Legislative Update – Week #8
Investing (spending) money from the State’s general fund and/or from federal funds favored to our State was the main theme of activity at the SD House of Representatives this week. When there are available funds, there is no shortage of worthwhile projects, purchases, renovations, repairs, and upgrades to State-owned facilities. Although the complete list is too long to mention, one of the most notable investments was the authorization to construct a new state public health laboratory and renovate the existing laboratory and structure. Located on the corner of 4th Street and Governors Drive in Pierre, this structure was completed in 1996 and has served the citizens of South Dakota with quality analytical laboratory services either directly to the public or in conjunction with local, state, and federal partners. All funding to build and upgrade this facility is coming from the authority to spend federal funds that have been favored to us. $69 million is a large amount, but it is a huge task to move this project to fruition. Thank you and congratulations to former Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon for her leadership and interim Secretary Joan Adam for her excellent and professional presentation to the Appropriations Committees as they vetted the project. Central South Dakota and the entire state are the benefactors of these individuals and their excellent team as well as the entirety of this worthy project.
When there are 70 individuals in the House determining the worth of each investment, you can be sure there will be multiple opinions, suggestions, and even a healthy dose of skepticism regarding new variations of existing programs. This was true of the effort to encourage new housing infrastructure construction with new funding favored to two existing programs from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the SD Housing Authority. Senate Bill 53 and Senate Bill 65 gained wide support in the Senate, but the House felt that SB 65 wasn’t clearly defined. Therefore, SB 53 was the only one of the two to garner the two-thirds majority it takes to pass. These bills deal with grants and low interest loans that cities, counties, developers, nonprofit groups, and others could apply for when developing new housing developments. The thought and intent of the legislation was to assist projects throughout the state with funding for water and sewer infrastructure so additional housing opportunities would be available to our citizens. Encouraging and increasing the number of new developments not only increases the supply of new homes but also increases the supply of existing homes to enter the market as current homeowners either upgrade or downsize to new homes and sell their existing dwellings. We continue to hear the need for more housing and people to fill the many open positions that exist, so these bills are worthy and needed. Hopefully some negotiations can come about next week and we will find common ground to move these efforts forward.
Next week is the most important week for the legislature as a budget must be presented. Nothing will take precedence over it. If you drive by the Capitol building next week and you see an abnormally high number of lights on in the evening, you can be sure that the Appropriations Committees, the dedicated Bureau of Finance and Management professionals, and legislators are working to bring a balanced budget forward. We have no bigger job.
Thank you for your emails, phone messages, and texts this week. I especially enjoyed seeing the government class from Sully Buttes in Onida and the 5th graders from St. Joseph’s school. They were fun to see and visit with. mw