Rep. Wollman’s reports on legislative week four

By Rep. Wollman

Week four of the legislative session has come to a close, and the education bills we have been waiting for have finally been introduced. Education reform will likely become even more of the center focus from now until the end of Session. Three bills were filed this week that would implement the Governor’s proposal from the State of the State Address.
HB 1182 would increase the sales tax by a half-penny, which $40 million would then be dedicated for property tax relief. This new revenue would give local school districts added funds to increase South Dakota’s average teacher salary from $40,000 to a target average of $48,500.
SB 131 would establish the new funding formula and require that 90 percent of new funding go specifically to teacher pay. New caps on school general reserve funds and on the growth of capital outlay levies are also outlined. SB 131 leaves the capital outlay flexibility at 45 percent.
Finally, SB 133 includes a number of proposals that would help to recruit and retain more teachers and to create new opportunities for school efficiency, which include the expansion of the e-Learning center at NSU, teacher mentoring programs, innovation grants for school districts, and reciprocity for teachers coming from other states. This new formula will create the expectation that schools will use these new funds for salaries, and that school districts will make significant progress toward the $48,500 target salary.
Even though education is stealing the show in regards to time and energy spent on communication and finding an effective reform solution, there are many other pieces of legislation working their way through the chambers.
SB 2, which I have mentioned earlier, has passed the Senate 28-5 and also the House Local Government 13-0. This bill would give counties a much needed 25 percent share ($3.8 million) of the alcohol beverages fund that is currently split between the state and cities.
We had extensive debate in my Health and Human Services Committee in regards to SB 28, the addition of meningitis to the list of immunizations children must have to enter school. This bill still allows exemption via certification or religious beliefs. It passed the Senate 23-10 and our committee 7-6. I would expect a lengthy floor debate.
Finally, I had the privilege of addressing 80 or more Madison residents in Pierre this previous week for Madison Hosts the Legislature Day. As always, it was a great opportunity to bring my Madison family together with me in Pierre and discuss their feelings on how the legislative session is operating. Thank you to all of you that could attend and I hope your visit to your capitol was memorable. Please, as always, if you have any comments or questions, email me at Rep.Wollmann@state.sd.us. I look forward to the challenges ahead and continuing to represent District 8.

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