District 22 legislators speak to full house at first 2023 'Coffee with Legislators'
PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN CHASE / PLAINSMAN District 22 legislators met with constituents Saturday morning at City Hall. From L to R: Sen. David Wheeler, forum moderator Michael Held, Rep. Roger Chase, and Rep. Lynn Schneider. Below, are some of the attendees.
HURON — The three District 22 legislators discussed a busy first three weeks of legislative session with the first “Coffee with Legislators” Saturday morning at City Hall.
In the opening remarks, Representative Roger Chase began by discussing Senate Bill 41, the housing infrastructure bill that he was the prime sponsor for and worked on last session and this session.
Chase recalled the summer study in summer 2021 that identified the workforce housing needs across the state that turned into the bill that was passed last year, but the bill that was able to get across was not the bill the summer study hoped last session, leading to reworking the bill this session. Chase thanked his fellow District 22 legislators, who also served on that summer 2021 study with him for their work in putting together the bill and their support in getting it across the finish line to be signed, likely this week.
Representative Lynn Schneider joked about finding out that he is the oldest of the House members serving in 2023.
Schneider and Senator David Wheeler both echoed Rep. Chase’s relief to get SB 41 passed and headed to the Governor’s desk.
Wheeler also acknowledged in his opening remarks that he will be chairing a committee on discipline to evaluate allegations of misconduct by a fellow member of the Senate. The committee is made up of nine members across the state, with the rules for that committee to be adopted by the Senate body on Monday.
“You don’t ever go to Pierre and sign up to be part of THAT,” Wheeler emphasized. “We’re hoping that we can have a good, transparent process, quickly, so that due process is allowed and people have transparency in what is occurring and, hopefully, will be confident in our outcome - whatever that is.”
The legislators were asked in questions about Senate Bill 39, regarding education. The bill was newly introduced, however, and the legislators had not reviewed the legislation yet, leading to a discussion on process.
Wheeler mentioned that he does review any bill brought to his attention by a constituent, but otherwise, he waits on reviewing individual bills until they make their way through committee to take the time to read through bills - unless, of course, they are in his committees.
Schneider joked that he preferred one-page bills, and when bills are proposed and haven’t received a committee reading yet are 11-page bills. Chase emphasized that the communication between chambers among he, Schneider and Wheeler allows for the district to be well-informed on the nuances of discussion on bills as they transfer between chambers as well.
Wheeler was asked about his CTE bill, Senate Bill 59. He explained that the goal is to move CTE funding from individualized funding to regionalized funding and expand the funding in that way as well, hopefully allowing more opportunities for students in the country.
“North Dakota did this last year to the tune of almost $90 million,” Wheeler noted. “We aren’t going to get to that number in our budget. I’m hoping to get a good amount through the appropriations process.”
“I’d rather pass Senate Bill 59 than Senate Bill 65, which lowers the drop-out age to 16,” Chase added. “We need to offer programs and educational opportunities to help kids want to go to school.”
The legislators answered a trio of questions regarding the food tax cut proposed by the governor. The first question clarified that city food taxes will be unaffected by the state lowering or eliminating the tax on food.
The second question raised related to the food tax addressed “prepared food” versus groceries. The example proposed was purchasing cheese and crackers individually versus purchasing a prepared tray of cheese and crackers. Wheeler looked up the current definition of prepared food under tax definition, and there is an element of heating and “change” that is required to the food presented to have it qualify as “prepared” for tax purposes.
Prepared food is still going to be taxed, while groceries would be reduced or eliminated under the proposal.
The third question regarded candy and whether candy was part of the proposed tax elimination. The legislators expressed that they were informed by the Governor’s office as part of the bill that no definition around dictating diet should be done.
The legislators were asked about the legislative time frame due to legislative disciplinary actions during session the past two sessions that took members away from acting on legislation while serving on those disciplinary committees. South Dakota has one of the shortest legislative sessions in the country at 38 days.
“That is true that South Dakota is one of the shortest,” agreed Rep. Chase. “However, I always go back to the term paper theory. When a teacher tells you that you have 20 days to do a term paper, when do you get the most work done? Days 18, 19 and 20. No matter how many days we had, the big push will always be in those final days.”
Chase also emphasizes that the South Dakota is a citizen legislature, and in order to ensure that those serving do not become “professional politicians”, keeping a limited session is important.
Wheeler noted that the last few years has seen multiple special sessions called when needed during summer and fall as well to address pressing issues that come up outside of regular legislative session.
Two more coffees are scheduled with District 22 legislators during the 2023 legislative session on Feb. 11 and Feb. 25.