Originally published in the Rapid City Journal January 13, 2023
Legislative kickoff is this week in Pierre! So, hang onto your newspapers or news apps, and tune into local political headlines, as this session will be another to watch. Each year legislators introduce 300-600 bills. Some are clean-up and update bills; some have to do with budgetary items. Others come from organizations and constituents, and a smattering is dreamed up in the private studies of your representatives, looking to shift money, personal agenda, and power.
This week, all legislators will take the oath of office. For those of you who haven't read it, here is an excerpt:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of South Dakota and will faithfully discharge the duties of (senator, representative, or officer) according to the best of my abilities, and that I have not knowingly or intentionally paid or contributed anything, or made any promise in the nature of a bribe, to directly or indirectly influence any vote at the election at which I was chosen to fill said office, and have not accepted, nor will I accept or receive directly or indirectly, any money, pass, or any other valuable thing, from any corporation, company or person, for any vote or influence I may give or withhold on any bill or resolution, or appropriation, or for any other official act.
This statement (sworn and signed with witnesses) indicates that everyone who takes the oath of office promises to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the state of South Dakota (both are worth a read). It's also specific regarding the prohibition of the exchange of money or promises for predetermined votes. Let's hope no fingers were crossed as this solemn oath was administered on these two subjects.
Here are some predictions for hot topics this year in Pierre that will take up most of the headlines- implementation of Medicaid expansion, advertised "kid-friendly" drag shows on college campuses, eliminating the sales tax on food, reducing the overall sales tax, property tax relief (or unfortunately, perhaps lack thereof), marijuana (yes, again), abortion (yes, also again), and how to continue to spend all of the money, money, money.
Medicaid Expansion and reducing the overall sales tax are the only two items the legislature has a formal obligation to address on that list. Medicaid Expansion was approved by the voters and met constitutional requirements. Some of us may be nervous about the price tag and future repercussions; regardless, we are committed as a state to implementing it in a timely manner. The reduction of the overall sales tax hearkens back to promises made by the legislature in the Partridge Amendment in 2016. For anyone who is new here (and there are a lot of you, welcome to South Dakota), the amendment promised overall sales tax would be reduced back to 4% if the state was able to collect taxes from remote sellers, reading the sales tax rate "shall be reduced by one-tenth percent on July 1 following the calendar year for which each additional twenty million dollar increment of net revenue is collected and remitted by such remote sellers." Following the 2018 Supreme Court Decision of South Dakota v. Wayfair, allowing us to collect sales taxes from online transactions, the rate has remained at its 4.5% level. All the topics mentioned above will take up a lot of political oxygen.
After three years in the legislature, my philosophy has remained that less is more. The legislature would further benefit the people who elected us by focusing on the cost of living, keeping South Dakotans in their homes, monitoring insurance companies and ensuring proper coverage, forming accountability for exorbitant medical charges, utilizing some creativity for how to create vibrant, safe communities while remaining fiscally responsible, and stopping the endless tax and spend cycle by establishing a system that does not reward runaway spending. These are attainable goals, but they are unreachable as long as we continue to approach problems in the same ways we have increasingly for the past hundred years, taxing and spending, and legislators putting self above the citizens of South Dakota.
I will be serving as Vice-Chair for the Senate Transportation Committee as well as serving on the Senate Education Committee. Infrastructure for the transport of goods and services and safe travel are pertinent in South Dakota, as well as a quality education system that includes opportunities for students to thrive in public schools and alternative education (homeschooling, enrollment at private institutions, or established school districts closer to home) while requiring accountability for judicious budgeting and spending. I look forward to serving on both of these committees.
For those who say they aren't interested in politics, remember politics are very interested in you. Therefore, it's imperative to know your representatives, know their votes, and hold them accountable for what they're doing to uphold their oath to the state and citizens of South Dakota.