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VEHLE: Some old laws need to go

Often you hear the terminology, “it was clean-up legislation,” and most of the time it is just that. These, many times, are laws that were passed many years ago and do not have a place in today’s world.  

Examples this year include a law banning traction engines from traveling on roads and bridges. These large “tractors” had metal wheels and steel lugs that were obviously very tough on asphalt roads and wooden bridges. Today, we have other laws that cover this situation, and that law is unnecessary.

Another outdated law was one that allowed municipalities to have their own vehicle registration fees in addition to the county registration fee. It was a 1930s permissive law that no one could remember ever being used by a town or city. No one objected to removing these laws from our law code.

This past week the Senate heard and passed an animal cruelty bill. I have often said that since agriculture is the No. 1 industry in South Dakota, any animal cruelty bill will have to have the support of all the agriculture groups such as the Cattleman, the Stockgrowers, the Pork Producers, Farmers Union, Farm Bureau, etc., before it would have a chance of passage. After much work, it happened, and I applaud those that worked on this proposed legislation. Malicious cruelty is separated from animal husbandry practices. The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Another interesting bill that passed the Senate is a proposal to stop “patent trolling.” This is a practice where an entity claims ownership of a patent on widely-used business technology. These patent trolls then send threatening letters to take businesses to court unless they pay a “settlement.” Often businesses out of fear of a huge lawsuit pay the settlement without hiring an attorney only to learn later it was a sham and the patent troll has disappeared with their money. The proposal sets up a reasonable list of criteria that a court can utilize to determine if it actually is patent infringement, and if it’s not a patent infringement, it allows the attorney general to bring a civil action against perpetrators of this scam. We all wish that people who come up with these schemes would only use their intelligence on making an honest living.

On Wednesday, my texting ban proposal was heard before Senate Transportation. I am hopeful that we will be able to work out any differences with a House version as it is the first time a texting ban of any kind has passed the House.

We are passed the halfway mark in the 2014 Legislature, and it is getting more intense. There is a cracker barrel at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Mitchell Technical Institute amphitheater. See you there.

-- Mike Vehle represents District 20 -- Davison, Aurora and Jerauld counties -- in the state Senate.