Since March 13, Governor Kristi Noem has issued twenty executive orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. (She issued 29 executive orders on a variety of topics last year; in 2018, Governor Dennis Daugaard issued nine executive orders; his high was 25 in 2011, with a yearly average of 14.75 through his two terms.) Only a few of those orders have specified direct action to contain the spread of covid-19; the majority of those executive orders have repealed business regulations, with no public health dimension whatsoever.
A perfect example of this strange misfocus is Noem’s most recent order, EO 2020-23, issued last Monday. Governor Noem has decided that paying taxes is too much of a burden during a pandemic and thus has removed a significant penalty for tax delinquency… but only for bars:
…Whereas, Strict compliance with the statutory requirement for certain establishments of not being delinquent in the payment of any state or local taxes as a condition of renewing an alcoholic beverage license will prevent, hinder or delay necessary actions to cope with this emergency in all counties of our state….
Section 1… I temporarily suspend the statutory provision of SDCL 35-2-24 governing the non-renewal of alcoholic beverage licenses for delinquent state and local taxes [Gov. Kristi Noem, Executive Order 2020-23, 2020.05.11].
Where’s the logic here? If a bar has closed for coronavirus, it doesn’t have any sales to tax or tax to pay, so they don’t need this rule. If a bar has opened up and is making money again, their withholding that money from the city and the state may cause more prevention, hindrance, and delay of those governments’ anti-pandemic efforts. The only way their sending in their monthly tax returns may slow down public pandemic response is if their envelopes come laced with coronavirus and make public employees sick… which can be prevented pretty simply if Lowell simply uses tape instead of licking his envelope.
Getting an additional free pass from Kristi are Deadwood’s casinos:
Whereas, Strict compliance with the regulatory requirement for a licensed operator or route operator in Deadwood, SD to submit reviewed financial statements to the Commission on Gaming not later than 180 days after the last day of the perator’s business year will prevent, hinder or delay necessary actions to cope with this emergency in all counties of our state….
Section 2… I temporarily suspend the regulatory provision of ARSD 20:18:22:11 which requires licensed operators and route operators in Deadwood, SD to submit annual reviewed financial statements to the Commission on Gaming [EO 2020-03, 2020.05.11].
Again, where’s the logic? Deadwood is in Lawrence County. A few casino owners doing their regular paperwork isn’t going to prevent, hinder, or delay any emergency actions in Lawrence County or any of the other 65 counties across the state. The five Gaming commissioners likely aren’t crucial to the state’s pandemic relief efforts… and even if they and their staff have all been drafted to process unemployment claims, their temporary assignment doesn’t stop casinos from filing their papers and satisfying their normal regulatory requirements.
Meanwhile, all other businesses in South Dakota are expected to file their sales tax returns on time, and Target and Kessler’s are still expecting me to pay my sales tax at the register, without delay.
There are numerous policies South Dakota could enact to wage war directly against coronavirus. But Governor Kristi Noem is fiddling around with counterproductive deregulatory favors to certain sectors of her business base.