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.
PIERRE -- Video lottery establishments will remain limited to 10 machines apiece in South Dakota, the state House of Representatives decided Monday. House members voted 44-26 against an expansion plan that would have allowed 15 machines, with the additional five needing to use new technology. The defeat of SB 180 was the second major setback for the South Dakota Lottery Commission and Gov. Dennis Daugaard this session on video lottery issues. Earlier in the session House members blocked an increase of the bet limit from $2 to $5.
PIERRE -- State and local governments in South Dakota would be prohibited from contracting with any private company for red-light traffic camera services under a measure that received final legislative approval Monday. The House of Representatives voted 64-6 in favor. HB 1100 now heads to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his decision whether to sign it into law. The prime sponsor is Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron. She said a government could still spend "millions of dollars" for its own device if there was support.
PIERRE -- High schools across the state face a vote next month about restricting representation on the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors. An amendment is proposed for the association's constitution that would limit a school to no more than one person at the same time on the eight-member board. Aberdeen Central High School recently had two directors in principal Jason Uttermark and school board member Mike Miller.