Lawmakers to weigh education, casino bills

Sunday 1st December 2019

PIERRE (AP) - South Dakota lawmakers this week plan to debate legislation on early childhood education and a proposed casino and entertainment complex in Yankton, among other things.

Here's a look at some of the measures they plan to take up after they return to the Capitol on Tuesday:

Friday is the final day of the 2018 legislative session to pass bills or joint resolutions out of their house of origin. The House and Senate will likely work late to get through legislation remaining to be considered by the end of crossover day. The main part of the session ends March 9.

A new Early Learning Advisory Council would examine early childhood education in South Dakota under a bill scheduled for debate Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee. The panel established by Senate Bill 132 would make recommendations for increasing participation in early childhood education programs, research the economic effects of early childhood education in South Dakota and identify potential new funding sources.

The legislation is a priority for Democratic Sen. Billie Sutton, a candidate for governor. The committee defeated a similar bill last year.

The House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday plans to debate new restrictions on amendments to the state constitution. The proposed changes would have to pass at the ballot.

Amendments would need approval from the voters and the Legislature to pass under House Joint Resolution 1008. Right now, people who collect enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot can ask the people to pass it without lawmakers' blessing.

House Joint Resolution 1006 aims to require constitutional amendments to encompass only one subject. House Joint Resolution 1007 would end citizens' ability to gather signatures to propose constitutional changes, but Republican Rep. Mark Mickelson has said he's not going to push to pass it.

Senate lawmakers have advanced a plan to ask voters to increase the majority vote threshold required for a constitutional change to 55 percent of the votes cast on the amendment.

The Senate Local Government Committee plans to debate a measure Wednesday that would help clear the way for a proposed casino and entertainment complex in Yankton. Senate Joint Resolution 9 would ask voters to allow a nonprofit group to have a gaming license in the southeastern South Dakota city. One assessment projected that first-year gambling, hotel, restaurant and entertainment revenue would be more than $35 million.

Supporters say it would help the community compete with Iowa and Nebraska for tourists. Native American tribes and a Deadwood gambling association oppose the plan.

South Dakota's Legislature would be cut from 105 to 75 members under a bill set to be discussed Wednesday in the Senate Local Government Committee. Senate Bill 189 would reduce the roster to 25 senators and 50 representatives after the 2020 federal census.

The Senate State Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider a separate resolution Wednesday that would ask voters to give state legislators a major salary hike. House Joint Resolution 1001 would set legislators' salaries at one-fifth of the South Dakota median household income. U.S. Census numbers for 2015 show that would mean a raise of 70 percent for lawmakers to nearly $10,200. The House has already approved the plan.

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