• April 2020

Legislature concludes 95th session

By Debra Owen
Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce

The 95th Legislative Session has come to a close. We have spent the first three months of 2020 in the halls of our state's capitol advocating on behalf of our members. The Chamber's advocacy platform is reviewed by the Issues Management Council and adopted by the Board of Directors. We understand the privilege and the responsibility of business advocacy.

We understand the privilege and the responsibility of business advocacy.

The $4.9 billion dollar FY 2021 budget was a compromise of nine weeks of discussions between the legislature, advocates and the Governor's office. The budget included a 2% inflationary funding increase for education, state employees and community support providers. Given the conversations last December for a zero increase, the 2% inflationary adjustment was a positive outcome.

The budget also included key Chamber interests, such as fully funding statewide support for a centralized 211 information system, funding for University of South Dakota's Allied Health Facility, $1 million in funding to begin the research and development for a new bioprocessing facility and the legalization of industrial hemp.

The big news of this session was the passage of SB 70, the Spanish driver's license exam bill. The Senate passed the bill with a 24/11 vote and the House of Representatives passed the bill with a vote of 42/24. This is a workforce bill and an ongoing effort of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. As of this writing, the bill is on Governor Kristi Noem's desk for her consideration.

Reminder, here is what the bill does: The driver's license application, the study manual and the written test will all be printed in Spanish. However, the skills portion of the test, the actual driving component, will be in English. In other words, the test taker must demonstrate they can converse in English well enough to understand what the driving instructor is asking him/her to do. South Dakota is the 48th state to offer driver's license exams in Spanish.

Speaking of the 48th state, the two branches of government worked out a deal on the legalization of industrial hemp (HB 1008). This bill passed both Houses with the support of Governor Noem. Our state will be the 48th state to legalize industrial hemp. There was much work on this topic over the summer by our legislature through an interim committee. We thank all our elected officials who helped to find a way to a positive outcome for South Dakota.

However, when it comes to education our legislature has work to do. The House Appropriations committee killed SB 72, the Dakota Promise scholarship program. This bill sought to help university students from lower-income households to be eligible for federal Pell grants. South Dakota doesn't have a general scholarship program specifically for Pell-eligible students.

In addition, there were several bills aimed at reducing funding and access for the dual credit program. Dual credit is an opportunity for all South Dakota high school students who meet admissions standards to enroll in postsecondary institutions and simultaneously earn credits for both their high school diploma and postsecondary degree or certificate. Dual credit courses can be taken through the Board of Regents or through our technical colleges. Dual credit provides a pathway to work for our high school kids. Ask a student, parent of a student or an employer who hires them – the program works. It provides an effective impetus to keep our kids in South Dakota.

You can learn more about the Chamber's advocacy efforts in our 2020 Legislative Annual Report. This comprehensive report contains more detail on all of our advocacy efforts and includes the legislative scorecard.

In conclusion, our advocacy efforts are guided by our members. We thank them for their valued involvement!

Thank you to our Chamber News Premium Sponsors

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