Legislature: Scholarship, cell use on tap this weekPIERRE — On tap this week in the South Dakota Legislature: a scholarship designed to attract new teachers, and a ban on cellphone use by beginning drivers.
By: Chet Brokaw, The Associated Press
PIERRE — On tap this week in the South Dakota Legislature: a scholarship designed to attract new teachers, and a ban on cellphone use by beginning drivers.
Here are five things to know heading into the annual session’s fifth week:
The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing Tuesday on a plan to give scholarships to college students who agree to teach in critically needed subjects for at least five years after graduation.
Students preparing for teaching careers could get scholarships to help cover tuition and fees for their final two years in a private or public college.
A new state board would determine which subjects are in critical need of teachers, but officials have said South Dakota needs to attract more college graduates into teaching math and science. General state tax revenue would be used to set up a trust fund that would finance the scholarships.
Lawmakers are looking at a package of proposals by a task force the Legislature appointed to look at teen driving safety.
One bill would prohibit beginning drivers — those with instruction and restricted permits — from using cellphones while behind the wheel. Another measure suggested by the task force would set up a coordinated drivers’ education system with statewide standards for course content, instruction, testing and certification of instructors.
Task force members said South Dakota has one of the nation’s highest rates of fatal crashes among young drivers. The Senate Transportation Committee will have hearings Monday on the bills recommended by the task force.
South Dakota lawmakers will get another briefing Tuesday on the arguments for and against expanding Medicaid to cover thousands of additional low-income people.
The event is sponsored by legislative leaders and the Council of State Governments, an organization that represents all three branches of government for states around the nation.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has recommended against expanding Medicaid right now as part of the federal health care overhaul because he is uncertain whether the federal government can afford to pay the bulk of the cost.
The state’s Medicaid program now covers about 116,000 children, adults and disabled people. If the state expands eligibility, an estimated 48,000 people, mostly adults without children, would be added to the program.
By the filing deadline last week, South Dakota lawmakers had introduced 492 bills, about average for recent legislative sessions.
In the past 10 years, lawmakers filed an average of 495 bills a year. The Legislative Research Council reports that the highest number of bills ever introduced was in 1957, when 929 were filed.
The lowest number ever filed was in 1964, when only 432 were considered. In most years during the past decade, a little more than half the bills introduced have been passed and signed into law.
Sales tax on food
The House Taxation Committee looks at a bill Tuesday that would remove the state sales tax on food while raising the tax rate on most other goods and services.
Food would be exempt from the state’s 4 percent sales tax, but the rate would be raised to 4.35 percent on other goods and services.
Similar bills have failed in the past after opponents argued that the tax rate can be kept low if the sales tax is applied to a broad range of items. Supporters of those bills contend that food should not be taxed to give a break to low-income families.