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State Legislature plans COVID-19 related committee hearings

The hearings are intended to help the legislature get an idea as to how federal CARES Act dollars should be spent.
Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 8:40 PM MDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - The coronavirus pandemic has affected all aspects of life, and South Dakota continues to cope with the repercussions of it.

With the United States Congress so far opting not to extend the Dec. 31 deadline on spending CARES Act relief dollars, the South Dakota State Legislature has not entirely ruled out a special legislative session to discuss how to spend those dollars, amongst other matters.

For the next few weeks, the State Legislature intends to gather constituent feedback as to how those federal dollars should be spent, and hope to get as much testimony as possible.

The five committees that will meet are the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, the Joint Commerce and Energy Committee, the Joint Education Committee, the Joint Health and Human Services Committee and the Joint Local Government Committee. All five committees will be represented by members of both the State House and Senate.

The committees were created by the Executive Board of the South Dakota State Legislature on Aug. 31, "to receive public testimony on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, businesses, and organizations in South Dakota, and make suggestions as to how federal COVID-19 funds could be used.

State Representative Tim Rounds (R-Pierre), who co-chairs the Commerce and Energy committee, shared the same sentiment.

“The idea was to have a listening session for the people of South Dakota and for legislators for businesses, for farmers, health care providers... to come in and talk about how they’ve been affected by COVID in their business, profession, and if there is something that can be done with the dollars from the CARES Act.” Rep. Rounds said.

The public testimony will be reported to the Joint Committee on Appropriations. For the time being, the State House and Senate still appear to be split on the idea of a special session.

“We are going to have to make our findings known to the Joint Appropriations Committee. Then from there present to the Legislature, the problem there is the Senate doesn’t want to have a special session,” said Senator Phil Jensen (R-Rapid City).

If Congress were to extend the deadline on spending CARES Act dollars past Dec. 31, 2020, many state legislators believe that the business of how those dollars are spent could be figured out during the regularly scheduled legislative session in January.

“The five committees are hopefully going to be able to hear new information and put together some ideas, but we still have to wait and see what Congress does, and we all know Congress is, but we hope they extend the time period, and then these issues can be addressed during the regular legislative session,” said Rep. Rounds.

For more information about how to submit testimony to those committees, click here.

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