PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The two new leaders of the South Dakota Republican Party are the main sponsors of the governor’s proposal to exempt groceries from the state 4.5% sales tax.

The legislation was filed Tuesday. Representative Mary Fitzgerald, a St. Onge Republican, is prime sponsor of the exemption that Governor Kristi Noem proposed in her re-election campaign last fall. Senator John Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican, is the lead sponsor in the Senate.

Wiik was elected as the new chairman and Fitzgerald as the new vice-chair by the South Dakota Republican central committee on Saturday.

Their legislation would add cannabis and cannabis products as items that would be subject to the sales tax. Those would join alcohol, prepared food and tobacco as items that remain subject to the sales tax. However, the legislation doesn’t have wording that would protect municipalities that already charge a sales tax on groceries or might want to add one in the future.

The Legislative Research Council in a December 5, 2022, letter suggested that Dakotans For Health should change the wording of its initiative petition.

The LRC suggested that the initiative be rewritten to state: “The retail sale of any food or food ingredient for any purpose is exempt from any tax imposed by law. The exemption provided under this section does not apply to the taxing authority of a municipality. A municipality may tax the retail sale of any food or food ingredient, as provided under chapter 10-52.”

The LRC letter came after interim Attorney General Mark Vargo advised Dakotans for Health in a letter on November 9, 2022, regarding an earlier version of the initiative: “This initiated measure prohibits the state, or municipalities, from collecting sales or use tax on anything sold for eating or drinking by humans. The measure eliminates these sources of revenue.”

The House approved a grocery-tax repeal last year but the Senate refused to agree.