Legislative Wrap-Up: South Dakota
On March 19, 2012, the 2012 legislative session in South Dakota drew to a close with attempts to override three of Governor Dennis Daugaard's vetoes. The 2012 session covered a number of hot-button issues including abortion, drug testing of welfare recipients, and health care. However, the main focus of this year's session was HB 1234, which amended education laws and was backed heavily by Governor Daugaard. In addition to education, senators and representatives introduced legislation relating to digital billboards, energy tax credits, and concealed handgun permits.
The South Dakota legislature is dominated by the Republican Party, which won a super-majority during the 2010 general election. Thirty of the 35 senators are Republican, as are 50 of the 70 representatives. Only one representative is listed as an Independent, leaving the House with 19 Democrats.
There were a number of controversial provisions in HB 1234, the legislature's signature bill this session. Among these were the elimination of teacher tenure, a new plan to evaluate teachers that is partially based on student performance, bonuses for the top teachers in a school district as well as special incentives for math and science teachers, and scholarships for college students who agree to teach in critical subject areas. The bill allows school districts to tailor these programs to meet their own needs or even to opt-out of the programs completely. Proponents of the bill, including Governor Daugaard, argued that the bill would boost student performance and provide teachers with incentives to provide quality instruction. However, some legislators continued to oppose the bill. Democratic Representative Bernie Hunhoff said that “This is not an investment in education. This is an attack on education.” After a number of revisions and amendments, the bill was eventually signed into law by the Governor.
One of Governor Daugaard's most heavily-publicized actions was his decision to veto HB 1228, a bill that would have established tax credits for certain alternative energy projects within the state. The Governor explained that small wind farm projects would not be eligible for the credits. He said that “the state needs incentives in place for wind projects, but it should be part of a more general plan to encourage all kinds of large projects.” Critics of the Governor's decision say that the tax refund would not only have provided cheaper energy to residents of South Dakota but would also have encouraged economic growth.
Another controversial bill vetoed by the Governor was HB 1248, a bill that authorized individuals over 18 years of age with a valid South Dakota driver's license to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. Republican Senator Larry Rhoden, who supports the bill, said that “"unless there are very solid, legitimate reasons to put restrictions on your constitutional rights — in this case, your Second Amendment right to carry a firearm — unless you have a rock-solid reason to leave that restriction in place, it should be removed.” But Governor Daugaard vetoed the bill, arguing that it would have created additional complications for law enforcement officers.
The Governor also vetoed SB 157, a bill that prohibited cities from banning digital billboards. The bill was aimed at a local measure passed by Rapid City that allowed the city to ban digital billboards. Governor Daugaard stated that “it’s not appropriate for the state to be heavy-handed in the face of something that was very clearly a local aesthetic attitude.” Proponents of the bill, however, were concerned about the impact that billboard bans would have on small businesses and local economies.
Alice Anderson is a student at St. Edward's University majoring in history with a minor in psychology and is a current intern with Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.
22 June 2012
Legislative Wrap-Up: South Dakota