Bob Mercer reports from the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre for The Daily Republic and other newspapers around the state.
- Member for
- 11 months 2 weeks
PIERRE -- House Speaker Brian Gosch did a U-turn Wednesday and called for negotiations to resume on banning texting while driving in South Dakota. A few hours later, Sen. Mike Vehle relented and agreed that talks should reopen through a new House-Senate conference committee. The two had been at the center of a deadlock Tuesday night. Unable to reach agreement on what Gosch and Vehle each wanted in the legislation, the committee of Gosch, Vehle and four others gave up. All six have been replaced for the second round of talks.
PIERRE — The Senate agreed with the House of Representatives version of legislation Wednesday that would require the South Dakota High School Activities Association to follow state laws on open meetings and public records. The association's board of directors adopted an open-meeting policy last month but fought against the legislation sponsored by Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg. The Senate originally approved Brown's bill 29-6. The House made amendments in response to points raised by the association's lobbyists and passed the revised bill 62-6.
PIERRE — A governor's veto is difficult to override, as Sen. Bob Ewing learned Wednesday. Ewing tried and lost in his attempt to pass legislation that would have allowed Deadwood to charge another dollar of tax on hotel and motel rooms. The Senate voted 16-19 for the override, falling eight ayes short of the 24 necessary for the two-thirds majority required. The result: SB 98 is dead. Deadwood will remain at the $2 maximum occupancy tax as the rest of South Dakota.
PIERRE — A $7.2 million appropriation to help rehabilitate the stretch of state-owned railroad line from Chamberlain to Lyman, including the bridge over the Missouri River, won final approval legislative approval Wednesday. The House of Representatives voted 65-4 for the package. HB 1041 now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his decision whether to allow it to become law. The legislation combines $1.2 million for the bridge project that the governor wanted and $6 million that Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, sought for the line west of Chamberlain.
PIERRE -- A legislative conference committee couldn't negotiate a compromise Tuesday night on a statewide ban against texting while driving. The panel agreed 6-0 to give up on the talks. The full Senate and the full House of Representatives are expected to ratify that report today. The dividing line was whether cities and counties would be able to keep their present bans and pass new bans tougher than the proposed state law.
PIERRE -- The state Board of Economic Development will seek a partial abatement of property taxes from the city of Howard and Miner County for an industrial building the board and Heartland Consumers Power District jointly owned for 315 days in 2013. The property was used to secure a state loan. The board and Heartland took possession Feb. 19, 2013. The board was assessed 74.98 percent of the total taxes payable in 2014 and Heartland the remainder.
PIERRE — State senators gave final approval Tuesday to a significant savings for South Dakota employers. They voted 35-0 to reduce the tax rates that businesses must pay for unemployment insurance. HB 1045 now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his signature to become law. "In the end it will keep the trust fund growing at an annual rate of a million dollars," Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, said. The tax cut will be in excess of $11 million annually, according to Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg.
PIERRE — A wind farm in southeastern South Dakota would get a potentially large tax refund and a Sioux Falls construction business would receive a large low-interest loan under decisions made Tuesday by the state Board of Economic Development. The board approved a refund up to $2.9 million for B&H Wind, a Minnesota-based company building a wind farm in Bon Homme, Charles Mix and Hutchinson counties. The board set a limit on the refund of 85 percent of the sales and use taxes paid on the $125 million project.
PIERRE -- The Legislature's two sides are headed into a showdown over how tough to make a ban against texting while driving on South Dakota's streets and highways. The Senate took the hard line Monday and adopted amendments that would make texting a primary offense -- meaning law enforcement could stop a motorist seen in the act -- punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
PIERRE -- The Legislature cracked down Monday on people who host or allow underage alcohol parties and on people who sell e-nicotine devices to minors. The House of Representatives voted 60-10 to expand South Dakota's tobacco regulations to cover e-cigarettes and other devices for delivering nicotine vapor. Meanwhile, the Senate voted 25-10 for new penalties on social hosts. The two measures now go to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his review whether to sign them into law.