MERCER: 2013 session as logical as alwaysWant the really bad news from the 2013 session of the Legislature? Robo-calls remain legal for political purposes.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
PIERRE — Want the really bad news from the 2013 session of the Legislature?
Robo-calls remain legal for political purposes.
For a while there was a glimmer of quieter evenings and weekends ahead. Restrictions sought by House Democratic leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton were temporarily added to a bill brought by Republican Sen. Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City.
But House Republicans led by Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids stripped away the robo-call restrictions and returned the bill to its narrower intent of financial disclosure by people behind the calls.
So it shall remain OK to bother citizens with the automated pre-recorded messages, so long as the politicians get a better idea who’s attacking them and their causes.
Now what about robo-driving, aka texting or calling while motoring down road?
Beginning drivers are to be prohibited from using hand-held communications while on South Dakota’s streets and highways.
The ban applies to drivers under age 18 who hold instruction permits or restricted minor’s permits. Teens with a full operator’s permit won’t be affected.
The catch in the pending new law is it’s only a secondary offense. That means the officer can’t pull the kid over for using a hand-held in plain sight.
But it does give parents the ability to say to their 14- and 15-year-olds: It’s against the law. And it gives their 16-and 17-year-olds the ability to later say back: You’re not the boss of me any more with my full permit.
Then there was the whole lack of definition of smoking.
Nothing came out of this two-month struggle over a couple of hookah joints in Rapid City and maybe another one or two elsewhere. The matter is headed to court.
Sen. Craig Tieszen, the retired Rapid City police chief, brought the legislation meant to restrict the hookah lounges.
He also was the lead Senate sponsor for the legislation meant to allow people busted with marijuana to claim medical necessity as a defense.
The prime sponsor of marijuana defense bill was Rep. Dan Kaiser, RAberdeen, a police officer.
Now you see how reporters and voters get confused. Legislators weren’t. House members killed it.
While we’re on the topic of going in through the out-door, how about that proposed constitutional amendment that sought to require a two-thirds majority from voters to pass any ballot measure for a new tax, tax increase or tax extension?
Say that real fast three times. There seemed to be some logic in asking voters whether they want to restrict themselves in the same way they have restricted the Legislature on new taxes and tax increases.
Except there was an intriguing trap at the bottom of the amendment: If voters approved the amendment, the final paragraph said the two-thirds could be changed only by — get this — a twothirds majority of voters.
The amendment could pass by a simple majority of 50 percent plus one, but repealing it could be done only by the always devilish two-thirds majority of 66.666 percent plus one.
The House killed this one. But some version might be back in 2014.
Anybody remember the Tom Waits song where he’s croaking “Volume, volume, volume” as the secret to a huckster’s success? It came to mind during the hospitals fight.
Specialty providers wanted insurance plans to be required to allow their patients to choose physicians and others outside their plans’ provider networks.
The Sanford and Avera health organizations — who have their own insurance plans now too — said costs would go up because volume is one piece of their attempts at controlling costs to patients.
The specialty side presented a USD faculty member’s research. He found costs didn’t go up any more in states with patient choice than those without patient choice.
Republican Sen. Ryan Mayer, who has plenty of time to think while between the Capitol and his restaurant and bar at Isabel, suggested a five-year trial period for patient choice, so that South Dakota results could be gathered.
That didn’t keep the bill alive. Facts aren’t always in demand when money is being fought over.
Holidays were a big topic too this session.
We’ll get three new working holidays — aka holidays in title — for recognizing Vietnam veterans (March 30) POWs and MIAs (third Friday each September), and Purple Heart recipients (Aug. 7).
All three laws take effect July 1, which means the Vietnam recognition day won’t be officially observed as a working holiday until 2014.
Those working holidays don’t figure into another matter involving real holidays. Saturdays, Sundays and official recurring holidays won’t be counted in the 72-hour waiting period required of women seeking abortions in South Dakota.
Some of the strongest opponents of abortion scratched their heads over this one: the waiting period is for women to get legally required counseling at a pregnancy center that doesn’t recommend abortions.
The holidays and weekends exception came from Rep. Hansen and Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls.
She said adding more days won’t be an undue burden. The women need time, she said, and state law requires a longer waiting period for adoption.
She also said it will affect Planned Parenthood, the only publicly acknowledged provider of voluntary abortions in South Dakota.
Women won’t be able to see their doctor on Friday to arrange an abortion for Monday. This means pregnancy centers won’t have to be open for counseling on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, although they can be.
This one seems headed to federal court.
And then we have fireworks.
Actually, we’ll have more time to shoot fireworks. The old law set the Fourth of July holiday period to legally discharge fireworks as June 27 through July 5. The new law extends the period through the Sunday after the Fourth of July. That could mean up to an extra week.
More annoying: Bottle rockets or robo-calls? You decide.