Of all the bills he could have and should have vetoed, Governor Dennis Daugaard yesterday chose to veto three tax cuts. They were niggly favors for special interests—landlords, electric utilities, and VFW baseball coaches—but they were all essentially tax cuts, and Governor Daugaard vetoed all three on the argument that they would erode the tax base.
These three vetoes kind of bust up our usual partisan categories. A good Republican governor rejects tax breaks, some of them backed by bigger business interests like the home builders and the Chamber of Commerce. That’s the kind of fiscal responsibility our Republican friends don’t emphasize on the campaign trail.
The Governor’s vetoes do create an interesting strategic opportunity for legislators who are running again. They could come back on veto day, March 30, and override these vetoes. They could say to voters, “That mean old Governor tried to deny you tax breaks, but we set him straight! We’re fighting for your pocketbook!” Governor Daugaard could take three hits for the team, fade into the background, and let his Republican legislators take center stage with the tax-cutting avidity.
Might that opportunity entice enough legislators to rally behind these vetoed bills? Or is loving unity and leader worship still too important to GOP fortunes to allow them to rise up against the governor, even for the sake of tax breaks?
Senate Bill 100 would have created a new “leased residential” classification for property tax. It was intended to low property tax on rental properties. In his veto message, Governor Daugaard says SB 100 proponents contradicted themselves, saying renters would get tax relief but that the savings would also allow owners to build more affordable housing. In setting the stage for a new classification with lower tax, SB 100 would shift tax burden to other property owners, says the Governor.
Senate Bill 136 would have excluded some municipal taxes from the amount used to calculate tax liability for electric coops and utilities. Governor Daugaard says SB 136 would give power providers a special break that no other South Dakota business gets.
Senate Bill 159 is Senator Brock Greenfield’s pet project to exempt himself and some other baseball coaches from the sales and use tax. Governor Daugaard says SB 159 is another special favor that would open the floodgates for folks crying for exemptions. He also objects to the exemption’s application solely to coaches of non-profit-sponsored amateur baseball teams.
Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote from each chamber of the Legislature. Only SB 136 had enough votes in each chamber to override:
I rode my bike to the courthouse to get my license plate tags yesterday.
My renewal isn’t due until the end of May, as is the case for all South Dakotans with last names ending in H, I, or O, but South Dakotans are allowed to renew their noncommercial vehicle registrations any time within 90 days of the renewal deadline.
Expect a lot of Hansons, Iversons, and Olsens in line at the courthouse during the next couple weeks. Senate Bill 1, the big road tax-and-spend bill passed by our Republican Legislature (I’m not saying that’s bad; I’m just reminding you who did it) raises vehicle registration fees 20% starting April 1. Register your Ford F-150 now, and you’ll save $18. HI-O!
There was a little confusion in the Capitol on the last day of the session as to when the tax and fee hikes would take effect. But read the bill, and the language of the emergency enactment clause is clear: “This Act shall be in full force and effect on and after April 1, 2015.” Governor Daugaard has signed SB 1 into law, but its provisions have no force until April Fools’ Day. Citizens registering vehicles in March pay the fees on the books in March.
The bean count I’d like to see this summer is a comparison of early registrations in past years and early registrations this month. When the dust has settled at the courthouse, I’ll bike over and ask for that data.
Governor Dennis Daugaard has named the first thirteen members of his new Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (what’s our pronounceable acronym: BluRT-FTS?):
The Blue Ribbon task force will be co-chaired by Sen. Deb Soholt (R-Sioux Falls) and Rep. Jacqueline Sly (R-Rapid City). Sen. Soholt and Rep. Sly chair the Education Committees in their respective chambers.
In addition to Sen. Soholt and Rep. Sly, the initial appointees are:
Sen. Corey Brown (R-Gettysburg)
Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission)
Sen. Billie Sutton (D-Burke)
Sen. Craig Tieszen (R-Rapid City)
Rep. Justin Cronin (R-Gettysburg)
Rep. Paula Hawks (D-Hartford)
Rep. Mark Mickelson (R-Sioux Falls)
Rep. Steve Westra (R-Sioux Falls)
Dr. Melody Schopp, Secretary of Education
Tony Venhuizen, Gov. Daugaard’s chief of staff
Jason Dilges, Commissioner of the Bureau of Finance and Management
That’s just the beginning. After stakeholder meetings through May, Governor Daugaard will make the committee even bigger. The Governor says some stakeholders will want one meeting to “unload their opinions” but won’t “want to participate in the task force because it’s too much time commitment,” but he will appoint willing (but not willful?) teachers, parents, and school board members to meet from June through October to come up with legislative proposals.
Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-4/Florence) submits this photo of one of the better bill signings this session:
On March 11, Governor Dennis Daugaard signed House Bill 1030 into law, establishing the safe passing distances motorists must maintain between themselves and bicycles. Notice the width of the Governor’s desk and Rep. Deutsch’s Trek Madone, demonstrating the little noticed provision of HB 1030 requiring that lawmakers maintain a gap of three feet when passing a bill.
Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings) agrees that roads and juvenile justice are big deals and adds his not-exactly conservative autism treatment coverage mandate to the list of top achievements for the 2015 Legislature:
Of course, Republicans aren’t going to up and invite us Democrats into the process on their own just for niceys. Their corrupt, complacent, calcified cronyism (a description that could only come from the Constant Commoner) forbids such action. The only way to get the Republicans to open that door and involve Democrats and all citizens will be to kick some of those Republicans out and replace them with more Democrats. Fill every slot, and run to win!
Senator Bernie Hunhoff still sees progress being made toward expanding Medicaid, but he says the biggest disappointment of the 2015 Legislative Session is his colleagues’ continued failure to support education:
On budget percentages: the FY2016 general fund amount authorized in HB 1208 is 2.95% higher than the amount last year’s Legislature authorized for the FY2015 budget. State aid to general education is going up 2.11%* from last year’s appropriation. South Dakota Public Broadcasting gets zero increase.
Even in an area where the state is making progress, finally joining every other state in offering a needs-based scholarship for high education, Senator Hunhoff says the Legislature’s support is still too tenuous:
Senator Hunhoff needs all Democrats to join him in explaining to the public the state’s failure to adequately fund education.
*Update 17:00 CDT: Spreadsheet error! I have corrected the percentage figures given above. I’m looking further into the budget to find the comparison that would explain the discrepancy between the percentages I list here and those cited by Senator Hunhoff in his remarks on video.
Among the good things to come out of the Legislature is House Bill 1030, which specifies that motor vehicles shall give bicycles a three-foot gap when passing on roads where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour or less and a six-foot gap on higher-speed roads. Since the Governor signed the bill last week Wednesday, HB 1030 takes effect on July 1… but motoring neighbors, feel free to practice those passing gaps now.
HB 1030 did not get to the Governor’s desk without one nasty bit of anti-bikery in the Senate. Senator David Omdahl (R-11/Sioux Falls) tried to amend the bill to exempt all rural roads from the bicycle-passing requirements. Senator Omdahl wouldn’t have gotten rid of the safe passing gap completely. His amendment proposed to allow counties to designate certain sufficiently wide rural roads for bicycle travel where the passing-gap requirement would apply. One would assume from Senator Omdahl’s speech supporting his amendment that “sufficiently wide” would mean a driving lane that can accommodate an eight-foot-wide semi, a six-foot-wide passing gap, and maybe a couple feet for a bicycle—at least sixteen feet total. Given that Senator Omdahl said the standard lane width on county roads is twelve feet, it would appear his intent was to restrict bicycle designations to only the widest, thus likely busiest rural roads.
I can’t figure out why Senator Omdahl and other conservatives express such antagonism to bicycles. Perhaps more than anyone else on the highway, cyclists embody rugged individualism and self-reliance. They’re not just playing games; they’re getting to work and church and Hy-Vee under their own power. What could be more conservative than that?
As is so often the case in the United States of Koch, conservatism is a mere front for corporate interests and the almighty dollar. Senator Omdahl said he brought the amendment “to protect both the cyclists and the traveling public” (which phrase suggests Omdahl does not consider cyclists part of the traveling public), but his speech to the amendment suggests the primary purpose of the amendment was to allow semis to get from point A to point B without having to wait for pesky bicycles.
The MinusCar Project heard Senator Omdahl’s amendment as an effort to ban bicycles from most rural roads. The amendment didn’t seem to make that explicit, but Senator Omdahl hinted that’s the ultimate impact he wanted his amendment to have. He told the Senate the signs his amendment would require counties to put up on designated bicycle routes would “give the cyclist notice of where he can ride and of where he probably shouldn’t ride.”
Fortunately, MinusCar and I didn’t have to jump all over Senator Omdahl. Our cycling and safety-conscious senators did. Senators Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City), Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison), and Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) all opposed the amendment with a firm defense of bicyclists’ equal right to the road. Senator Tieszen said the purpose of HB 1030 is not the paycheck of the truck driver but the safety of bicyclists. Senator Tieszen and Senator Parsley agreed that semis have to slow down and wait to pass bicyclists just as they must wait for tractors or other slow vehicles. Senator Vehle said that in his bicycling, he doesn’t really encounter problems with truck drivers: as professional drivers, they slow down and give him plenty of room when he’s on two wheels.
Senator Omdahl accused Senator Vehle of “going down a bunny trail,” but the majority hopped to Vehle’s side, rejected Omdahl’s anti-bicycle amendment, and approved the passing gaps.
Please veto Senate Bill 69 and its companion SB 67.
As written, Senate Bill 69 will likely be overturned by the courts. Specifically, Section 7 prohibits voters registered as members of recognized political parties from signing Independent petitions. No other state imposes such limits on voters’ right to nominate Independents to the general election ballot. Louisiana had such a law from 1918 to 1948, during which time no Independent candidate made the Louisiana ballot. Citing the Louisiana experience, the U.S. District Court of Arizona overturned a similar Arizona law in Campbell v. Hull (1999), finding, “there is no reason to believe that Arizona can prevent independents from seeking the support of registered Republicans and Democrats as long as those partisan voters have not already performed a nominating act.” The State of Arizona never appealed this decision.
SB 69 creates additional problems in Sections 12 and 24. Section 12 moves the deadline for organizing a new party up three to four more weeks, further restricting the ability of voters to respond to government actions by forming new parties. Section 24 allows new-party candidates to obtain petition signatures from non-party members, forcing new parties to accept candidates who may be nominated entirely by non-party members. Both provisions infringe on the freedom of association of members of new parties.
Case law indicates significant portions of SB 69, if enacted, will not withstand court scrutiny. We would do better to drop the entire bill and return next year to craft a bill that adheres more closely to the Board of Elections’ original intent of reforming the petition process. Arguably, Senate Bill 68, the third portion of this year’s petition reform package, does enough by itself to improve the integrity of the petition process by mandating that the Secretary of State check statewide nominating petitions with 5% random sampling.
SB 69 is integrally linked to SB 67, which sets the deadline for filing court challenges to petitions on the third Tuesday in March. Vetoing SB 69 would leave the deadline for filing petitions on the last Tuesday in March, making the court deadline of SB 67 inappropriate.
Vetoing SB 69 and SB 67 will protect voter rights and spare the state a court challenge it would lose while leaving intact the step taken in SB 68 to improve the integrity of nominating petitions. Please veto Senate Bill 69 and Senate Bill 67.
If you have any questions about the reasons to veto SB 69 and SB 67, I will be happy to speak with you further. Thank you for your attention to voter rights and petitions.
Cory Allen Heidelberger
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Rep. Spence Hawley attempted to alert the conference committee to the legal problems with Senate Bill 69 on Friday, but to no avail. Let us hope the Governor will now heed these concerns. Governor Daugaard, please spare the voters some grief and the state another legal bill: please veto Senate Bill 69 (and 67).