Legislative Update – Week #9
After nearly three months of (sometimes) strenuous work, legislators look forward to the last week of session because it is when business is completed, and everyone can return to their normal life routines. I looked forward to this week most because of the important legislation that had yet to be decided.... the workforce house bill. There is no doubt that the most important thing we do as a legislature is to pass the General Appropriations Bill (a balanced budget) to fund our State Government for another fiscal year. But, for me, the long-debated Workforce / Attainable / Market Based Housing Infrastructure bill, HB 1033, was to be my barometer of success for the 2022 Session. Final action on this bill was taken Tuesday.
After some “misfires” the week before, including long debates and votes just short of the two-thirds majority required for passage, last weekend was busy with phone calls to garner more support for the effort. Supporters of the legislation felt two things needed to be done to find consensus: (1) make the housing infrastructure bills less complex and the intent clearer, and (2) define what infrastructure was to be included (streets, curb, gutters, sanitary sewer, etc.). My hats off to both the legislators and the Legislative Research Council staff who in short order condensed the many issues into a singular bill that was more readable and definitive. In the end, the Senate passed the bill unanimously and the House attained the two-thirds majority by two votes.
This was an important issue for me because after serving on the legislative summer study group last year that researched the housing shortages in South Dakota, it was clear we had a problem. It didn’t matter if we took testimony from small communities or our largest community, every town in South Dakota has a workforce issue and part of that issue is lack of housing. Despite the differences in sophistication of housing development within each city, the common problem was the high cost of infrastructure (i.e., water, sewer, streets, curbs, etc.). Our Governor too recognized the problem and offered a program to give grants to developers, cities, and non-profit development entities to help fund infrastructure to jumpstart new housing opportunities.
I am optimistic that this successful legislation will be signed by the Governor and become a catalyst to helping small and large communities get more inventory of houses for our citizens to call home.
As the 2022 legislative session concludes, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve in the House of Representatives this term. I have appreciated your calls, messages, and emails. The input you gave me helped expand my knowledge and thoughts on the issues that were most important to you. Best wishes and I look forward to your further comments and visiting with you soon. mw