Simplified: The City of Sioux Falls wants to be crystal clear about what it wants lawmakers to focus on in the upcoming legislative session. That's why the council's draft wishlist is only three items long.
Why it matters
- The Sioux Falls City Council historically sets a list of a dozen or so priorities every year ahead of session. Last year, for example, there was a list of 15 items ranging from supporting pollinator-friendly plants to accessible housing.
- The number one priority so far (and it's worth noting no formal action has been taken on these priorities, so things can change) is addressing crime, specifically crimes committed by people who've previously been incarcerated.
- By narrowing the full list down to three – maybe four – areas of focus councilors are hoping to send a strong message from the state's largest city to lawmakers that they want to see progress on all items.
"You may get to a situation where you have 20 good ideas, but you can’t have 20 priorities," Councilor David Barranco said, later adding, "we have to have a short list in order to get legislative action."
So, what are the top three priorities?
- Strengthening the criminal justice system.
Merkouris expressed concerns about the number of inmates currently in jail who had been on parole or probation (about 44 percent).
- He also noted concerns about the eight police shootings Sioux Falls has seen in the last year. Police Chief Jon Thum told councilors that six of those eight shootings involved people who were "no stranger to the legal system."
"We want to see legislation, studies, whatever it takes ... nothing else matters unless we have public safety," Councilor Rich Merkouris said during Wednesday's council work session.
2. Cutting red tape on a $200 million fund to support building workforce housing.
The legislature last year approved $200 million in funding to help pay for the infrastructure needed so builders can build affordable "workforce housing." But that money got stuck in limbo amid confusion as to who it's really for.
- Councilors want to see that money get out to builders as soon as possible.
"We have $200 million. We have a housing crisis. Let's move that forward," Councilor Alex Jensen said.
3. Opposing any legislation that would reduce or repeal any municipal or county tax.
They're lookin' at you, food tax.
Gov. Kristi Noem announced earlier this week that she wants to see lawmakers do away with sales tax on food.
- But, the council expressed concerns about the state taking away a potential revenue stream when budgets at the city and county level can run tight.
- Both Merkouris and Jensen called for specifying that the council wants local control on this issue. It's possible the "local control" priority becomes a fourth bullet point on the list of priorities, as well.
"I want the county and the city to maintain opportunity to tax as our citizens ask us to tax," Merkouris said.
What happens next?
Jim David, the council's chief of legislation and policy, will put together a document with those top three (maybe four) priorities.
It'll then be up to the council to vote to formally approve them later this month during a regular City Council meeting.
Ultimately, it'll be up to state lawmakers, who begin the 2023 legislative session on Jan. 10, 2023.