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Legislative Update #1

January 21, 2011

Note: SDRC will not have our own lobbyist in Pierre this week. However, Sierra Club’s lobbyist Edward Raventon, is sharing his report with SDRC. Legislative action will intensify until March 8, the last day for a bill or joint resolution to pass both houses.

This is the first week of the legislature and it’s usually more about the introduction of freshman legislators, the governor’s address and performing social, ceremonial and official functions—not much typically happens in the area of actual lawmaking, however that being said, I was surprised that the first order of business in the House was the first reading of HB (House Bill) 1001 as follows:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to revise certain provisions concerning the assessment of agricultural land.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That § 10-6-33.29 be amended to read as follows:

10-6-33.29. The secretary of revenue and regulation shall enter into contracts with South Dakota State University and, if necessary, the South Dakota Agricultural Statistics Service for the purpose of creating a database to determine the agricultural income value of agricultural land by county. The cropland data shall may include: acres planted, acres harvested, yield per acre, and statewide crop prices. The noncropland data shall may include: cash rents, rangeland acres, pastureland acres, rangeland AUM’s per acre, pastureland AUM’s per acre, grazing season data, and statewide cow and calf prices. The Agricultural Land Assessment Implementation and Oversight Advisory Task Force may recommend other cropland and noncropland data to the Legislature for subsequent use in the database.The secretary shall have such data collected for 2001, which will serve as the first year of the database, and each year thereafter. The database shall consist of the most recent eight years of data that have been collected and the two years, one year representing the highest agricultural income value and one year representing the lowest agricultural income value, shall be discarded from the database. The database for the 2010 assessment for taxes payable in 2011 shall consist of data from 2001 to 2008, inclusive, and the database for each assessment year thereafter shall be adjusted accordingly. South Dakota State University shall provide the data for each county to the secretary of revenue and regulation by June first of each year.

…and House Bill 1002:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to revise certain provisions regarding the documentation of data used to make adjustments during the assessment process for factors that affect the capacity of the land to produce agricultural products.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:
Section 1. That § 10-6-33.31 be amended to read as follows:
10-6-33.31. Before July first each year, the secretary of revenue and regulation shall annually provide each director of equalization the agricultural income value for each county as computed pursuant to § 10-6-33.28. The director of equalization shall annually determine the assessed value of agricultural land. The assessed value of agricultural land may be adjusted by the following factors:
(1)    The capacity of the land to produce agricultural products as defined in § 10-6-33.2; and
(2)    The location, size, soil survey statistics, terrain, and topographical condition of the land including the climate, accessibility, and surface obstructions which can be documented.

Each adjustment shall be documented. The director of equalization may document an adjustmentby using data from sources reasonably related to the adjustment being made. In addition, the director of equalization may use data from comparable sales of agricultural land to document the adjustment for any of the factors listed in this section.

These two bills represent a significant change regarding the assessment and taxation of agricultural land based on use/production values. Simply stated, grassland and non-arable land under these two bills will be assessed at considerably lesser value than cropland providing a tax break for landowners who keep their lands in a more “natural” state. This bill will be read two more times in the House before it goes to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee where I’ll be following it closely.

—submitted by Edward Raventon, Sierra Club Lobbyist for the South Dakota Chapter

P.S.: If you want to be more of a “player” during the legislative game of making laws or killing them, there are a few simple things you can do. Hereare a few recommendations:

  1. Be informed. The best place to start is by accessing the SD Legislative Research Council (LRC) webpage at http://legis.state.sd.us/index.cfm. Find out who represents your district in both the House and Senate and how to contact them by phone or email. All current bills are listed on this website including their status as they move through the legislative apparatus. You can also find out who are on all the select committees of both chambers.The LRC website is an excellent resource and easy to navigate.
  2. Most of the conservation/environmental bills/issues that I watch come out of either the House or the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resource Committees. I probably spend 90% of my time at these committee hearings,listening, testifying and talking with these committee members. To get the latest updates on their respective agendas, go to the links in the LRC for these committees.
  3. Talk and email legislative representatives concerning your feelings about pending legislation. I am going to make every effort possible to let you know ahead of time what the Ag & Nat. Res. committees agendas are before issues of interest are heard. Committee hearings are the first stop where bills are often tabled (killed) before they see the light of the House or Senate chambers, so what goes on there is of critical importance.
  4. As a private citizen, your voice can be very important in influencing legislators and their thoughts about pending committee action and/or subsequent legislation. Email and/or call them to tell them exactly what you want to see happen and why it’s important to you. They will listen. Be brief, respectful and articulate when presenting your message. They will appreciate you concern. Don’t forget to thank them and if they take your suggestion, thank them again for their support. They’ll be more apt to listen to you the next time you don’t like what they’re doing.
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