The House used its hoghouse powers for good yesterday.
Senate Bill 144 came to the House floor Monday. Originally part of Senator Brock Greenfield’s (R-2/Clark) plan to hold high school students accountable for failing dual-enrollment college courses and trim a little cash from the state budget, SB 144 suffered the predations of mean Republicans in House Appropriations, who decided to punish all the smart kids by cutting state support for dual-enrollment courses from 66.7% to 50%. On Monday, 32 House Republicans voted for that plan (including all three Aberdeen Representatives— District 3’s Drew Dennert and Carl Perry and District 2’s Kaleb Weis—something Aberdeen’s education-minded parents should bear in mind come November). Luckily, 35 members voted against that punitive, destructive plan, and SB 144 was dead.
But, like the brains of most legislators, SB 144 was only mostly dead. Representative Caleb Finck (R-21/Tripp) put on his Miracle Max hat Tuesday and brought SB 144 back to life. Winning two-thirds votes to suspend the rules and place SB 144 back of the calendar, Finck put SB 144 back on the road only to hijack it, striking the dual-enrollment text and replacing it with his amazing county-aid road formula from House Bill 1284, which got committee shuffled to death by his House colleagues just a couple weeks ago. Finck originally wanted to tax advertising to provide an ongoing revenue stream to help counties catch up on fixing their crumbling infrastructure, but that particular tax on the powerful business lobby died February 24 on first contact with committee. Finck brought his road improvement priority fund back to grab a ten-million-dollar chunk of the mad money revealed as usual in our rosier end-of-Session fiscal projections. Finck also slapped an emergency clause on SB 144 to make the funds available immediately from this year’s budget.
This is only one-time money, and Dennis Daugaard would have told legislators not to spend one-time money on ongoing needs, but House Republicans kicked that fiscal logic to the curb and voted for Finck’s road-hoghouse. Rep. Scyller Borglum (R-32/Rapid City) was the only Republicans to join the Democratic caucus in voting against this investment. Rep. Oren Lesmeister (D-28A/Parade) said he wanted to vote for this bill but that $10 million didn’t begin to address the needs of his county and other rural areas. He said this surprise spending would deny dollars to other worthy programs. And he questioned why Finck and the Republican majority didn’t place this supposedly pressing need at the top of their priority list at the beginning of Session. Rep. Steven McCleerey (D-1/Sisseton) chuckled at his colleagues for ignoring his past and frequent calls to invest $50 million to $80 million a year for at least five years in road needs and now pretending to be the great saviors of infrastructure with a one-time $10-million investment.
Finck’s revived road improvement priority plan now hops back to the Senate.