Legislative session begins
Tuesday was the first day of the 2015 legislative session and most of the legislators came to Pierre Monday afternoon. Those of us who didn’t make it to Pierre for Gov. Daugaard’s inauguration on Saturday were sworn in at the beginning of the session Tuesday morning before Governor Daugaard’s State of the State address.
Gov. Daugaard outlined his top priorities for the 2015 session. They include:
Highway and Bridge Funding:
He will be introducing legislation to generate about $50 million in new annual revenue to fund highways and bridges from the following sources:
• Increase the motor vehicle excise tax from 3 percent to 4 percent = $26.1 million,
• Increase the motor fuel tax by 2 cents annually = $13 million,
• 10 percent increase in license plate fees = $8.7 million,
• Increase license rate for noncommercial ag trucks from 60 percent to 70 percent of the commercial rate = $2 million,
• Increase ethanol tax by 2 cents annually = $750,000.
The bill will also allow counties to assess up to $1.20 per $1,000 for highway purposes and townships may assess up to 50 cents per $1,000 for highway purposes
Juvenile Justice Reform:
Gov. Daugaard also outlined his plan to reform the juvenile justice system in South Dakota with the goal of increasing public safety, effectively hold juvenile offenders accountable and reduce juvenile justice costs. The proposed recommendations would accomplish those goals by:
• Focusing expensive residential placements on youth who are a risk to public safety,
• Preventing deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system for youth committing lower level offenses,
• Improving outcomes by expanding access to evidence-based community interventions, and
• Ensuring the quality and sustainability of reforms.
Gov. Daugaard announced his continued focus on workforce development and discussed several initiatives:
• Build Dakota Scholarship Program funded by a $25 million donation from Denny Sanford which will be matched over 5 years by state Future Funds.
• Career and Technical Education (CTE): Gov. Daugaard discussed the importance of increasing interest in CTE courses like welding, machining, healthcare, construction trades, engineering and biosciences. Last year $8 million in grants were awarded to CTE programs at our K-12 schools.
• Dual Credit: Last year the legislature approved a new low-cost dual credit program to allow high school juniors and seniors to earn university or technical institute credit for courses that also count toward high school graduation for only $40 a credit hour. This program has been extremely popular.
Here is the budget summary for FY 2016:
South Dakota’s economy is healthy and growing. Gov. Daugaard proposed a $4.3 million budget plan to the legislature. His plan includes about $50 million in new general fund spending. The total state general fund budget recommended for FY2016 is $1,441,242,907. Gov. Daugaard’s budget proposal includes a 2 percent increase for education funding (state law requires an inflationary increase of 1.5 percent). He also proposed a 2 percent increase for Medicaid providers and a 2 percent increase for state employee salaries. The proposed budget also includes an increase of 61.6 Full-time equivalent employees raising the total state employees to 14,009.
Remember that these are just the governor’s proposals and the legislature will be taking a hard look at all of them and will probably make many changes. Be sure to contact your legislators with any concerns you have because we’re here to represent the voters that sent us to Pierre.
After eight years in the House, I am still trying to get used to turning toward the Senate when I get to third floor. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve accidentally walked into the House chambers instead. Old habits are hard to break! I’m the vice-chair of the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and I also serve on the Local Government Committee, the same committees I served on while I was in the House. Rep. Marty took my place on these same committees in the House while his sister, Rep. Liz May from District 27, is on the Education and Taxation Committees.
The legislature didn’t deal with much legislation this week — the Senate passed SB28 to allow the Board of Regents to sell a small parcel of land near the railroad to the city of Brookings and deposit the money in the School and Public Lands trust for SDSU. The House didn’t work on any bills. Next week I’ll give you a run-down of some of the legislation that I’ll be bringing. To get in touch with us, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and Sam Marty at email@example.com during session. If you need to talk to either of us, the Senate Chamber number is 773-3821 and the House Chamber number is 773-3851. Leave a phone number and we’ll call you back. The fax number is 773-6806. If you send a fax, address it to Sen. Betty Olson or Rep. Sam Marty. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: http://legis.sd.gov/.
Use that 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.
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