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AUG. 6, 2014 - VOL. 49 No. 11

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How they voted: A look at the 2011 legislative session

Robert O'Connell
Public Affairs and Communications Director

The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce reports each year on how the Sioux Falls area legislators voted on bills promoted by the Chamber. The Chamber's platform was adopted after deliberations by the Tax, Business Transportation and Issues Management committees. The Chamber Board of Directors decides on the platform after review of the committees' recommendations. The Chamber strives to be impartial and accurate in presenting this information. Publishing "How They Voted" is designed to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on area business concerns between voters and elected officials.
The compilation shown here should not be viewed as rating the overall effectiveness of individual legislator; rather, it is a way to inform Chamber members about how area legislators responded to issues strongly advocated by Sioux Falls businesses and Forward Sioux Falls investors.

When legislators are called away from the floor and are not present during a vote, an excused vote is recorded, provided the legislator gave proper notification regarding the need to be away from the floor. However, whenever a legislator was excused or absent on a particular bill, the Chamber scored the non-vote as a "No" vote. The votes for Districts 9-15 are shown on the attached chart. A (+) indicates a vote aligned with the Chamber's position. A (-) indicates a vote that did not support the Chamber's position. The number in parentheses indicates the legislative district in which each legislator serves. All votes in this list are on the final passage of the bill unless otherwise indicated.

The Chamber supported SB 152 to help reduce the 10 percent in state education funding proposed in the Governor's budget. The bill was designed to retain local property taxes while at the same time allowing the state's proposed cuts. The Chamber advocated for this bill as a way to soften the blow of education cuts.

The Chamber's platform over the last few years contained a plank asking the state to fund its share of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System project and the state completed its share of the funding in 2010. The federal government agreed to fund the remainder of the project. All parties except the federal government have now paid their share of the project. The Chamber promoted Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2) asking the federal government to fulfill its commitment to fully fund its share of the project.

Another platform plank would establish a large project incentive process to replace the present system that will sunset in December 2012. Gov. Dennis Dauguaard's administration discussed a number of options with business community. HB 1230 was the result. The process will result in loans or grant commitments that can be counted on by the recipients. The threshold was reduced to $5 million to bring in more projects.
The Chamber has advocated for funds to enhance deteriorating roads and bridges in counties, cities and townships. HB 1192 was just such a bill. It increases license fees for the maintenance of drastically deteriorating infrastructure. The testimony about the needs for maintenance of the roads and bridges was compelling.

The Chamber advocated for a Governor's bill HB 1248 to remove the sunset clause from the half penny increase in the tourism tax passed in 2009 with a two-year sunset clause. The funds are used to promote tourism statewide and to fund Arts council grants, the state's Archaeological Research Center and the Pierre Cultural Heritage Center. In 2010, visitor spending rose $96 million or an increase of 10 percent — the largest increase since tracking began in 1985. Total visitor spending was more than $1 billion. Tourism generated 20 percent of all state and local tax revenue in 2010.

Another proposal that was not a specific bill was a $500,000 appropriation in the Games, Fish & Parks budget for the Blood Run Historic park project. The Blood Run site is an opportunity to establish a state park close to Sioux Falls. It represents an ecologically diverse landscape with a long history that will be preserved if this project is completed.  Appropriators Sen. Phyllis Heineman, Sen. Deb Peters and Rep. Jim Bolin were very supportive and we thank them for their help.

For more information about the 2011 session contact the Chamber's lobbyist Bob O'Connell at (605) 336-1620 or roconnell@siouxfalls.com.

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