- Associated Press - Sunday, March 13, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The state Legislature ended the main run of the 2016 session after passing the state budget and approving a tax hike to raise to teacher pay. But it was lawmakers’ deliberations and Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of a bill that would have limited the bathrooms that transgender students could use that drew widespread attention. Here’s a look at some of the issues lawmakers considered this year:

TEACHER PAY

Legislators passed a half-cent sales tax hike that puts more than $60 million in new funding toward helping boost South Dakota’s lowest-in-the-nation pay for teachers to a target average of $48,500 per year. Daugaard signed a package of education measures, including the tax hike, which will also go to property tax relief and salaries at technical schools.

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TRANSGENDER MEASURES

Lawmakers were unsuccessful in passing several measures this session related to transgender people, including the one the Republican governor vetoed, which the House failed to override earlier this month.

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ABORTION LIMITATION

Lawmakers approved - and Daugaard signed - a measure banning most abortions beyond 19 weeks of pregnancy. The prohibition is based on the disputed premise that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. Rep. Isaac Latterell, a Republican, has said the measure recognizes “the humanity of these children.”

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RETIREMENT SYSTEM CHANGES

Daugaard also signed into law changes to the retirement system for future public employees, including a two-year increase in the normal retirement age for many new workers. The changes apply to people starting work after June 30, 2017.

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SEIZURE TREATMENT

House lawmakers blocked a bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe preparations of a compound, called cannabidiol, that are low in THC, an intoxicant in marijuana. It was aimed at helping people treat intractable epilepsy.

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SCHOOL CHOICE

A bill that would give insurance companies tax credits for contributions to help lower-income students attend private schools is on Daugaard’s desk. The measure would allow companies to get an 80 percent tax credit for total contributions to a grant organization. The credits could total up to $2 million each budget year.

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BOOZE BUCKS

The Legislature passed a bill that would distribute a share of alcohol tax revenue to counties, where officials say they’re having to spend more on court- and jail-related expenses, such as court-appointed attorneys. House lawmakers voted unanimously to send the bill to Daugaard, who has said he opposes the plan. The bill passed both chambers with margins that would suggest a veto could be overridden.

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INDUSTRIAL HEMP

A state Senate committee defeated a bill that would have allowed the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Advocates argued the crop could be a significant economic development opportunity and could lead to jobs in South Dakota, but public safety representatives opposed the plan and Daugaard has said he’s against allowing industrial hemp in the state.


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