PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s final legislative session as governor won’t be full of new state spending, but South Dakota lawmakers will keep busy debating changes to the state’s ballot question system, tougher penalties for meth dealers and the use of lakes on private land.
Legislators return Tuesday for the opening of the 2018 session and Daugaard’s State of the State address. Here’s a look at the agenda until lawmakers adjourn in late March:
It’s simple: South Dakota’s not flush. Daugaard last month proposed government spending limited by disappointing tax collections, meaning schools can’t expect a per-student funding hike and most state workers will likely go without raises for the second straight year.
Officials pin the weakness in sales tax, the state’s main revenue source; low farm income; e-commerce sales and increased health care costs. The GOP-controlled Legislature will reshape the current budget and craft the next one during the upcoming session.
Some lawmakers are eyeing changes to South Dakota’s first-in-the-nation state ballot question system, including a proposal that would ask voters to make it harder for constitutional amendments to pass at the ballot box.
House Speaker Mark Mickelson has floated an idea that would end citizens’ ability to gather signatures to propose constitutional changes at all. He’s also discussed giving voters a chance to scrap a victims’ rights constitutional amendment approved at the ballot that critics say has brought too many unintended consequences with it.
Should legislators get a raise? It could be voters’ choice. Top lawmakers are sponsoring a measure that would set legislators’ salaries at one-fifth of the median income. U.S. Census numbers for 2015 show that would mean a raise of 70 percent for the state’s 105 lawmakers to nearly $10,200.
Supporters say low pay limits the pool of people who can serve as legislators.
Faculty take note: Mickelson has proposed ending collective bargaining at South Dakota’s public universities.
Mickelson has said he doesn’t think collective bargaining “serves the mission of educating our kids.” Union contracts cover more than 1,300 staff members at the state’s six public universities and at schools for the blind and deaf.
The union negotiates on issues such as academic freedom, grievance rights, evaluation and tenure, but members can’t bargain for salary and benefits.
Daugaard wants lawmakers to extend an expiring law that governs the use of lakes on private land for recreation. The new rules were the product of a special legislative session last year on so-called nonmeandered waters.
Nonmeandered waters are bodies of water that weren’t specially designated during government surveys in the late 1800s. Some private property has since flooded, forming new, unofficial bodies of water and creating good fishing. But that has come at the cost of farmland and pastures lost by agriculture producers.
The law restored access to nearly 30 specific lakes for public recreation hampered after a 2017 state Supreme Court decision. It also said lakes on private property are open for recreational use unless a landowner installs signs or buoys saying an area is closed.
The governor’s bill would move the law’s June expiration date to 2021.
Attorney General Marty Jackley is seeking harsher penalties for methamphetamine dealing and manufacturing. The proposed changes also include tougher sentences for meth distribution if the person has things such as cash or guns and increasing penalties for distributing the drug to a minor.
Jackley also wants to require companies to inform state residents whose personal information was acquired in a data breach. The plan would require companies to notify the attorney general if it affected more than 250 residents.