South Dakota Legislative Update - March 11, 2021

Small Towns
Farm and Food

Welcome to the Pierre Review
The legislative session is coming to a close. March 11 was Day 36 of South Dakota’s 37-day session.

The last date for bills or joint resolutions to pass both houses was March 8. The 37th day of the session is March 29, which is reserved for gubernatorial vetoes.

As the session draws to a close, we thank you for following our legislative updates. Please feel free to be in touch with us anytime of the year about issues that are important to your rural community.

Food and agriculture

Senate Resolution of Disapproval (SRD) 901—Support: SRD 901 was introduced by Sen. Troy Heinert in response to Gov. Kristi Noem’s Executive Order 2021-3. The executive order dissolves both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, and merges them into a new, combined department called the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The resolution, if passed, would have disapproved, or blocked, the department merger. 

SRD 901 was heard in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee on March 4. The Center issued action alerts in support of the resolution. During testimony multiple senators remarked they had received a high number of messages from constituents citing concerns about the merger. The bill passed through committee on a 4-3 vote. It  was then heard on the Senate floor on March 8 and failed on a vote of 18-17. Sen. Heinert asked that the bill be reconsidered, but on March 9 he withdrew his motion saying that after speaking with the Senate members it was clear the reconsideration vote would not pass.

HB 1040—Support: Brought at the request of the Department of Agriculture, the bill would make an appropriation to fund certain small meat processor grants and to declare an emergency. COVID-19 has caused disruptions in the meat processing industry, creating a backlog at many local meat processors. This bill allocates $5 million to create a grant program that would allow meat processors to expand their processing capabilities through infrastructure improvements. This Meat Processing Grants Program One-Pager provides an overview of the program.

HB 1040 passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee unanimously on Jan. 28. The Center submitted a supportive comment. The bill was tabled Feb. 25 at the request of the Department of Agriculture because Gov. Kristi Noem approved the use of coronavirus relief funds to support the program, making the appropriation from the general fund unnecessary. The funds are available for immediate use and the Ag Department is moving forward with rolling out the program.

House Bill 1219—Support: This bill, introduced by Rep. Spencer Gosch, would enact an Interstate Meatpacking Compact that would allow state-inspected meat to be sold across state lines if that state is also a member of the compact. Current law allows only federally inspected meat to be sold across state lines. This would open up new markets for livestock producers using state-inspected facilities, which are often located in more rural areas. 

HB 1219 passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Feb. 23 on a 7-5 vote. It was heard on the House floor Feb. 25 and failed to pass with a vote of 30-37. During the hearings, both proponents and opponents of the bill agreed that interstate meat sales is a priority for the state, but concerns about unintended consequences to the state’s current meat-inspection program kept it from advancing.

HB 1121—Support: This bill, introduced by Rep. Marli Wiese, establishes criteria governing the sale of homemade food items. HB 1121 makes changes to the state’s “home processed foods law,” which allows for the sale of shelf-stable baked and canned goods without a license. HB 1121 expands the list of homemade food items that can be sold directly to consumers to include both temperature-controlled and shelf-stable goods. Additionally, non-temperature-controlled homemade food items could be sold at retail and grocery stores. Producers are exempt from licensing requirements as long as their annual gross revenue from selling homemade food items does not exceed $150,000.

HB 1121 was heard Feb. 23 in the House Local Government Committee. The Center submitted a supportive comment highlighting the economic benefits to food entrepreneurs. Opponents expressed concerns including reservations about the $150,000 revenue allowance. The bill failed to advance and was sent to the 41st day (killed) on a vote of 10-3. 

HB 1042—Support: This bill was brought at the request of the Department of Natural Resources and would revise certain provisions regarding riparian buffer strips. HB 1042 decreases the assessed agricultural income value of land classified as a riparian buffer strip from 60% to 50% and changes the application requirement from annual to once every 10 years.

HB 1042 received unanimous support in both the House and Senate committees and floor votes. It was noted in testimony that the intent of this bill is to increase sign-ups in the buffer strip program. Only 1,000 acres are enrolled, but 13,000 acres are available to be enrolled. The bill was signed by the governor on Feb. 18.

Economic and community development

Senate Bill (SB) 34—Support: Brought at the request of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the bill would make an appropriation to expand rural access to broadband services and to declare an emergency. SB 34 allocates $100 million dollars toward building out broadband infrastructure in the state, giving priority to projects that leverage existing investment and infrastructure, serve locations without high-speed internet, and serve the most customers. Many rural South Dakotans lack adequate internet access, making this program an important investment for rural communities. 

SB 34 passed the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee unanimously on Jan. 26. The Center submitted a supportive comment. The Joint Committee on Appropriations amended the bill from $100 million to $75 million after the governor announced she would allocate $25 million toward broadband expansion through CARES Act funding. The bill passed Joint Appropriations on March 2 with a vote of 13-5.  It was heard on the Senate floor March 3 and passed unanimously 34-0. On March 8, it passed the House floor with a vote of 52-16.
HB 1077—Support: This bill was brought at the request of the governor’s office and would provide for licensure by endorsement for certain licensed professionals and occupations. In March, Gov. Kristi Noem issued Executive Order 2020-07, which allowed for greater flexibility for health care professionals as part of COVID-19 response. HB 1077 is an extension of that order and makes permanent the recognition of out-of-state licenses for certain medical professionals. 
HB 1077 was heard in the House State Affairs Committee Jan. 27 and passed unopposed. It passed the House floor with a vote of 67-3, received unanimous support in the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, and then passed the Senate floor with a vote of 34-1. It was signed by the governor on Feb. 23.

Energy and environment

HB 1053—Neutral: This bill, introduced by Rep. Mark Willadsen, establishes an annual fee for certain electric motor vehicles. HB 1053 creates an annual fee of $100 for electric motor vehicles to offset the lost funds that are normally generated through the gas tax, collected in the state’s highway maintenance fund, and used for construction and maintenance of roads and bridges. The state gas tax is 28 cents/gallon, which means the $100 annual fee for electric vehicles is equivalent to the tax paid on 357 gallons of gas. 

HB 1053 passed the House Transportation Committee unopposed on Jan. 28 after the bill was amended to decrease the annual fee from $100 to $50. It passed the House floor with a vote of 51-18 on Feb. 2, the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb. 17 with a vote of 6-1, and the Senate floor on Feb. 22 with a vote of 29-6. It was signed by the governor on March 3.