CURRENT ISSUE
APR. 30, 2018 - VOL. 54 No. 7

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Chamber´s 2016 Legislative Platform

In order to develop its legislative platform, the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, through its Issues Management Council, conducts research, hears presentations and surveys its members about issues affecting business. These efforts, combined with actively following and monitoring legislative activity since the close of last session, guide efforts in developing the platform for the upcoming session. The platform is reviewed, edited and approved by the Issues Management Council and forwarded to the Chamber Executive Committee for review and the Chamber Board for adoption. The Platform presented was adopted at the Board of Directors December 2015 meeting.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

SB 235 of the 2013 Legislative Session established the Building South Dakota Fund and during the 2014 Session, one-time funds were used to forward fund the new program. We will continue to monitor the use and impact of this program and we will closely analyze any legislation that impacts this program and other economic development efforts in our state.

Tax increment financing (TIF) has been an effective economic development tool and the Chamber supports current law regarding the application of TIFs and opposes changes that would negatively impact this program´s effectiveness.

USD Discovery District: The Chamber supports the development of the University of South Dakota Discovery District in Sioux Falls and legislation to provide matching funds to support the development, marketing and ongoing operations of the District as well as the Research Park at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

INFRASTRUCTURE

The Chamber recognizes that a safe, efficient and responsive transportation infrastructure is critical to economic development and business commerce in Sioux Falls and throughout South Dakota. The Chamber encouraged the 2015 Legislature to address the funding needs of our state and local highway and bridge systems leading to the enactment of a comprehensive funding program for these systems. The Chamber supports the evaluation of our highway and bridge systems on an ongoing basis. The full impact of the new funding approved last year including local flexibilities should be carefully reviewed before new funding is considered. We also support retaining the requirement of local county effort for match funding.

EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

The Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce recognizes the many requests for state funding that arise each year and our system of public education – K-12, technical institutes and universities – represents a top priority. The future of Sioux Falls and South Dakota depends on educating our citizens and developing our workforce to remain competitive on a regional, national and international scale. It is vital to foster an educational system that works in tandem with the business community and government to address and support workforce development initiatives. We look forward to evaluating any workforce development proposals that may arise during the Legislative Session.

To support our state´s citizens and to meet our workforce development needs, the Chamber supports the allocation of public monies to ensure funds for an equitable, effective and efficient system of K-12, technical schools and higher education.

K-12 FUNDING: The Chamber closely followed and researched the issue of K-12 funding as the Blue Ribbon Task Force did its work over the interim. We thank them for their considerable efforts. The Chamber acknowledges Sioux Falls´ and South Dakota´s relative position in the area of teacher pay and the growing effects on recruitment and retention of quality teachers. Quality education is essential for the business community to attract new employers and employees and to educate a growingly diverse workforce. We will follow all funding proposals closely and consider the impact on our members as we work together to improve K-12 education. If new funding is approved for increasing teacher salaries, we encourage policy makers to ensure that those funds are used for their intended purpose and not appropriated for other district expenditures.

Further, we believe that if changes to move part of the capital outlay mill and the full pension mill to the general fund are made these moves should affect each class of property equally and not proportionate to today´s general fund mill levies. Further, capital outlay and pension are a local source today and we will closely monitor any change that would negatively impact the administration of these dollars.

K-12 EFFICIENCY: The Chamber fully understands the challenges of operating a K-12 system in a largely rural state that is sparsely populated. For their well-being and the well-being of our state, children throughout South Dakota must be assured a quality education as our Constitution outlines. Still, we encourage organizational changes to improve efficiency and permit reinvestment into core priorities like teacher salaries. We further encourage the use of technology-based instruction to enhance access to master teachers and course topics that are not available in our smaller districts. In short, efficiency and organizational decisions need to be made to reflect changing demographics and to meet the needs of our K-12 learners.

K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICT BOUNDARY CHANGES: The Chamber is concerned that efforts to severely restrict or eliminate minor school district boundary changes will impede family choice and negatively impact a growing Sioux Falls. Proposed legislation would permit boundary changes only if there is a land-swap of comparably valued land. This restriction on local control means that all changes would require this type of land-swap even if two school boards were willing to agree to something different. We understand that districts around Sioux Falls want to maintain their viability, but protecting the interests of students and families is our top priority and retaining local decision authority on this issue seems to make the most sense. Open enrollment is not a panacea and may serve to erode the ability of the Sioux Falls School District to finance needed facilities growth.

TECHNICAL INSTITUTES: As demand for a technically-skilled workforce continues to grow, South Dakota´s technical institutes require the ability to respond programmatically to that demand and the funding for workforce-related programs. Costs continue to rise particularly in regard to serving students in high-cost program areas. The Chamber supports increased investment in the workforce of tomorrow, which is critical for continued economic development. The Chamber also supports enhancing local control of our state´s technical institutes to ensure they best serve South Dakota.

HIGHER EDUCATION: The Chamber acknowledges that a highly educated citizenry is critically important to many individual businesses and to competitively position our community for future economic development. We support increased funding for the Regental system and encourage consideration for funding options for the University Center in Sioux Falls to address tuition and service inequalities.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

COUNTY FUNDING: The Chamber is concerned about resources available to counties to address, in particular, increased behavioral health and criminal justice costs. We will closely monitor proposals to enhance revenues to address the needs of our area counties. We would also consider strategies to include county funding with any funding increase package that might come forward for K-12 education.

CITY SALES TAX FOR INFRASTRUCTURE: The Chamber has consistently supported a proposal to permit municipalities to impose a sales tax for infrastructure purposes, provided there is an affirmative vote of the municipality´s residents. We believe this type of local control proposal is the best way to determine the need for such a tax and measure the willingness of local citizens to impose a tax in their community.

MEDICAID

EXPANSION: The Chamber believes it is important to consider the issue of Medicaid expansion. We applaud the Governor for his efforts to advance an expansion that best fits South Dakota and addresses the healthcare needs of our most impoverished citizens. Based on the details emerging on this plan, we will evaluate it and consider supporting the Governor´s approach to expansion that is revenue and expense neutral to the State´s general fund.

WORKERS´ COMPENSATION

The Wheeler decision that permits an injured employee to aggregate wages from different jobs to determine the average weekly wage for workers´ comp purposes effectively changed state law and established practice. The Chamber acknowledges that barring low-wage employees from aggregating wages is not a worker-friendly solution. We also acknowledge that aggregation could significantly increase the cost of insurance and have other negative consequences.

As we consider the needs of injured workers and balance it with the needs of employers, we will carefully consider legislation that may come forward to abrogate or mitigate the effects of the Wheeler ruling.

COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE

South Dakota´s unique standard of contributory negligence as a measure for tort recovery will likely be challenged again in 2016. The Chamber has lobbied successfully to retain the current standard rather than move to a more widely accepted comparative negligence standard. As it appears this will be an annual policy issue, we encourage the parties to negotiate a compromise rather than attempt to legislate change each year.

LEASED RESIDENTIAL HOUSING PROPERTY TAX CLASSIFICATION

The Chamber supported creating a new class of property called "leased residential property" to facilitate the collection of data on this type of property to determine if property tax policy was negatively affecting the supply of competitively-priced housing for our state´s workforce. Last year´s proposal would not have, in any way, affected tax policy or revenues, but it was resisted and was lost. A similar proposal is likely to emerge again and we encourage some action on this issue including the prospect for a compromise that would permit us to move forward rather than attempt to legislate change each year.

NON-PROFIT CORPORATIONS ACT

A bill introduced last session was intended to modernize the statutes regarding non-profit corporations in our state. These statutes date back to 1965 when comprehensive legislation regarding non-profit corporations was passed. In 2015, the bill met with resistance and was withdrawn.

Another attempt to modernize these statutes is likely for 2016 and the Chamber encourages adoption of the new provisions. As part of our position, we believe it is necessary to provide flexibility for non-profit corporations to continue to operate under the current law or to choose to operate under the provisions of the new law as they determine what is best for them. This will permit some organizations to take advantage of the modernization and others to retain their current governance and operating protocols. If included in the proposed legislation, we would also consider a proposal that would set a future date for all non-profit corporations to conform to the new law.


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