this week to advance. SJR 502 proposed an amendment to the South Dakota constitution, and it would have authorized wagering on sporting events by individuals located around the state by using their cellphone. Had the resolution passed, it would have put the issue on the 2022 general election ballot, and the voters would have ultimately decided its fate.
HB 1327 aimed to lower the state sales tax rate from 4.5% to 4.0% over the next two budget cycles. Citing record revenues from sales tax collections due to a friendly and “open for business” environment and an influx of people moving to our state, many members of the House supported a sales tax reduction and the bill passed on the House floor by a 39-31 margin on Wednesday. However, the bill met its demise in the Senate State Affairs Committee Friday by a margin of 6-1. Senators of that committee were hesitant to further the tax reduction legislation, citing concerns about increased sales tax receipts not being sustainable due to rising interest rates, lesser anticipated amounts of federal stimulus payments expected, possible passage of Medicaid expansion by voters in the fall, and the uncertainty of current world events.
Thank you very much for your contacts this week as I appreciate your thoughts on the issues that are of most interest to you. mw