The 2020 session of the South Dakota Legislature was over on March 12, other than March 30 when the Legislature returns for “veto day.” The Legislature reserves that day to override any vetoes that the Governor hands down. It requires a two-thirds vote to reverse any of those vetoes, so that is difficult to accomplish.
So far, we have heard that the governor has vetoed two bills: HB1012 and HB1013. Both of these bills were designed to correct technical errors in the code of laws. Many laws refer to other laws by statute number but sometimes the other laws are repealed but the reference still remains. These bills contained many, many of these kinds of corrections. The governor is concerned that the bills each refer to many other code sections even though our constitution requires that no bill can cover more than one topic and that the agencies or departments that might be affected by the changes were not consulted about the corrections. I think it is unlikely that the Legislature will override those vetoes.
As of Monday, the governor still had about 65 bills on her desk for which she has not made a decision whether she will sign them or veto them. Many of them are spending bills that were passed during the last days of the 2020 session. Some of them are “one-time spending” bills that pertain to fiscal year 2020 which is just about over and some of them are “ongoing” spending bills that pertain to fiscal year 2021 which will be starting on July 1.
Unfortunately, in the two weeks since those bills were passed by the Legislature, our entire economic outlook has changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The closure of so many businesses and the lack of consumer spending will have a dramatic effect on South Dakota’s sales tax collections which are the primary source of state revenue.
Maybe the dramatic decline in revenue will require us to rethink the plan for 2% increases in funding for education, state employees and health care providers, or maybe this is the time to consider digging into our emergency reserves. The governor is trying to determine whether to have the Legislature reconsider some of those spending bills on veto day, which will make that a long and difficult day. Many of the legislators would prefer that she call a special session of the Legislature to consider the state’s financial situation once that actual effect of the coronavirus shutdown is clearer.
The governor and Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon have provided several briefings for the Legislature on the ongoing coronavirus concerns which have now spread to South Dakota. We have been very fortunate so far in that we have a few dozen cases and one fatality. The vast majority of the people who have been tested in South Dakota have come back negative for the coronavirus.
The big problem in South Dakota has been the lack of the necessary laboratory supplies for the state health laboratory to do coronavirus testing as quickly as possible. The state has now received some of the necessary supplies and also some hospitals are having testing done by out-of-state laboratories. The state’s recommendations included washing hands and staying home as much as possible. However, this situation is rapidly evolving and you can check the state website at COVID.SD.GOV for current information and guidance.