Counting Veto Day, there are only two weeks or ten days left of the 2016 legislative session. Wednesday was Crossover Day where all the bills and joint resolutions had to be passed through the house of origin. Things started to get exciting on Monday. The House voted to reconsider the half cent sales tax to increase teacher pay after it failed last week on a 46 to 23 vote and on Monday the House passed it after three legislators switched their votes. Since HB 1182 is a tax, it needed a two thirds majority or 47 votes to pass.
Republicans Rep. Craig and Rep. Klumb had voted against HB 1182 and this time they voted for it. Even after those two legislators switched it still won by only 47 votes, because after Rep. Feickert figured out what the excise tax on farm machinery was going to cost the agriculture community he switched his vote to be the only Democrat to vote against it and HB 1182 squeaked through by only one vote. Another Democrat wished he had also voted no after it was too late.
Because of the division on HB 1182, it was a tumultuous week in the House. The Watertown newspaper said it best in their Monday edition with the headline “Gloves come off in SD House”. Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, a supporter of HB 1182, was expelled from the Republican caucus for calling Republican leadership who voted against the bill “clowns, pond scum, cowards, and liars”. After he was removed from caucus, Rep. Schoenbeck threatened to resign from the House on Tuesday, but his wife may have talked him out of it.
HB 1182 was sent to the Senate Appropriations committee and passed out of there on a 7 to 2 vote, with the only teacher on the committee voting against it. HB 1182 will now come before the Senate where its future is in question. Most senators agree that teachers need to be paid more, but there is strong disagreement about whether this money should come out of the pockets of taxpayers or if there are programs that should be cut in state government to fund teacher pay.
Google “SDBOR Occupational Wages Dashboard” to see how wages in South Dakota compare to other states. In 2014, South Dakota ranked second-to-last in the United States for average annual pay across all occupations ($37,300).† The national average was $47,230. The average SD teacher pay in 2014 was $40,270, ahead of Mississippi and Idaho. To put things in perspective, the average pay for agriculture, South Dakotaís number one industry, was $27,960; health care support was $25,470; and food preparation was $19,580. If HB 1182 passes as written, this will be the second biggest tax increase after the highway bill that passed last year. This promises to be very interesting week in the South Dakota Legislature!
I had three of my bills come out of committee this week that were placed on consent. SB 66 is what I call “Logan’s bill” to permit the issuance of handicapped license plates to parents or guardians of handicapped dependents. I”m the Senate prime sponsor of HB 1236 which defines a halfway house and HB 1065 that designates the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum of South Dakota in Hill City as the official Civilian Conservation Corps Museum of South Dakota.
These are some of the bills that passed the Senate this week:
*SB 9 makes an appropriation to fund the Native American achievement schools grant program and paraprofessional tuition assistance scholarship program.
*SB 72 prohibits the abortion of an unborn child who is capable of experiencing pain.
*SB 100 enhances South Dakota economic development through broadband infrastructure improvements.
*SB 127 revises certain provisions regarding the requirements for placement of a utility facility across a railroad right-of-way.
*SB 131 establishes a target teacher salary and a target teacher ratio, revises education funding, creates the School Finance Accountability Board, and provides for school district reporting and penalties. I voted against this because it takes control away from local school districts.
*SB 150 revises the legislative intern program.
*SB 159 will provide a tax credit to insurance companies that contribute to an organization providing educational scholarships to students attending non-public schools.
*SB 168 revises provisions related to human trafficking and provides a penalty.
*SB 169 revises provisions related to child pornography and revises the penalty.
*HB 1007 makes an appropriation to revise and update the data and methods used to determine the agricultural land production capacity.
*HB 1024 makes an appropriation for the maintenance and repair of state owned dams.
*HB 1083 changes the taxation method used in the sale of off-road vehicles and requires that the sale of these vehicles be by licensed vehicle dealers.
*HB 1119 revises the criteria for incorporation of a new municipality.
*HB 1123 requires the Department of Health to include information regarding the inspection of an abortion facility on the department’s website.
*HB 1164 provides for special interest motor vehicle license plates.
With all the contention in Pierre, most of the legislators are looking forward to the end of session. Meanwhile, back on the ranch the heifers started calving this week and the old cows will start calving soon. The weather has been so nice that we’re catching spring fever. I’ve been pouring over the seed catalogs and planning my garden, so I’m ready to head home too.
To contact me, call the Senate Chamber at 773-3821, leave a message and I’ll try to return your call. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and the legislative FAX number is 773-6806. When you send a fax, address it to Sen. Betty Olson. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: legis.sd.gov/ Use the link to find legislators, see what committees they are on, read all the bills and track the status of each bill, listen to committee hearings, and contact the legislators.