Press "Enter" to skip to content

Five Bills on Conference Committee Agendae

The latest bill report from the LRC lists five bills for which conference committees have been appointed to spend the last three full days of Session this week wrangling into passable shape:

House Bill 1171 seeks to include our vo-tech schools in the state’s free tuition program for veterans. Current statute lets veterans take college courses for free for the same number of months that they served, although every veteran gets at least one free year and none get more than four free years. The bill sailed unanimously through both houses (because even the South Dakota Legislature will vote for a Bernie Sanders policy, as long as we can fly it from the inviolable veterans’ flagpole), but the Senate added an amendment requiring the tuition benefit be handed out within 30 days of the start of each academic term, and after voting to concur in the House, Majority Leader Lee Qualm in the House Thursday realized there’s a boo-boo in the Senate’s wording entangling this free tuition and the general fund.

Senate Bill 8, the only concrete legislation to emerge from last summer’s mental health services interim committee, would fund an expansion of our 211 hotline services providing information “for a person in a crisis or disaster; resources for social services, human services, legal assistance, financial assistance, or for other related needs; and assistance for mental health, physical health, or substance abuse.” LRC said doing it right would cost $800,000; the placeholder amount written into SB 8 to keep it alive for conference committee debate is $2.

Senate Bill 123 is a bill from Senator Lance Russell requiring that non-profits that request volunteers’ Social Security numbers adopt and provide a privacy policy explaining how the non-profits will keep those SSNs secret. Meager opposition in the House centered on concerns that SB 123 lacks detail and direction that would prevent non-profits from having to hire lawyers to write those privacy policies; the original version of the bill directed the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications to work with the Attorney General to write up sample policies for guidance.

Senate Bill 128 seeks some subsidy for horse-racing in South Dakota. Sponsors Jeff Monroe and Drew Dennert (representing Pierre and Aberdeen, the two towns where horse-racing happens) originally proposed $600,000; Senate and House both knocked that figure out and substituted single-digit placeholders, as in SB 8, to see how much money, if any, Appropriations would have left over after writing the budget. Note: we’ve killed the bills that would have funded nursing homes, but we’re still debating subsidies for horse-racing.

Senate Bill 178 would help fund a big expansion of Palisades State Park. Again, all we’re wrangling about is money: the original version of the bill from Governor Kristi Noem asked for $500K; Joint Appropriations knocked it down to $400K. Parks are a lot more useful than horse-racing and enjoyable year-round; I say give Palisades SB 128’s $600K and call it done.

That’s five conference committees this week; other bills like HB 1191 on hemp, may still go to conference committee.


  1. jerry 2019-03-11 12:06

    Regarding HB 1171, Free Tuition for Veterans. Will that take away federal money that is available under the Montgomery GI Bill for tuition assistance “Top-Up” Program? Looks to me like there should be coordination of the two to make sure schools don’t lose money.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-11 20:03

    Good question, Jerry. I don’t know, but the current statute already gives veterans free tuition for our colleges. If that were causing us to lose federal money, somebody would have started hollering by now.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-11 20:05

    And check out the last couple lines that the bill adds: “No tuition benefit may be provided by the State of South Dakota under this section unless and until the applicant has applied all federal tuition benefits. Before receiving funds from the state for the tuition of any eligible applicant under this section, the Board of Regents or postsecondary technical institute shall verify that all federal tuition benefits have been exhausted.” Does that address your concern, Jerry?

  4. Debbo 2019-03-11 23:57

    In the post following this the SDGOP flaunts their rampant and shameless racism. In legislative actions here, it’s their utter disregard for the suffering of SD’s elderly citizens:
    “we’ve killed the bills that would have funded nursing homes, but we’re still debating subsidies for horse-racing.”

    This is what South Dakotans get with their “R” votes every 2 years. It’s deplorable.

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-03-12 20:52

    Agreed, Debbo. Review the bills offered by Democrats this year. As the minority party, they have nothing to lose offering their wildest ideas. Yet I don’t think there’s one bill they offered that would embarrass South Dakota on the national stage. I invite evidence to the contrary, but I don’t think anyone will find it. Democrats just want to pass bills that solve problems. Republicans want to pass bills that satisfy their libidos or their misconception of an angry God.

Comments are closed.