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January 18, 2017
The problem with IM-22: It’s based on a
Comments by David Owen, President, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry
Who could forget those foreboding ads warning that South Dakota had no law against legislators taking unlimited gifts – clearly suggesting that these gifts could buy votes and completely ignoring the fact that would be a bribe – which is now and always has been against the law.
Did you notice that the examples of corruption focused exclusively on two incidents of misusing funds and embezzlement where the perpetrators are believed to have taken their own lives (and tragically others as well) because they had been caught! Embezzlement is against the law.
Notice also that the rhetoric about gifts to legislators is just that, all rhetoric which never mentioned a specific example. That’s because it doesn’t happen.
South Dakota legislators are your neighbors, business owners, farmers, nurses and other regular citizens who put aside their daily lives to take up the responsibility of making laws and setting the state’s budget. The makeup of this session includes:
- 46 – Business Professionals – (including - 16 owners; 9 bankers/financial; 3 CPAs)
- 22 – Farmers/Ranchers
- 16 – Retired People (including – 6 from business; 3 teachers; 3 military/law enforcement)
- 6 – Attorneys
- 5 – Medical Professionals
- 3 – Public Employees
- 2 – Educators
- 2 - Clergy
- 2 – Non-profit Professionals
- 1 – Did Not Respond
These people use their life experience and information learned from meeting with constituents, along with details offered by lobbyists, to decide how to vote on more than 400 bills that address topics ranging from telecommunications and legal reforms to tax policy, medical procedures and criminal justice. There is simply no way any citizen legislator can know about all the topics they will be asked to address. Input and expertise from others is essential.
What about all those lavish receptions and socials? It can safely be said that Swedish meatballs and tiny cocktail weenies drowning in barbeque sauce may corrode the digestive system but they are simply not enough to corrupt the legislative process.
The groups that hosted receptions last week included:
- Retailers Association
- Pierre Chamber of Commerce
- South Dakota Technical Institutes
- Water Development Districts
- Rural Water Systems
- South Dakota Veterans Council
- Lutheran Social Services
- Council of Substance Abuse Directors and Addiction/Prevention Professionals
- Historical Society
- South Dakota Rural Electric Association
- South Dakota National Guard
These are not hordes of cash wielding, notorious or nefarious Cretans seeking to secure privileges for themselves. They are everyday South Dakota citizens who work hard and care deeply about the future of the state and who take time to help legislators understand the world and issues they deal with every day.
Dinners? There must be fine bistros with extravagant entrees and wine flowing like water down a mountainside. First, remember that the legislature meets in Pierre; a wonderful community with fewer than 20,000 people and no “lavish” restaurants. Yes, there are a number of really nice restaurants that serve great meals. Lobbyists use dinners with legislators to explain complicated issues and to have the time to answer questions. Discussions in the Capitol are often limited, only lasting several minutes. Of the limited number of legislators involved in these evening gatherings on any given night, not one has ever had a vote “bought” for the price of steak.
In spite of a false premise, the Legislature can’t ignore the people’s vote. As much as IM-22 was promoted using false claims, it would be a mistake to figure that the voters weren’t expressing concern about the political and governance process. The Legislature would be well-advised to adopt some kind of oversight for elections and the process of legislators doing their work while interacting with the public and lobbyists and groups that form to be advocates for their positions, needs and concerns.
SB 35 - New Property Tax Rates for Schools Payable in 2018
South Dakota has a system of property taxes that uses increasing property values to put downward pressure on the mil levies. Local governments are limited to the amount of revenue they are allowed to take from property taxes and school levies are set by the state as part of the state aid that supports school districts.
School property taxes, for the general fund, are the only taxes where levies are different for different kinds of property. For this year, the school general fund tax rates are:
· For Agriculture property - $1.56.8/$1,000 of taxable value (that’s one dollar, fifty six and eight tenths cents)
· For Homeowners property - $3.68.7/$1,000 of taxable value
· For Commercial property - $7.63/ $1,000 of taxable value
This means that for a property with a taxable value of $500,000, the taxes this year will be:
· For Agriculture = $784.00 for the school general fund
· For Homeowners = $1,843.50
· For businesses = $3,815
SB 35 contains the property tax rates for school general funds – payable next year. It is important to note that these rates could change if other bills alter the state aid formula. Those potential changes would most likely be small. Here are the rates projected for 2018:
· For Agriculture - $1.44.7 (down from $1.56.8 or 7.7%)
· For Homeowners - $3.40.2 (down from $3.68.7 or 7.7%)
· For Business - $7.04.1 (down from $7.63 or 7.7%)
This means the taxes for the property with a taxable value of $500,000 would be:
· For Agriculture = $723.50
· For Homeowners = $1,701.00
· For Business = $3,520.50
These taxes will be higher if the assessed value of the property increases between this year and next year. If the assessed value increases by 7.7% and the taxable value does as well, the tax bill would stay the same. The school general fund is only a portion of the tax bill. Other levies include capital outlay and bond levies for schools, plus taxes for the city and county.
HB 1049 - Revise Certain Provisions Regarding Good Cause for Voluntarily Leaving Employment
The state’s unemployment insurance (UI) system provides partial wage replacement for workers who have lost their jobs “through no fault of their own”. Burning down an employer’s place of business or stealing money are not deemed to fit that criteria and; therefore, anyone doing those things would not receive UI – a jail sentence maybe – but certainly not benefits.
Quitting is another example of an event that would ordinarily disqualify someone from receiving benefits. On the other hand, quitting because the workplace or duties are hazardous to an employee’s health is considered “good cause” and a person leaving a job because it is harmful can collect UI benefits.
HB 1049 will add “physician’s assistants” and “nurse practitioners” to the list of professionals authorized by law to conclude that someone’s job is hazardous to their health. The statute provides that these positions must be supervised by qualified people and those criteria apply to this new function.
It might be helpful to keep an eye out for employees breaking out in hives, as it may be a sign of a future UI claim.
Thank you for supporting the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Business Day at the Legislature is Thursday, February 23, 2017.