Legislators discuss session

Leslie Silverman
Questions around taxes, voter and election integrity and banking took center stage as a District 30 legislative crackerbarrel this weekend at the Hill City Super 8. 
House  Representative Trish Ladner explained her co-sponsored  HB 1043 that was sent to the 41st legislative day, killing it for this session.
The bill would have offered anywhere from $300-$350 tax credit on a tax bill each year by means $100,000 value  property tax exemption from school levies.
“I’ll  bring it back next year,” Ladner said, making it clear that reducing property taxes for individuals in District 30 is one of her top priorities.
“I personally  believe we need to get money back to the citizens, especially on property taxes,”  Ladner said.” Our property values have skyrocketed. Sometimes East River doesn’t quite understand that. They don’t get that people are being taxed out of  their property.”
Citizens noted too, it is one of their main concerns
“I  would like to have something happen in Pierre on property taxes,” said one individual from Hill City. “We can’t afford to pay our property taxes in the Black Hills,” she said, referring to the area as the “Disneyland” of South Dakota.
Dennis Krull, a “newbie” on the House, is serving on the Appropriations Committee and said there had been four tax cuts before legislators. Only HB 1137, a reduction in the overall sales tax, is still plausible this session, he said.  
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller was asked by a constituent about her plans to reduce the tax burden on citizens. Frye-Mueller explained she had introduced legislation on the topic in 2021. She did not know what, if anything, she plans on doing on the topic for next session,  She made it clear “the government is funding so many other things that are programs or wants, things she is not in favor of.”
“I think we need to spend the taxpayer money wisely,” she said.
Krull said the state’s spending proposals include giving an increase to schools and Medicaid providers as well as freezing or cutting tuition in some colleges. A bill giving National Guard members 100 percent tuition has already passed the House.
Krull also said the state has plans  for two new prisons, and has purchased land near Feeding South Dakota for a women’s facility in Rapid City. The state is looking for a site for a men’s facility near Sioux Falls.
Frye-Mueller says  in the Senate there is “some stuff going on behind the scenes” and “you think we’re passing really good bills but to me they’re softer.”
Her voter bills, which would  have removed deceased people from voting rolls, updated voter rolls  and required documentation to register to vote, were killed. 
Citizens aired their concerns on this matter as well with one person sparking a conversation by asking the question, “I wonder how much money there is in voters and elections with people being citizens here for one day?” 
Krull suggested  several bills have passed the House regarding election security. 
“We have passed bills to tighten up absentee voting, we have passed a bill to guarantee  voting machines are sound and untampered,” he said.
Ladner explained her personal stance of wanting to see the state require at a minimum utility bills for voter registration. 
SB40 passed the Senate by two votes, which Frye-Mueller said was unfortunate. The bill “takes precinct men and women out of the voting process where you get to go to convention and vote on who you want,” she said.
“It was bad,” Frye- Mueller said. “We’re hoping the House members kill that bill.”
Sarah Smith  of Hermosa  was brought to tears as she asked legislators about the bill.
“As I understand it,”  someone continued on her behalf, “this means it’s taking away grassroots  precinct committee members to nominate grassroots candidates.” Smith wanted to know, if legislators would support the bill that “takes away the voice of everyday people and the precinct committee members.”
Ladner succinctly answered no and was met by applause.
“I believe in local voice and government. I’m a precinct person,” Ladner said. “By doing this you’re taking away the voice of the people.”
Krull is learning more about SB40 and has sent out emails with questions to educate himself prior to voting. 
“I wanted to know why we only had 600 precinct people out of 2,000 at the last convention. I wanted to know the history behind  the convention. I had a whole lot of questions,” he said.
While doing his “due diligence” he is appreciating the process and the fact that the bill is bringing the matter to the forefront.
Despite Krull himself being a “precinct man” he was open to taking a look at the process saying, “let’s not say  just  because we’ve always done it that way, let’s keep doing it that way. If something isn’t working quite right maybe we need to tweak it just a little bit.” He made it clear, however, that he likes “ the process of what we’ve had in place for 90 years.”
HB 1193 was also on the minds of constituents and legislators.
“It’s going to the Senate committee if it passes there is goes to the Senate floor,” Ladner said. She referred to it as a “banking” bill while some in attendance referred to it as a “Bitcoin” bill.
Krull said the bill was “way over his head” and is again doing research, approaching bankers and lawyers to help understand  it more. He was told he had made an “uninformed” decision on it and if he finds out he made a mistake will lobby against it in the Senate.
Despite admitting to a  willingness to research, learn and admit his mistakes, Krull was attacked by a citizen from Hot Springs who handed out “scorecards” stating that Krull “values business over dead bodies.” Krull objected to the cards while some citizens called the cards a “personal attack.”
The constituent said the scorecard was in support of Frye-Muller and called the scorecard “media” touting his First amendment rights to hand out the card as well as tape the session. The commotion caused at least one person to leave the meeting.
Later Krull listened to the same person’s person’s concerns regarding HB1235 before moderators cut off the discussion as it deteriorated.
Another topic being addressed in the House and Senate is foreign ownership of agricultural land.
“Ag is a big thing in South Dakota. We want to make sure it stays in the hands of South Dakota,” Krull said, saying  the state is trying to tighten down current codified law.
Both Ladner and Krull thanked constituents for reaching out to them and voicing their opinions.
Krull said he appreciates when people reach out to him and asks why he voted a particular way. He hopes people identify themselves in the subject line of an email so he can better respond, since he received a lot of email from people out of state.
“I read every email that comes to my email box,” Krull said, adding he deletes those that are mass produced. 
Ladner said the session is a  38-day whirlwind this year.
“We’re busy. Your perspective on anchoring us in Pierre really means a lot,” she said, encouraging attendees to reach out on bills that are important to them. 
As one citizen noted, “I think what’s been pointed out here is that these bills these three people have to deal with everyday, there’s  a lot more  to  them than just what you see on the surface. There are a lot of repercussions that might not be obvious to people half the time.”
He urged people as constituents  to research these bills and give feedback to their legislators. 

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