Today is the last day for committees to deliver bills to the House and Senate in Pierre. Among the bills that must do or die today is House Bill 1228, the second incarnation of the state’s effort to create a debt collection agency. The Department of Revenue had brought a much tougher, more comprehensive bill, Senate Bill 59, that basically would have quit piddling around and grabbed deadbeats by their paychecks and bank accounts. Private debt collectors said Hey! Shakedowns are our job! and the Legislature backed off their turf, settling instead for the less toothy HB 1228’s threat to take away debtors’ driving, hunting, and fishing licenses.
Even that remaining tooth isn’t very sharp compared to the original plan. SB 59 would have blocked debtors from obtaining any state license, including teaching certificates and licenses to practice law.
The state’s hesitance to follow through on debt collection puzzles me. They can’t even call it “debt collection”; House Appropriations euphemized the purpose of HB 1228 to “obligation recovery.” We’re not talking about imposing a new tax or fee; we’re talking about money people already owe, money that should be in our hands to fund our schools and roads. If a student violates the conditions of her Critical Teaching Needs scholarship or Build South Dakota scholarship and tries to skip out on paying us back, we’re entitled to get that money. Why wait around… and why fritter away some of that debt in hiring a private collection agency? Go get what’s ours and be done!
Senate Appropriations takes up the debt collection—excuse me, obligation recovery center bill this morning at 10 a.m.