- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Legislature ended the main part of the 2017 session after passing a state budget hamstrung by lower-than-expected tax collections. The repeal and partial replacement of a voter-imposed government ethics overhaul also dominated discussions at the Capitol.

Here’s a look at some of the issues lawmakers considered this year:

___

ETHICS INITIATIVES

Republican lawmakers repealed a ballot measure that created a public campaign finance system, established an ethics panel and tightened lobbying and campaign finance laws. They argued that the initiative campaign was deceptive and said that the measure was likely unconstitutional.

Lawmakers passed bills intended to replace provisions of the initiative, but supporters of the ethics overhaul say that the Legislature’s replacements fall short of what the voters passed.

___

SCANDAL

Not long after the session’s start, a lawmaker who admitted to having sexual contact with two interns resigned. Former Republican Rep. Mathew Wollmann said that both interns were over age 21 and that the contact during the 2015 and 2016 sessions was consensual.

___

STATE FUNDING

Lawmakers dealt with lower-than-anticipated revenues when crafting a state budget for fiscal year 2018. It includes roughly $1.59 billion in general state spending - nearly $30 million lower than Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s December budget plan. Still, lawmakers managed to give minor increases for education and providers, and roughly $1 million in additional money for the state employee health plan.

___

ANIMAL LAB

Even with the austerity, lawmakers did approve creative funding for key upgrades - with a full price tag of well over $50 million - to the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory. It’s largely being funded by a plan from agriculture groups to redirect property tax relief for agricultural land to the project.

___

PROTEST BILL

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s public safety bill addressing potential oil pipeline protests in South Dakota is on his desk. The administration says the measure is based on lessons North Dakota officials learned from large demonstrations over the Dakota Access pipeline.

___

BALLOT CASH

After an election season with 10 ballot questions that attracted millions of dollars from out-of-state groups, lawmakers weighed - but didn’t pass - a pair of avant-garde bills that would have placed new regulations on ballot measure campaigns. One would have forced nonprofit advocacy groups to reveal top donors if the groups contributed significant sums of money to initiative campaigns, while the other would have restricted the flow of out-of-state money into the races.

___

DIVISIVE BILLS

Averting a repeat of last year’s fight over transgender students, a bill that would have restricted which locker rooms transgender students could use was scuttled. But, the governor did approve new legal protections for adoption agencies and foster groups that cite religious reasons for denying services.

___

GUNS

Two concealed-carry bills are likely to offer a chance to override expected vetoes from Daugaard when lawmakers return to the Capitol later this month. One would allow people who have an enhanced permit to bring concealed handguns into the Capitol, while the other would let people who can legally carry a concealed handgun in South Dakota to do so without a permit.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide