Top issues for South Dakota Legislature in 2018

January 9, 2018

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017 file photo, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard outlines the state's spending priorities during his annual budget address at the State Capitol in Pierre, S.D. Daugaard's final legislative session as governor beginning Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018, won't be full of new state spending, but South Dakota lawmakers will keep busy debating issues including legislator pay and the state's ballot question system. (Briana Sanchez/The Argus Leader via AP, File)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota opened its 2018 legislative session on Tuesday with Gov. Dennis Daugaard delivering the final State of the State speech of his administration.

A look at the issues expected to command most of lawmakers’ attention:



Disappointing tax collections leave little room for new initiatives in the state budget. That means schools can’t expect any increase in funding per student. Most state workers likely will go without raises again.



Lawmakers are weighing a proposal that would ask voters to make it harder to pass constitutional amendments. And House Speaker Mark Mickelson has discussed blocking citizens from even pursuing constitutional amendments without the Legislature.

The ideas have some support after the 2016 election cycle, in which citizens pushed myriad initiatives and proposed amendments to the ballot, including an ethics package that legislators largely undid and rewrote.



Legislators will consider a plan that would no longer have them set their own salary. Instead, legislators would be paid one-fifth of the median household income, whatever that is. The proposal would leave it up to voters whether to amend the constitution to make it so.

Census data from 2015 show the change would bump pay by 70 percent for the state’s lawmakers, to nearly $10,200. Supporters of the idea say low pay limits the people who can serve.



Faculty at South Dakota’s public universities could be looking at the end of collective bargaining. Mickelson has said lawmakers will consider a proposal to do just that, arguing he doesn’t think it “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.



Lawmakers will look at extending a deal governing the use of lakes on private land for recreation. The Legislature last year restored access to nearly 30 lakes for public recreation that had been disrupted by a 2017 state Supreme Court decision, but the solution was good for just about a year. A proposal from Daugaard would move the expiration 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.



All South Dakota legislators and their staff are expected to attend sexual harassment training in January. The training comes after news reports about women who experienced sexism and harassment related to the male-dominated statehouse and a former lawmaker and lobbyist shared stories of harassment and assault. Last year, a state lawmaker who admitted to having sexual contact with two interns resigned.



Don’t look for much on permitless concealed carry or transgender bathroom bills this year. Conservatives stymied by Daugaard in years past expect more favorable conditions after he leaves office.



Oodles of information about the Legislature, your legislators, bills, committee schedules, and more are available at the legislative website: http://bit.ly/2Ek4lGX

For anyone who can’t get to Pierre, much of the state’s business can be found live online courtesy of South Dakota Public Broadcasting: http://bit.ly/2AGSsbW.

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