Legislative roundup: Noem bills bite the dust

By: , and - February 24, 2023 5:43 pm
Gov. Kristi Noem testifies in support of a bill that would have eliminated the state sales tax on groceries in front of the House Committee on Appropriations on Feb. 21, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Gov. Kristi Noem testifies in support of a bill that would have eliminated the state sales tax on groceries in front of the House Committee on Appropriations on Feb. 21, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

About five months – that’s how long a proposed grocery sales-tax repeal inhabited political news, until a legislative committee brought all the chatter to an abrupt end this week.

Gov. Kristi Noem flipped the traditional political script when she announced her support for the idea in September. Democrats had been proposing the repeal for years, and had always been stymied by Noem’s own Republican Party.

Immediately after that announcement, legislators began to question the fiscal wisdom of exempting such a large category of purchases from the state sales tax. So it wasn’t a shock when Noem’s bill died this week, but it did make for interesting theater. Legislators on a budget panel rejected Noem’s plan and adopted a rival proposal – worth about $100 million in tax savings, similar to Noem’s bill – to lower the state sales tax from 4.5% to 4.2% across the board. That bill later passed the House and is headed to a Senate committee.

Also this week, the state Senate shot down Noem’s bill to create a committee for vetting foreign purchases of agricultural land. Earlier in the session, lawmakers defeated her proposal to expand family leave for public and private employees.

The governor has had some wins. A couple of examples: She’s signed her bill to reduce unemployment insurance contributions, an $18 million savings for employers; and this week legislators gave final approval to her bill to formally recognize many out-of-state occupational licenses, making it easier for professionals to relocate and fill jobs in South Dakota.

Noem signed 21 bills into law Wednesday and listed them in a news release. Wednesday was also “Crossover Day,” the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin. All that’s left of the 38-day legislative session are the next two weeks and then one day to consider vetoes on March 27.

Here’s a look at some bills we’re tracking.

Nursing homes

The House passed a HB 1167 Wednesday, which would require an annual 100% reimbursement rate for nursing homes and other community service providers. The day before, the House passed HB 1138,  which would require an annually updated cost report to accurately reflect changes in service costs. Both will head to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Adult day services

A bill that would help expand adult day services for elderly and disabled adults, HB 1078, passed out of Joint Appropriations on Thursday. While it originally asked for $5 million to award startup grants for facilities, the committee reduced the amount to $2 million.

Pharmacy costs

A bill that would lower costs for pharmacies by requiring greater transparency in the prescription drug supply chain passed the House last week and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday. HB 1135 now heads to the Senate floor.

Medicaid work requirements

A resolution that would ask South Dakota voters to authorize the addition of a work requirement for Medicaid enrollees passed out of the House nearly a month ago and finally got a hearing in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Friday. The committee rejected Senate Joint Resolution 5004 on a vote of 5-2.

Medical marijuana

Two bills introduced by Rep. Fred Deutsch that would have regulated the industry by limiting medical marijuana pop-up clinic locations (HB 1172) and regulating advertisements (HB 1129) were defeated in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday.

Fentanyl test strips

Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law Wednesday a bill that would legalize Fentanyl test strips. Proponents of HB 1041 say the test strips will help prevent fentanyl overdose deaths in the state.

Free state IDs

HB 1241, which would have allowed homeless South Dakotans to get a state ID card for free was rejected in the Joint Committee on Appropriations on Thursday.

Center for American Exceptionalism

HB 1070 would have funded the establishment of a center to develop state social studies and civics curriculum. It died on the House floor Wednesday. While it did earn a majority of votes, it didn’t earn a two-thirds vote needed to pass a special funding appropriation.

Moving county seats

An amended bill that raises the number of signatures needed to let county residents vote on whether to move a county seat received final approval this week. SB 56 is on the governor’s desk.

Intellectual diversity report

SB 45, which would repeal a required annual report on intellectual diversity at the state’s public universities, was rejected Friday by the House Education Committee.

Three strikes for kids

SB 4 would allow judges to commit children to Department of Corrections custody if they’re adjudicated (aka “convicted”) for three or more crimes in 12 months. The Senate wanted a two-adjudication standard and passed it as amended. The House Judiciary Committee switched it back to three on Friday and sent it to the full House on an 11-2 vote.

New prisons

The Joint Appropriations Committee endorsed more than $400 million in spending for new prisons this week. That’s $60 million for a women’s prison (HB 1016), which will be built in Rapid City over the next year and a half or so, and $342 million for a men’s prison (HB 1017)  in or near Sioux Falls. That one would be built later. Next up: the full House. 

Drunken driving

HB 1170, which would impose mandatory minimum sentences on repeat DUI offenders – people with four or more convictions – passed out of the House of Representatives this week 58-12. That one’s up in Senate Judiciary next.

Penalties for election circulators

People who purposefully lie on election petitions could be charged with a felony under SB 46, which made it out of the House on Thursday and now goes to Gov. Noem’s desk.

Domestic violence

SB 50 would make it easier to charge a person with the crime of witness tampering, particularly in cases involving domestic violence, where abusers sometimes scare their victims off from testifying. It passed House Judiciary on Wednesday on its way to the full House.

Ag nuisance claims

Agricultural operations would have greater protection from nuisance lawsuits if HB 1090 makes it to the governor. The Senate passed an amended version of the bill Friday, which will send it back to the House for consideration of the changes.

Foreign-owned ag land

After Noem’s bill to create a vetting committee for foreign purchases of ag land failed, the Senate sent a related bill to her desk. If Noem signs it, HB 1189 would require corporations filing annual reports with the Secretary of State’s Office to disclose whether they own ag land and have foreign owners. That’s despite existing laws that already result in the disclosure of that information.




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Seth Tupper
Seth Tupper

Seth is editor-in-chief of South Dakota Searchlight. He was previously a supervising senior producer for South Dakota Public Broadcasting and a newspaper journalist in Rapid City and Mitchell.

John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Makenzie Huber
Makenzie Huber

Makenzie Huber is a lifelong South Dakotan whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent five years as a journalist with experience reporting on workforce, development and business issues within the state.