District 30 legislators hear from area constituents

Nathan Steele

District 30 constituents had the opportunity to engage with their legislators at a crackerbarrel meeting held at Custer Senior Center last Saturday. An array of topics and bills were discussed.
At the start of the meeting, each legislator—Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, Rep, Dennis Krull and Rep. Trish Ladner—took a moment to introduce themselves.
Krull took this time to first address a “conservative score card” which was distributed before the meeting and which Krull objected to for attacking his personal character. The distributed sheet included statements which read “Krull values business over dead bodies” and “Krull wasn’t informed.”
“I get things wrong, I’m not perfect, but I do my research. I want to do what’s best for our district and the State of South Dakota, so for someone to come in and attack me personally, I don’t like,” Krull said. Krull then addressed potential tax cuts, the foreign ownership of agricultural lands in the state and election security. He also spoke to the activities of the appropriations committee, of which Krull is a member.
In Sen. Frye-Mueller’s introduction she addressed the recent controversy surrounding her removal from committee assignments due to an alleged conversation with a Legislative Research Council (LRC) staff member.
“I was so embarrased for myself and for losing your voice because there was no due process,” said Frye-Mueller. “I’m not going to be called guilty for something that did not happen.”
Ladner used her introduction to discuss the recent activities of the legislative session. Ladner says they are entering “crunch time” as they are mandated by the South Dakota Constitution to balance the state budget. Ladner also shared her enthusiasm for being appointed by the Council of State Governments Midwest Office to the Radioactive Materials and Transportation committee, which she is excited to serve on because of the prevalence of minerals like uranium and gold in the district.
“I dont like to see people being taxed off their land and out of their homes,” said Ladner.
One of the most prevalent issues for legislators and constituents was that of taxes, especially property taxes.
The first topic discussed was House Bill 1193, which Ladner explained is an act to amend provisions from the Uniform Commercial Code. Both Krull and Ladner regret having voted “yes” on the bill and Frye-Mueller will not vote in favor of the bill when it reaches the Senate.
“The fact that all the bankers like it worries me,” said Ladner.
Ladner explained that the bill added language for Bitcoin which was a worry for her.
Krull said that after getting lost in the language of the 117-page bill he reached out to the five lawyers and three bankers in the legislature. He elected to follow their advice to vote in favor of the bill but expressed that he may have made a mistake in following it.
The next topic of discussion was in relation to exploratory drilling and mining in the area and their effects on natural resources. One constituent expressed concern about the 1872 Mining Act, which he said “takes away control from local citizens.” He asked what can be done in the state legislature in relation to these issues.
Frye-Mueller said that she believes the attorney general would need to be involved and that it would likely require a lawsuit to be brought against the federal government.
Krull said that it would be tough for them to do much on the issue as much of the mining takes place on federal lands and recommended that people reach out to federal legislators: Rep. Dusty Johnson, Sen. John Thune and Sen. Mike Rounds.
“If we need to change it, let’s change it,” said Krull on the 1872 Mining Act, adding that people should reach out to thier federal legislators.
“If you come to us with a plan, we’ll get behind and we’ll support it,” said Krull.
Ladner also stressed the importance of having a plan in regards to this issue.
“I don’t think it’s an emergency water-wise at the moment, but we do have to get something done,” said Ladner.
 House Bill 1200 was the next topic discussed at the meeting. This bill would require a certain percentage of signatures on a petition to initiate a constitutional amendment to be obtained from each legislative district.
“The majority of people of people trying to put out a citizen initiative will never get it on the ballot,” said the constituent.  “If you want citizens to maintain that right, then its important not to allow that bill to pass in the Senate.”
Ladner said that she had a different take on the bill and called it “extremely fair.”
Krull agreed with the constituent, saying the bill would put an extra burden on citizens wanting to put an initiative on the ballot. He voted no on the bill.
Frye-Mueller, one of the Senate sponsors of the bill, said that she had not considered that perspective and would bring that concern to the bill’s prime sponsor before voting on it.
Another constituent brought up Senate Bill 201 and questioned how much information legislators have regarding addiction and drug abuse in the state and asked why they think the bill failed.
Frye-Mueller responded that if she doesn’t completely understand a bill, she votes no.
The constituent said that there should be more education on these issues in the Senate.
“We’re spending millions of dollars a year on our prisons and not correcting any of the root issues,” said the constituent.
Another constituent wanted to know why property tax reduction bills have trouble passing despite it being such a consistent issue in the area.
Frye-Mueller said that the Department of Revenue is often what kills the bills.
“I do believe we absolutely could cut property taxes if we cut our excess spending,” said Frye-Mueller.
“We put in a lot of hard work and I’m not willing to stop fighting for it,” said Ladner. She said that if property tax reductions fail in this session, she’ll continue to bring them forward in future sessions.
Krull called for a reworking of the relationship between school funding and property taxes.
“If we keep funding the schools with property taxes and you want to give your teachers a raise every year, what’s going to happen to your property taxes? They’re going to go up,” he said.
The next constituent wanted to hear from each legislator regarding the repeal of taxes on groceries.
“The thing that concerned me about the food tax is that it didn’t apply to all food,” said Ladner. She said there were too many restrictions relating to the bill to make it as beneficial as she would hope. One example she gave would be that a Snickers bar would be taxed and yet a KitKat bar would not be because there is flour in the wafers.
“I would have supported a repeal of the sales tax on food,” said Frye-Mueller.
She also said that South Dakota is one of only five states with a food tax, and that for that reason, she thinks they could make it work.
The discussion moved again to mining in the county.
“I’d like to see no mining in the Black Hills,” said Ladner
Frye-Muller stressed that county commissioners can play an important role in the issue.
Another constituent brought up Senate Bill 40, which passed in the Senate by two votes. The bill would revise the process for nominating candidates for statewide offices.
“My vote is an emphatic no. I believe in local input,” said Ladner.
Krull said that he had many questions about the bill and wanted to know the background of the current process.
Frye-Mueller voted no on the bill and says she prays it does not pass in the Senate.
As the meeting came to a close, some constituents led a prayer for the legislators before sending them off back to Pierre.

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