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Crackerbarrel Question List: Pending Bills Your Legislators Should Be Ready to Talk About

Whether you’re heading to today’s crackerbarrels with curiosity or protest signs, you should be ready to ask your legislators questions. Some may want to ask about votes already taken, like the nationally infamous House Bill 1008, the unneighborly paranoid potty bill. I prefer to focus on horses that are still in the barn. Here are some questions you can ask about bills coming before legislators next week (click on each bill number to see bill text, sponsors, and any votes taken so far):

House Bill 1182—Governor Dennis Daugaard’s 4.5% sales tax to support the Blue Ribbon teacher pay raises (House to reconsider Monday):

  1. House members: Will you vote the same way Monday as you did Thursday?
  2. Which is better: the Governor’s plan Senate Bill 151, which goes easier on the poor by removing the tax on food, raises teacher pay to the regional median instead of the regional floor, and funds pay raises for every current teacher rather than, as the Governor’s plan does, requiring most schools to cut teachers to meet the salary goals?
  3. If we require schools to spend reserves to raise teacher pay to competitive market levels, where do schools get the money to maintain those salaries once those reserves are exhausted?
  4. What dollar amount should we target for our average teacher pay?

House Bill 1130—Rep. Russell’s bill to dedicate $75 million from video lottery to raising teacher pay and to cover that new spending by cutting other programs (on Monday’s Joint Appropriations Committee agenda):

  1. Would the cuts proposed in HB 1130 result in the loss of federal matching dollars for other state programs?

House Bill 1161Payday lenders’ latest trick to evade Initiated Measure 21, the real 36% rate cap (on Monday’s House calendar):

  1. Why do laws for short-term lenders need to be moved to a separate section of state code?
  2. What new guidelines for payday and title lenders or protections for consumers does HB 1161 provide that are not already provided under current law?
  3. How does HB 1161 help payday and title lenders?
  4. How does HB 1161 help borrowers?
  5. Who is pushing this bill and why?
  6. Lobbyists for HB 1161 have admitted that this bill is an effort to circumvent Initiated Measure 21, the 36% interest rate cap that we citizens get to vote on in November. Will support a bill that effectively takes away the public’s hard-earned right to vote on this important policy issue?

Senate Bill 159Stealth vouchers! Reimbursing insurance companies via tax break for paying for children’s private school tuition (on Monday’s Senate calendar):

  1. Does SB 159 use public money to support religious schools? Is SB 159 unconstitutional?
  2. Why should the state invest money in private schools when it is struggling to find the money to pay public school teachers competitive wages?
  3. Why give this tax break exclusively to insurance companies? Why not offer a tax break to any business or any resident who pays for children to attend private schools?
  4. Why should the state subsidize tuition assistance for families who can afford private school tuition on their own? (Review my explanation of the income standards before asking!)

Senate Bill 160giving legislators $4,500 a year ($9,000 for Legislative leaders) for “constituent expenses” outside of the Legislative Session (on Monday’s Joint Appropriations Committee agenda):

  1. SB 160 includes an emergency clause, meaning legislators are voting to give themselves this new money this year, starting in April. Should legislators get a pay raise before teachers do?
  2. SB 160 offers lump sum payments, without any requirement to report and itemize actual expenses. Should SB 160 require some accountability to ensure this new money is spent on constituent services?
  3. Why does SB 160 not include any safeguards against these public dollars being used by incumbents for campaign expenses?

House Bill 1234—require legislative approval for any changes to Medicaid (on Monday’s House State Affairs agenda):

  1. Does HB 1234 usurp power properly reserved to the executive branch?
  2. Good night! Are we going to expand Medicaid or what? Are we going to get health coverage for 50,000 South Dakotans and infuse our economy with hundreds of millions in federal dollars and thousands of new jobs, or are we going to let the Koch Brothers deny us those benefits just to scratch their corporate fascist itch? (I know, loaded question, but HB 1234 is a loaded bill.)

House Bill 1220—Rescinding the GEAR UP grant waiver and spending 50% to 75% of GEAR UP grant money on scholarships for Native American students (on Monday’s House Education agenda):

  1. Do you believe giving Native American students scholarships will be a more effective use of federal GEAR UP dollars and state matching funds than the academic summer camp and other middle- and high-school education enhancement programs coordinated under the grant by Mid-Central Educational Cooperative and its partners?

House Bill 1007—appropriating $175,000 for SDSU to research methods of evaluating agricultural land’s productive capacity and to update soil tables used in calculating property tax on ag land (on Monday’s Senate calendar):

  1. What shortcomings in the current ag assessment formula will HB 1007 help fix?
  2. Wouldn’t it be easier to tax farmers based on their actual income rather than on our best ag scientists’ guesstimate of their potential income?

House Bill 1208—authorizing sale of surplus property at the state Developmental Center in Redfield (on Monday’s Senate calendar):

  1. Will the state use the proceeds of this sale to raise pay, hire more staff, and otherwise ameliorate poor working conditions at the Redfield facility?

You can find many more interesting bills worth discussing with your legislators, but with action pending Monday, the above bills may be deserve first attention. Whatever bills interest you, go get answers from your legislators… and take notes and video!


  1. Francis Schaffer 2016-02-20 10:31

    I couldn’t make it as I am taking care of some business issues. Please let me know the answers to your questions. Thank you.

  2. sherry 2016-02-20 11:29

    Governor Dugaard’s method of raising teacher pay is the Donner Pass method of salary enhancement. We saw it at the higher education level in the 90s, and higher Ed is not any more competitive in salaries now than before. Education salaries K-12 and post secondary in SD are abysmal

  3. Roger Cornelius 2016-02-20 11:44

    The Rapid City Journal is reporting that Rep. Scott Craig will change his nay vote to aye on the governor’s education bill.

  4. owen reitzel 2016-02-20 11:59

    You’re right Roger. KELO had it on their news last night

  5. Roger Elgersma 2016-02-20 13:36

    SB 159 is unfair to businesses and prejudiced on who can and can not get a tax break on this. Why should some businesses get this opportunity and others do not. Totally random in chosing who can gain and everyone else not. When I attended Christian High school in Minnesota in the seventies the democrat run legislature and gov passed a bill that all Christian school parents could get a tax break or refund up to thirty percent of their childs tuition. Now Republicans seem to think this is a business thing and not a family thing. But they are Republicans, we expect them to be about business instead of people and family.

  6. grudznick 2016-02-20 16:02

    What crackers did you throw at the barrels and the Novstrups, Mr. H? Novstrup the younger, who’s chair you want to sit in, is against teacher pay. I hope you gave him what-fer.

  7. Snaillady 2016-02-20 19:23

    Is there a reason that you failed to mention FB 72?

  8. grudznick 2016-02-20 19:42

    FB 72?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-21 08:23

    SB 72—sorry, Snaillady! Lots of bills popping, easy to miss problems in the pile. I see ACLU and NARAL-SD are beating the drums hard on that one, and it’s worth tackling… although I have to admit, the GOP does a great job of spreading the field with abortion and culture-war bills to pull resources away from fighting corruption and low teacher pay.

  10. Paladn 2016-02-21 14:19

    Ok, one nay vote will change to aye. Any info as to the “weekend whippings” on the nay House members to change to aye?

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