VEHLE: Legislative work ‘chugging along’28 of 492 bills signed into law, more to come. South Dakota is one of the few states that requires that every bill get a hearing and an up or down vote.
By: Mike Vehle , Guest columnist
The legislative session is chugging along, and as of Sunday, we had completed 28 days of the 38-day session. There were 492 bills introduced (250 in the House and 242 in the Senate).
As of Thursday, 28 bills had been signed into law. Wednesday was crossover day. Crossover day is the day on which any bill introduced in either chamber must be passed over to the other chamber or be defeated.
South Dakota is one of the few states that requires that every bill get a hearing and an up or down vote by a standing legislative committee. Because of this, there are a couple “vehicle bills,” bills that do not have much in them, but may be later amended to provide something that is being worked upon but has not received enough consensus yet.
One of these is SB 182 on economic development. The leadership of both parties from both the House and Senate are trying to put together a bill that is agreeable to legislators of both parties and the administration.
This is a tough task, and they did not want to “fill in the blanks” just yet, until a compromise that is acceptable is close. Economic development is vital to the continued economic recovery of our state, and so I am anxious to see what will be on the table.
One of my bills, to ban texting and driving, had a successful hearing and passed the Senate Transportation Committee 5-2. It was heard on the Senate floor Tuesday and passed 24-9. Although it is similar to texting bans of prior years, the emphasis is different. I do not want to get into the argument of how difficult it may be to enforce, as I admit up front that it can be difficult to enforce.
However, I want to change the culture on how we perceive texting and driving; that it is dangerous, deadly and deserves to be made illegal. Most people agree that texting and driving is not safe. If you pass a law on which nearly everyone agrees, compliance alone may be 60 percent or better. We’ve done this before, for instance, drinking and driving.
Fifty years ago, we would laugh at a person that got drunk, popped a curb and took out a fire hydrant — we don’t laugh anymore. Seat belts are similar, if you forget to buckle up, the kids in the back seat say “Mom/Dad, fasten your seat belt.” Or, if you forget to buckle up and you see a law enforcement vehicle, most of us reach for our seat belt to fasten it. Once something is illegal on an issue on which most people agree, voluntary compliance will begin.
Some other items of interest include an increase in the sales tax by 1 percent; it was defeated in the House. A bill to create the new state park at Blood Run near Sioux Falls passed the Senate 31-2.
The story on the name Blood Run supposedly is from the iron ore in the stone that leaches out and can give the water a reddish hue — rather than some big deadly battle. It is a beautiful and historic area, as it was populated by approximately 10,000 Native people at one time — it will make a great park someday.
The school sentinel bill has passed the House and also the Senate State Affairs Committee and will be on the Senate floor this week. It has been amended and there are a couple more amendments yet to come that will make it a better bill. If the bill retains the provision that it is a totally optional decision by the school board, that the requirement any school sentinel complete a course defined by the South Dakota Law Enforcement Officers Standards Commission, that the school works with the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the school property and gets plan approval from that agency; then I am inclined to favorably consider it.
There will be further amendments and certain changes may alter my favorable inclination.
It was great seeing folks at the cracker barrel in Plankinton on Feb. 16 and the cracker barrel in Wessington Springs on Feb. 18. As of this writing on Sunday, the session has 10 days remaining.
— Mike Vehle, a Republican from Mitchell, represents District 20 (Davison, Aurora and Jerauld counties) in the South Dakota Senate.