State legislature allocates CARES funds during daylong special session

By: 
Steve Haugaard, Speaker of the House (District 10)
The Special Session for allocation of the CARES Act funds finally took place on Oct. 5. The hundreds of hours invested by our members and our Legislative Research Council staff paid off for the people of South Dakota.  
 
As is the usual scenario, there were not all of the wins that we had hoped for, but the bottom line is we were able to force the meeting and we will be able to move hundreds of millions of dollars to those who will benefit most. There will also be some reversions of dollars allocated as the amounts are simply rounded into large blocks of funds. When that happens, we are hopeful that a combination of public pressure as well as legislative pressure will move more of those dollars to some of the remaining worthy categories.  
 
I previously mentioned that some of the immediate needs were in organizations such as those who assist people with special needs. That was covered by the resolution passed last week.
 
Business grants in the amount of approximately $400 million was included and will be administered by a nationally-recognized accounting firm to speed the process and to remove bias.
 
Things that should have been included but were not spelled out in the resolution will hopefully receive attention through the use of other funds that are not already committed.
  
It’s important to point out that we received these federal funds in two installments. The first $625M was deposited on April 15 and the second $625M was deposited on April 20. The comments made in the public media suggested that we would convene a Special Session in June, then it was suggested it would be late June or July, and the delays continued. Many of us in the House of Representatives began to mount pressure for the Special Session when it became apparent that nothing was happening to move this to action. We were able to force the “Listening Sessions” after plenty of opposition. Those have taken place over the last many weeks.  The comments from the public seemed to express a fairly uniform appreciation for the opportunity to speak about their personal and business challenges. That input was woven into the structure of what we passed Oct. 5. Not everything we heard about was achieved, but there remains the opportunity to work some of those needs into the broad categories that were created.
 
I believe we ended up with a workable and an equitable formula for disbursement of these funds. You can review the bills that we addressed during our session by going to www.sdlegislature.gov.
  
As you probably heard, the Governor’s Proclamation for the Special Session was not delivered to our staff until after 5 p.m. on Oct. 2 and the Session began the morning of Oct. 5. Until we saw that Proclamation we had no clarity as to the parameters of the Special Session. Hardly a way to serve the best interests of the people, but we thankfully had achieved most of our goals in the wording of a resolution that was drafted a couple of days before.
  
Again, one of the good things to come from the work we have done over the past few months is that we are now aware of some of our societal and business weaknesses. We learned of new business opportunities that we should encourage. I think this entire year could be the extra push that was needed to really focus on how we can enhance our local economies and, hopefully, keep our kids and their talents here in South Dakota. 
 
As we continue to assess the risks we face and the needs we have I trust that we will all work together to achieve the highest and best for all of our communities here in South Dakota.
 
Please bear in mind the needs of your neighbors and friends as this challenging time stretches into the winter.  Many times, needs and pressures are unspoken and this has created new challenges for everyone.  
 
Please keep in touch as we move into the November election. I will be glad to answer any questions you might have and I encourage you to carefully examine your choices on the November ballot. I encourage a “NO” vote on all of the ballot measures as all three are just new attempts to legalize “pot” and expand gambling in South Dakota. Please realize that there is no such thing as “medical marijuana”. If it really was a medical item you would buy it at the pharmacy not a “dispensary”. That is just an attempt to give it some credibility. It remains the number one gateway drug for all addicts. It will damage our culture and our economy just as it has in Colorado and the other states that have passed it. It is a “net revenue loss.”
 
Please go to www.sdlegislature.gov for a listing of upcoming meetings and other information about the Special Session. You can contact me at steven.haugaard@sdlegislature.gov
 

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