The 97th South Dakota Legislature meets for the first time in Pierre on Tuesday, and local Pierre, Fort Pierre, Hughes County and Stanley County jurisdictions already have their eyes on legislation that will soon be under discussion to move toward the desk of Gov. Kristi Noem.

Mayor Steve Harding and City Administrator Kristi Honeywell are registered lobbyists for the City of Pierre, but they normally rely on the South Dakota Municipal League to lobby municipality bills before the Legislature.

“We let them do that, but if they need our help in a particular area, then we go up and lobby or testify on bills in support of the Municipal League,” Harding said.

There are “quite a few” bills the city has its eyes on for 2022, Harding added.

“One is the infrastructure for housing,” Harding said. “We’re keeping an eye on that because there’s a lot of opportunity here in Pierre that we’ve been looking at, already talking with some contractors about their plans for additional housing. And so I know in the Governor’s budget she put in there some funds for infrastructure for housing. So we’re waiting to see how that develops and if it’s a partnership with municipalities and contractors, or if its grant money or low-interest loans for contractors, however that piece of legislation ends up developing at the end there, we’ll be watching that one close.”

Senate Bill 53, filed Thursday and introduced by the state Committee on Appropriations at the request of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, would appropriate $150 million in general funding and $50 million in federal fund expenditure authority to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development for the purpose of increasing South Dakota’s housing supply.

Harding said the city will also be closely watching the many cannabis bills, related both to recreational and medical use, that have already been filed. The city passed zoning and licensing ordinances for cannabis-related businesses in August.

“I think those are the main ones, the big items right now,” Honeywell said.

Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson said infrastructure funding will be a key concern for her city during this legislative session. Notably, Fort Pierre is in the midst of deciding how to replace water vendor West River/Lyman-Jones in the coming decade and Noem’s December budget address called for a $1.5 billion state, local and federal investment in water projects.

“We will be watching very closely as we look at the budgeting and the appropriations of the infrastructure funding and whether there are any changes, for instance, made in interest rates for TIF funding for cities,” Hanson said. “I know that that’s one thing that Rep. (Mike) Weisgram has talked about and (we’d) be interested in that because that would be really important to Fort Pierre.”

Hanson said cannabis laws will also be on her city’s mind. She added that the city has had conversations with three individuals about getting their locations for cannabis-related businesses approved, though two would require rezoning.

Hughes County Manager Kevin Hipple said that his county goes through the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners for its lobbying.

“As far as the Association, my understanding is their priorities are set at the state convention in September,” Hipple said. “And their major priority was a state sales tax for counties targeted towards specific projects. So for instance, a county wants to expand their courthouse. They might institute a sales tax for a period of time and then that sales tax sunsets when the project is paid for.”

Hipple said he doesn’t know that it is currently illegal for a county to set a sales tax, but it is not authorized under statute.

“The SD Association of County Commissioners looks forward to building on our great working relationship with the SD state legislators,” Minnehaha County Commissioner and Association President Dean Karsky said in a forwarded email. “By openly communicating on the impact of funding bills and potential unintended consequences of proposed legislation to SD counties we can address the unique needs of each county. We aim to stress the need for local control of our county government and how, as county commissioners, we are closest to our constituents needs and can address them as each county faces different challenges.”

Stanley County Auditor Philena Burtch noted the county commission’s unanimous Dec. 7 passage of a resolution favoring passage of what is now known House Bill 1039, for which state Rep. Trish Ladner, R-Dist. 30, is the prime sponsor.

House Bill 1039 represents a property tax reform, allowing for assessment of “(a)gricultural land seeded to perennial vegetation for at least twenty years and used for animal grazing or left unharvested, or agricultural land that is native grassland” as noncropland.

Michael Woodel | 605-224-7301 ext. 131

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