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Week 7 Legislative Report

By Jason | February 26, 2015

Northeast South Dakota and the persistent problem of excess surface water received strong support in the State Senate with passage of SB2. This bill originated from our regional watershed taskforce after studying the issue for three years. SB2 creates nine river basin natural resource districts that cover the entire state for water management. Included in the legislation is a pilot project to take a hands-on look at a potential water and natural resources management plan for a basin district. An oversight legislative taskforce is one more component of SB2 which will draw the boundaries for the districts, identify the framework for water management plans, and identify the necessary powers and duties of the river basin natural resource districts. I serve as the prime sponsor of SB2 and have enjoyed garnering strong support from legislators all across the State. Even more important is the fact that over half of the prevailing votes on SB2 in the Senate came from legislators representing the two largest cities – Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Respect for the need to tackle the problem of water management on an entire basin approach is real, and as a rural legislator, I will continue to build bridges with my urban colleagues. SB2 will be up for a hearing in the House agriculture and natural resources committee and appears to have widespread support.

Wind energy is a growing industry in our state with various projects operating and all of them exceeding the efficiency expectations. Since the federal production tax credit was renewed last fall, there is interest among wind developers to build their projects. In our area, there are a handful of wind farm opportunities that could benefit from SB180 which adjusts the production taxes assessed to a wind generation facility. We passed this bill out of the Senate with strong support, and the issue will continue to be addressed on the House side to find the right tax obligation to compete with our neighboring windy states.

I continue to work with my fellow legislators to encourage more local funding support in a possible road funding bill. SB1 is the legislation that passed out of the Senate and is on the House side for debate in committee. I voted against this bill on the Senate floor because I am not convinced the current version sends adequate new tax revenue to the local roads and bridges. I am of the belief that more of the new dollars should not go to Pierre for state roads but should be sent back to our county and townships to rebuild our infrastructure.

Medicaid Expansion and increased teacher pay continue to be on my wish list of tasks that we as a legislature need to tackle soon. I am pleased that the medical provider industry is willing to explore all options to make Medicaid Expansion a reality; unfortunately, our Governor is not willing to accept the federal investment to provide healthcare coverage to these working poor individuals.

I am disappointed we haven’t been able to have a true discussion about opportunities to increase the teacher pay to attract more young people into the profession. We are dealing with a crisis among our school districts to find qualified teaching professionals to fill the positions to educate our young people. Speaking of education, I am hopeful that SB189 will be defeated even though it narrowly passed the Senate. The proposed bill provides insurance company tax credits for investments in private schools. Options for families and students are important when choosing the education system; but I don’t feel we should divert public tax dollars to support private schools.

Tribal relations day was recently celebrated in the Capitol with a strong focus on the relationship between agriculture and our Native American reservations. I enjoyed the presence of Chairman Renville and his staff from the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Our state department of agriculture is looking for more ways to partner with young farmers and ranchers who need access to credit both on and off the reservation.

As we wind down these final weeks of the 90th legislative session, I welcome all of you to contact me on the issues important to you, especially as we finalize the state budget. I am planning to attend the cracker barrel in Aberdeen on the morning of March 7th, along with an afternoon forum that all are welcome to attend. Thank you for the privilege to serve northeast South Dakota.

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Week 6 legislative report

By Jason | February 24, 2015

Committee work on proposed legislation is democracy at its finest. Serving on the education, agriculture, and taxation committees, I have been involved in the process of amending legislation. Open enrollment school district disputes, personal service tax exemptions, and saving a farm link transition program are just a few examples of where individual legislators can impact the result of codified laws. Not only are those small gains in committee rewarding for legislators but also gaining support among the fellow lawmakers give confidence to all of us as students of the process.

I am honored to share that SB 154 the requirement that our state veteran service officers be veterans received unanimous support in the Senate Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. I sponsored SB 154 on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and appreciate the support from the American Legion as well. Veteran issues are prominent throughout this legislative session some dealing with veteran’s preference to guarantee an interview for employment with schools, funding for honor guards and the definition of a veteran. HB 1179 is the legislation which changes the definition of a veteran in an effort to include those who honorably served in the South Dakota National Guard perhaps during non-combat eras. I appreciate those who have expressed concerns about the potential for weakening the importance of being considered a veteran. However, I also have great respect for those who took an oath to give service to the armed forces knowing that at any point they could have been deployed.

SB2 the river basin natural resource district legislation received favorable support in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. I am proud of the work we have put into this legislation to create the nine natural resource districts covering the entire state which will have the boundaries created by the oversight legislative taskforce and we will look at a pilot project example on the Vermillion River Basin. Managing water throughout the watershed is paramount in dealing with the problems we face with hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland covered in water. I will keep fighting for respect of the problem we are faced with when we have years of increased snowpack and rainfall that impact our rural communities. The ability to do projects and authorize projects is a key benefit to creating these river basin natural resource districts. Each of the last few years in the legislature we have given support to efforts that will manage the natural problem of pine bark beetles in the Black Hills National Forest. I support these strategic plans because we shouldn’t let the problem of trees dying define our beautiful state. Much like in water management we shouldn’t let the problem of acres of flooded farmland limit the abilities of our rural communities.

This last general election, voters in South Dakota gave 55% approval to the minimum wage increase to $8.50/hour. Now just a few months after that election we are dealing with legislation in the form of SB177 that would lower the youth minimum wage to $7.50/hour. This is bad timing to revert the will of the voters throughout our state. I can understand the need for a separate minimum wage for our youth, but I do not think we should lower their minimum wage after the voters have given their approval.

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Weekly Legislative update week 5

By Jason | February 18, 2015

Halfway through the 90th legislative session is a signal that many significant pieces of legislation are at the forefront garnering debate and discussion. Tax increases of all types dominate this Session and I encourage all of you to weigh in on the effects. Property taxes could increase dedicated to county roads/bridges along with more local need for school district funding. Sales taxes collected on motor fuel and new/used vehicle sales could increase significantly rewarding the State with upwards of $50 million annually dedicated to state highways.

Property taxes spark the interest of a wide cross-section of South Dakotans and the increased growth in the capital outlay fund has caught the attention of the legislative and executive branch. There are a number of bills this Session which seek to make adjustments in the property tax assessment known as Capital Outlay. In general the goal of some of these bills is to continue this theme of shifting the tax burden to local property tax payers and away from state funding of education. Other bills have attempted to limit a local school’s ability to carry over Capital Outlay funds from one year to the next.

There are 151 school districts in South Dakota and each and every one has a unique story. Some school districts have tried to pass bond issues for buildings and these attempts have failed. Some have failed repeatedly. Is it any wonder that those districts want to carry over Capital Outlay funds in order to build up funds for the next building project? They are attempting to be fiscally responsible by putting more money down and borrowing less. That’s exactly the kind of financial responsibility we applaud in home and business owners.

In an effort to give some relief to school districts planning building projects I proposed SB 183 which lowers the bond threshold from 60% down to 55% when dealing with a bond or capital outlay certificate. Instead of the current situation where various school districts are accruing capital outlay reserves for future building projects we should look for ways to encourage the community involvement of a bond election. SB183 received favorable support in the Senate Local Government committee and will go to the floor for further discussion.

Water management through the work of SB2 is still a work in progress. I am confident the amended version we are considering is an equity piece of legislation that sets up the natural resource basin districts, creates a pilot project, and has an oversight taskforce. We have worked hard on this issue to bring together interested and affected individuals and I will not give up searching for a solution to this problem of hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land covered with water. Coordinating our efforts to manage water is extremely important to the success of our rural communities.

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Fourth Week Legislative Report from Pierre

By Jason | February 5, 2015

Week 4 Legislative Report

Limiting the involvement of true democracy has clouded the theme of the 90th legislative session. Recruiting more teachers to the profession, expanding Medicaid to help the working poor, and building infrastructure are the biggest issues we face here in South Dakota. Unfortunately, my friends on the other side of the aisle are more focused on making it more difficult to place initiated measures on the ballot and allowing independents and third party folks to participate in the process. Please take note of the significance of SB166 which would double the required number of signatures on a petition to initiate a citizens’ sponsored measure to the vote of all South Dakotans. I disagree strongly with this proposed change because as a democracy, we should make accessibility the first goal. SB69 is also misguided legislation because it seeks to move up the filing deadline for legislative candidates along with placing limits on independents and third party candidates who want to be engaged in the process. SB69 passed the Senate on a party-line vote and will be debated on the House side.

In our Senate Taxation Committee we had robust debate on tax increment financing districts (TIFs). I sponsored SB102 on behalf of the county governments which would force dialogue when cities approve a TIF because that capturing of new property tax revenue has a future effect on other local governments. Many of us believe in the true value of TIFs to spur economic development in areas where it is needed such as on a blighted property or simply a troubled piece of real estate that is a burden for a community. However, in recent years TIFs have been expanded and used for various projects diverting new tax revenue for specific public works solely benefitting a particular project.

Speaking of property taxes, I was asked to introduce legislation banning the sale of property tax liens which is SB184. There are a handful of counties that sell off unpaid tax bills to a collection company, and this only creates more of a hurdle for people who want to set up a payment plan to restore their good standing in a county. We should encourage citizens to work with their local county service office to handle unpaid taxes, not insert a for-profit entity that only drives a wedge between our citizens and their government.

We are having strong discussion among school officials and those of us passionate about the effects on agriculture property taxpayers. A limit to the expansion of capital outlay bill was filed in an effort to encourage tax fairness when certain classes of property have consistently appreciated in value each year by at least 10%. HB1207 is the bill which will affect capital outlay. I am not in complete agreement with the legislation, but I do think we need to ask ourselves how much of a burden should we put on the property taxpayer. I introduced SB183 which would lower the bond vote requirement from 60% to 55%. Instead of school districts stockpiling capital outlay reserves, we should encourage bond votes to allow the entire school district the chance to vote on a significant capital investment.

SB185 is the bill I introduced which would send 10% of vehicle excise tax revenues to the local road and bridge fund for counties and townships. Did you know that all of the current 3% excise tax you pay on a new or used vehicle is sent to Pierre and only used for state roads? That is not fair, and we should work hard to pry some of those dollars out of Pierre and send them back to our much needed local road efforts.

We continue to engage in good dialogue on Senate Bill 2 which creates the natural resource basin councils along with a legislative oversight taskforce. Currently we have removed the class one municipalities from the districts and will not include the taxing authority at this time. I believe the current situation of thousands of acres of private farmland holding water is not sustainable. Let’s work together to manage water and coordinate efforts that transcend county political boundaries. SB2 will have its first hearing on February 12th at 10 a.m. in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

It’s my pleasure to serve District 1 and northeast South Dakota. I welcome your ideas and input on the issues we deal with here in the legislature.

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Week 3 Legislative Report from Pierre

By Jason | January 31, 2015

News from Pierre this legislative session has focused primarily on the possibility of increased road funding, teacher shortage and the need for Medicaid Expansion coverage. Unfortunately a troubling resolution was given approval to urge the abolishment of the United States Department of Education. This is not the message we should send to students who are involved in youth organizations deeply rooted within employees of the Department of Education. I voted against and spoke with concern over this resolution because we should look for ways to strengthen the education department instead of just eliminating it completely.

Legislation that will come before the 2015 legislature will be all introduced in the upcoming days. I am working on a few bills in addition to serving as the prime sponsor for SB2 the creation of Natural Resource River Basin Councils Watershed Task Force proposal. Currently with SB2 we are planning to exclude the class 1 municipalities from these river basins in an effort to keep a strong rural/agriculture focus. I am encouraged by the support from various agriculture interest groups who support this concept of moving towards watershed management of surface water. The reason I am passionate about this issue is the simple fact of well over 100,000 acres of farmland that is under water due to no coordinated efforts to manage the water being held on privately owned land.

Other legislation that I am working on includes a bill to send 25% of the vehicle excise tax collected to the local government road and bridge fund. All of that tax paid when you purchase a vehicle and register it at your local courthouse is sent to Pierre for state roads and bridges. We can all see that the county and township roads and bridges are in the worst condition and in the need for more funding. If the Governor’s road funding tax increase proposal goes through it would amount to $40 million all for state road funding. Instead of just $10 million in funding for all of the local road and bridge needs, I am proposing we should invest a portion of the windfall the state will receive back into local roads needed for farm to market access.

I also have a bill to reduce the bond voting threshold. We have seen an increase in the amount of capital outlay being collected by school districts due to the fact that agriculture land has increased in value by more than 15% each year. Unless the local school districts decrease their mill levy they are able to take advantage of the increased values of the property located within the school district. Growth in the capital outlay fund is most likely due to the lack of trust in state funding for school districts and the plans for schools to make infrastructure investments in their physical plant. Bond elections to approve new school buildings provide adequate ability for citizen involvement and that is why I feel we should lower the threshold to encourage more of these bond elections.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars have asked me to carry legislation on their behalf to require the state veterans service officer and state fieldmen veterans service officer be required to be veterans just like county veterans service officers.
I have enjoyed having FFA members, teachers, rural electric cooperative directors, AARP members, agriculture leaders and long term care center directors who have made the trip to Pierre taking an interest in the state government process. We are proud in northeast South Dakota to have been the home of the current and former three Miss Rodeo South Dakota queens. Kendra Peterson from Sisseton is the 2015 Miss Rodeo South Dakota and she was introduced in front of the legislature. Congratulations to Kendra.

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Week Two – 90th Legislative Session

By Jason | January 27, 2015

Agriculture is the by far the number one economic engine in our State and evidence of that has shown in years past with $30-40 million annually in machinery sales taxes paid to the state general fund. Many of us recognize those numbers may drop due to the crop price decline and narrow margins on farm operations. Even with the volatility in commodity prices we are fortunate to have a solid ethanol industry along with a vibrant cattle producing outlook on our independent farms and ranches. Another cause for celebration as a state is the fact that both South Dakota State University and Lake Area Tech boast the highest number of students enrolled in agriculture among all of their majors on campus. This is exciting to know that young people see the value in gaining experience in higher education to ultimately be successful in agriculture and biological sciences when they enter the workforce.

Our education committee hosted the leaders of the State’s technical institutes and Board of Regents to give updates on their respective higher education opportunities. The technical institutes informed us that when we compare South Dakota to the surrounding six states that we rank last in the amount of state and local aid at just 21% the cost of tuition. With the lack of adequate state support to fund the technical institutes they have to shift that burden to the student’s tuition bill each year. This story is very real at the Board of Regents universities as well where they have a goal of shared 50/50 state and student tuition. Right now the state support is at 42% of the cost of attending college at a state university for our resident students.

Our agriculture land taxation oversight taskforce looked closely at the issue of the increased burden being placed on the property taxpayer when funding local school districts. One area of focus is on the capital outlay fund which is used by school districts to perform building projects and purchase technology and hardware items. Over the years flexibility has been given to allow a transfer to the general fund from capital outlay to cover energy and insurance costs. I have opposed this transfer because it weakens the integrity of the reason for those dedicated property taxes collected. The reason this transfer was given legislative support is due to the extreme 10% cuts in state partnership for education funding. Capital outlay is one tool for school districts to fund building projects along with bonding. It’s refreshing to hear that the Governor’s office agrees with me that we are on the verge of a possible revolt among the property taxpayers due to the increased burden shifted away from the State. Stay tuned for updates on possible limits to the growth of capital outlay with possible legislation.

In the taxation committee the Department of Revenue shared with us information dealing with business, property, and special taxes. Video lottery and gaming along with vehicle licensing and registration are located in the Department of Revenue. I had the chance to ask for the status on transferring titles among vehicle sales. They told us that they have experienced a significant increase in the amount of title transfers and they they are trying to reduce the wait time. Dealers who are often changing the owners of vehicle titles are given preference. We looked over the property tax valuations and currently agriculture land is at 41.5%, owner-occupied/residential – 35%, commercial – 21.65% and utilities at 1.82%. Just for reference back in 2008 agriculture property was at 34% of the total and owner-occupied was at 39%. Agriculture land has appreciated in value under this productivity model which is used instead of a market approach to set the property values for taxation.

I continue to work with interested parties and individuals to gain consensus on Senate Bill 2 which would create natural resource river basin councils to manage water based on watershed instead of county ordinances. I hear widespread support for the concept that we should manage water based on where it flows. The reason we are even having this discussion is because the Legislature back in 2012 recognized the problem of thousands of acres of farmland that are submerged under water and the need to manage surface water so our interim watershed task force was created. I am working on amending the introduced version of the bill to exclude class one municipalities because they already file a water management plan. Please keep in touch on the issues that matter to you.

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2015 Legislative Session Week 1

By Jason | January 27, 2015

We are off and running with the 90th Session of the South Dakota Legislature. This is the start of my seventh year serving as a legislator and am proud to represent the northeastern area of our State. I will share from my experience each week during the 39-day legislative session. I have the privilege of being a member of the agriculture/natural resources, education and taxation committees. I farm and raise cattle and have spent time as a teacher so these committees work well for me.
The Governor delivered his State of the State with a strong focus on road/infrastructure funding. This is a much different perspective than we have ever heard from the Governor, because in the past, he has been adamantly opposed to any sort of a tax/fee increase. Stay tuned for the details, but right now it sounds like Governor Daugaard is proposing to increase the highway fuel tax 2 cents each year in perpetuity along with raising the excise tax up to 4% with those funds going to the State. Local governments would see more funding as well in vehicle registration increases. We also heard the Governor highlight the success of the dual credit programs where high school students can receive postsecondary credits. Unfortunately, the Governor failed to share his plan to address the current teacher shortage along with a plan to boost the number of teacher education candidates. I am also disappointed that we are embarking on yet another year where we as a State are not accepting the federal investment to offer medicaid expansion for our working poor. I will keep up the pressure on the Governor and his staff to look for ways to lend their support behind medicaid expansion.
On a more positive note, I am pleased to report that education, and especially teachers, are being given a positive outlook as we start the 2015 Legislative Session. We need to have positive attitudes to build education up and place the importance on the individual teachers who truly make the young people of this State smarter. This is a welcomed approach and I only hope the momentum will continue. The battles over common core and merit pay for teachers are behind us, and the challenge in this crisis of teacher shortages is a reality. Teachers are professionals, and we should continue to look for ways to place that importance on the critical role they play in their students lives. I hear support among various fellow legislators that they would like to see an emphasis placed on increased teacher pay as long as the State support is matched with local property taxes.
I am very focused on working to garner support for Senate Bill 2. This is the result of our three-year regional watershed task force, and the bill would create natural resource river basins. We need to look at water management from an entire basin/watershed approach and not simply use the current county/political boundaries. These river basin districts will cover the entire state based on the watershed boundaries and will have the authority to perform water projects and authorize projects. In our area of the State, we have the Red/Minnesota River, Big Sioux and James River basins. Taxing authority with a maximum of one-third mill along with a locally elected board of directors are two main components of the basin councils.
Chief Justice Gilbertson delivered his State of the Judiciary highlighting the success of alternative sentencing that is saving all of us money. The Chief also shared his excitement over the newly created rural attorney recruitment program we created last year that is the first of its kind in the nation. Access to a local attorney is key all throughout the Mount Rushmore State.
Thank you for the privilege to represent you in Pierre. I welcome your input on the issues that you care about. Please follow the legislation via the Legislative Research Council website at legis.sd.gov.

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Week 8 Legislative Update

By Jason | March 11, 2014

Spring is hopefully just around the corner which means we are wrapping up the 2014 Legislative Session. Medicaid Expansion has dominated this Session because it has the biggest economic impact on our State. A $272 million dollar infusion of federal cash to our State coupled with an average of $7 million in new ongoing tax revenue would help us tremendously in South Dakota. Even though the Federal officials at Health and Human Services have denied the request by Governor Daugaard to only expand Medicaid for those under 100% of poverty, we will continue to press the issue that full expansion logically makes the most sense. Roughly 26 states across the country have developed their own plan to expand Medicaid under the conditions of the Affordable Care Act. All of those states that have expanded included up to 138% of the poverty level. I am frustrated that the Governor has drawn a line in the sand that he only wants a portion of the 48,000 eligible for expansion to be covered. Other states have put in place job training and wellness requirements that might be feasible here in South Dakota if the Governor wants further expectations for new Medicaid eligible individuals. Let me also make this clear: those currently eligible for Medicaid expansion are receiving health care, however they are not covered by health insurance in any fashion. Let me also remind you, if the Medicaid expansion funding would be anything like the very beneficial Lewis and Clark water project; we would be clearing the path immediately to receive the federal investment. Even though Medicaid expansion is a tough sell, I am proud to see good health policies move forward that expand availability and ensures coverage for audiology services. Both chambers in the Capitol recognize the importance to these services to strive for early detection of the possible issues.

This week the State Senate gave final approval to a measure that will change the wheat check-off assessment fee. Currently every bushel of wheat sold has 1.5 cents per bushel fee collected for research and promotion that is refundable. With the changes in HB 1081 the new assessment will be four tenths of a percent on the net price of wheat sold. This will result in roughly double the amount of revenue collected to fund programs at our land grant university, SDSU. Even though the wheat check-off is refundable one difference is that the Wheat Commission is appointed by the Governor, unlike the corn check-off board who are elected.

Our Senate agriculture committee had discussion this past week on HB 1208 which was a bill that would have put in place a buffer zone around building and livestock when people are out on the non-meandered/new bodies of water. After some lawyers and others analyzed the bill, they were worried about the potential unintended consequences to the bill if it would be passed in answering the question of public access to these private lands that are inundated with water. The GF&P admits that they don’t have solid direction in current law to guide their conservation officers in the field and states attorney’s when determining possible trespassing. I enjoyed seeing a good group of landowners from Day and Marshall County who made the trip to Pierre to express their concern with the bill and commit to working on this in the near future.

Farm sticker legislation has worked its way through the legislature the last couple of years. These changes are due to federal requirements through Map 21. Fortunately farm operations are given some flexibility with the new requirements. The farm sticker will be available at the county Treasurer’s office and this will allow farm trucks to travel within 150 miles into neighboring states along with no requirement for annual vehicle inspections. Even though the annual inspections wouldn’t be required, it still would be highly advisable and just good practice.

 

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Week 7 Update from Pierre

By Jason | March 11, 2014

Waterlines may find a challenge keeping up the flow underground these days in northeast South Dakota, but the flow of the lawmaking process continues in Pierre. HB 1185 the nonresident waterfowl license bill has received much debate during this legislative session. Ultimately a deal was reached between all of the parties involved including Wildlife Federation, Game Fish & Parks Department, tourism, and commercial hunting interests. Currently the bill will turn the management authority over to the GF&P wildlife division for all nonresident licenses including the temporary licenses and only allow a 5% increase each year on the number of these licenses to be offered. Thank you for all of the emails on this topic. Many of you are concerned about increased pressure since we live near the state border. I am confident that the current version of the bill will be respectful of hunting pressure but also allow the opportunity for many to enjoy the resource of record waterfowl populations.

Building South Dakota the Legislature’s economic development program approved last year continues to be an important issue as the Governor would like to limit the funding and many of us legislators want to see one time and excess reserve dollars flow to this program. Workforce education, local economic development, and housing are just a few of the areas that stand to benefit with steady funding through Building South Dakota. I agree with the Governor’s plan to put a 10% cap on reserves which will ensure fund transfers to Building South Dakota. Anytime we can prevent the stockpiling of tax dollars in Pierre is good for our local communities and all taxpayers.

Speaking of economic development, I am sure many of you have followed the issues revolving the EB-5 immigrant investor program. Fortunately as a Legislature we passed a resolution on a bipartisan basis to force our Government, Operations & Audit committee to address this important flawed program. March 7th we don’t have Legislative Session and the GOAC committee will hold a meeting to disseminate all of the pending information involving three audit reports, along with calling witnesses to testify on the history and actions of the EB-5 program. Stay tuned as we expect results and information from this upcoming meeting. Ultimately we want to ensure corrective actions are taken so that we can put this unfortunate issue behind us while holding the bad actors accountable.

Public access to flooded land continues to warrant legislative discussion. HB 1208 was passed by the House which would set a 660 foot buffer for activity around buildings/livestock on these flooded lands along with defining the difference between a meandered lake and non-meandered body of water. Various lawyers and some landowners have expressed concern over the bill and the possible effect on court actions dealing with this issue of public access. I welcome the input and have been sharing any information I receive with my fellow legislators. I certainly am not in a rush to approve legislation on this matter since we were able to successfully stop SB169 which had many concerns on this issue from both landowners and sportsmen.

Speaking of water but not entirely focused on the issue of public access to flooded lands, I introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution 6. This is a resolution to express the Legislature’s support in efforts by citizens in the closed basin areas of northeast South Dakota to look for ways to manage the excess water problem. This past summer when our Watershed Taskforce visited Day County some folks simply asked that we as a Legislature reassure them that the State supports their efforts to find a possible overflow point on Bitter Lake while working with downstream neighbors. Irrigation is another opportunity for these affected landowners and I know some have submitted applications to utilize this water throughout Day County. If you find any difficulty in irrigation permits when pumping from a lake please let me know, because there are arbitrary GFP vested water rights that we need to continue to discover their effect on agriculture producers.

 

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Week 6 Legislative Update

By Jason | February 24, 2014

Citizen involvement in the Legislative process reminds all of us Legislators that we truly represent a diverse group of roughly 23,000 people in our districts. This week true citizen involvement on the non-meandered water access bill, SB 169 proved crucial to stop what seemed like a freight train of a bill. Last week we strategically delayed action on the bill because I had a few amendments that I wanted the prime sponsors of the legislation and stakeholders to consider. Unfortunately the balanced amendments were not considered as “friendly” and the drivers on the bill planned to push it forward and pass the bill to the House of Representatives. Throughout the weekend and earlier this week many landowners communicated their opposition to the current version of SB 169, and when we got to the Senate floor on Tuesday, the prime sponsor tabled the bill. Now important work is needed to gather input from landowners affected by years of increasing water levels on sloughs/lakes, along with outdoors enthusiasts who want to be able to enjoy a resource such as fish in these relatively new bodies of water. Last year I heard much opposition from sportsmen unhappy with HB 1335 that was proposed and just about received full approval. This year with SB 169, the landowners were by far the most outspoken against the bill. If there is a possible resolution on the issue we will have to work on that over the summer. One starting point should be how we can determine adequate compensation if landowners would choose to participate in a “boat-in program” similar to the “walk-in program” that currently exists. I encourage you to let me know if you have an interest to continue to be a part of these possible discussions. Status quo will continue which means uncertainty exists on these flooded lands that are located near a right of way road/section line. Landowners must work out arrangements to allow access on private boat ramps, and some lakes still have a court ordered injunction.

Recently on the Senate Floor we had a disappointing experience where SB 162 was passed which gives a $300,000 per year tax break to the gold mine near Terry Peak. We have been told the company is trying to trim $100/ounce of costs and one area they are focusing on is the mineral severance taxes paid to the State General Fund. The price of gold has fluctuated in recent months but still remains at high levels. This bill passed by one vote only with last-second maneuvering by Senators on the other side of the aisle to change votes. We will attempt to reconsider the bill and try to defeat the attempt by a gold mining company to receive a tax break on a resource that is limited.

As Democrats we are crafting legislation that will look to provide tuition reimbursement for career and technical education teachers if they choose to teach in South Dakota after graduating from college. We also need to get a teacher training program revamped to assist those who leave the skilled workforce to retire early and want to inspire students to learn a trade for a good paying job.

We are still working through the details on the Governor’s plan to change the Building South Dakota Initiative which the Legislature crafted last year. Building South Dakota is an economic development law that provides funding to local economic development offices, affordable housing, and workforce education with a strong focus on career and technical education. The Governor would like to pre-fund Building South Dakota for three years instead of allow ongoing funding from the receipts of unclaimed property funds. The Governor claims through his plan education would receive more money. From what I see the only way the Governor sends more money to education is because his plan will be matched with local property taxes through the formula.

Please keep in touch on the issues important to you. We will deal with all of the bills that were introduced in their first chamber in the next few days and debate will continue on the bills that have already been cleared through the first few steps in the process. You can email me at sen.frerichs@state.sd.us.

 

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