Week eight of the session saw mostly House bills that made it through their chamber of origination by Crossover Day last week.

House Joint Resolution 5003 would put on the ballot a proposal to require a constitutional amendment or initiated measure for any increase in taxes, fees or other spends of more than $10 million to pass with 60% of the vote instead of the current 50%. The proposal will be decided by the public during the 2022 primary election. I have several issues with this proposal. The first: it doesn’t seem logical that the act of creating a 60% necessity takes only 50% approval to pass. I also take issue with the timing. Historically, primary elections have had much lower voter turnout than general elections. It doesn’t seem right for a major change in how ballot measures are decided to be decided by fewer voters; I voted against HJR 5003, but it passed in the Senate, 18-17.

HB1226 would have prohibited the Secretary of State from mailing applications for absentee ballots unless a voter requests it. South Dakota had high election turnout in 2020, due in part to automatic mailing of absentee ballots to all registered voters due to the coronavirus pandemic. High voter turnout numbers are a good thing, and I could not think of a compelling reason why the Secretary of State should not have that option. HB1226 was heard in Senate State Affairs; it was defeated, 9-0, after it passed the House by a wide margin of 52-16. It is not uncommon for the House and Senate to have major differences of opinion regarding certain bills.

SB34 appropriates $75 million to improve broadband connection across South Dakota. This will be combined with private investment and federal grants. It is important to make use of South Dakota’s current surplus of funds in a way that will keep us strong in the future. SB34 passed the Senate, 34-0.

SCR 607 affirms the legislators’ support for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. I voted in favor of SCR 607, and it passed the Senate, 33-2.

A number of bills have been related to marijuana, medical marijuana and hemp. HB1061, which prohibits smoking and consuming marijuana in a motor vehicle, passed the Senate unanimously. HB1203, authorizing banks to engage with businesses associated with hemp and marijuana, passed the Senate, 33-2. HB1228, reducing regulations for industrial hemp, passed the Senate, 27-6. I voted in favor of both HB1203 and HB1228. There may be more marijuana-related legislation debated by the end of session.

The main run of session is scheduled to end Thursday, March 11. By then, the budget should be finalized. I will provide an update.

As always, if you have any concerns about the issues facing the Legislature, I can be reached at 605-660-6468 or kyle.schoenfish@sdlegislature.gov.

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