If you remember the slogan from a popular tire company “Where the rubber meets the road,” then you have a full description of legislative activity this week. Three things that stood out for me were: the intense work in committees, getting a sense of revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year with spending obligations and proposals, and thoughtful consideration for legislation as it presented itself on the House floor.
Extended committee meetings were the norm for our House Commerce and Energy Committee as we needed to hear the remaining assigned bills and move successful ones to the full House for action. The most controversial legislation was HJR 5006. It proposed a ballot measure to voters an amendment to our constitution for sporting events wagering by means of mobile or electronic platform within or outside the city limits of Deadwood. Currently South Dakotans can place bets on sporting events if they are within the premises of a licensed gaming establishment in Deadwood or at any of the state’s tribal casinos that offer on-site sports betting. There was a long, spirited debate about the realities of sports betting on mobile devices that are currently (and illegally) happening in South Dakota, the dangers of increased gambling addictions, the revenues that could be realized, and the fact that neighboring states offer this convenience. There were excellent testifiers that gave enlightened information that helped committee members offer thoughtful discussion and direction to their votes. We passed the measure 7-6 to move it to the full House where it failed 28-41 yesterday. I voted for the measure both times for several reasons but the most prevalent of them was to send it to the voters of South Dakota for their consideration. I have a feeling this is not the last time we will hear about this issue.
Without a doubt the most important thing we do in the legislature is to pass a balanced budget with proper use of ongoing and one-time revenues. Revenue projections were set this week giving us a starting point to fund our core obligations, acknowledging that inflation has taken a toll on all state budgets, programs, and building/remodeling projects. Increased funding for state employees, education, and Medicaid rates are continually debated as well as the necessary funds to cover the costs associated with the recently passed Medicaid expansion. And let us not forget about the various sales tax and property tax cut proposals. As I said, the budget conversation is happening and thoughtful deliberation will occur in the coming days and weeks.
Looking ahead to next week, HB 1217 is legislation that we will consider and I will comment on in my report. This legislation would modify the requirements for eligibility to vote by absentee ballot. Curiously, this is the subject of more than a few emails that I have received this year. Thank you for your comments this week and the opportunity to serve District 24.