PIERRE—A panel of state senators decided Tuesday the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission should be able to continue to grant permits for international projects, such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline, before the projects have federal approval from the U.S. president. Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, told the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee that the PUC still certified the South Dakota permit for Keystone XL, even after President Barack Obama refused to allow TransCanada's pipeline to pierce the U.S. border. The committee killed SB 134 on a party-line vote of 5-2.
PIERRE — State senators gave final approval Tuesday to require state government, school boards, counties, cities and other local governments to interview armed forces veterans who meet the minimum qualifications for job openings. The 32-1 vote sent the measure to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his review. Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, sponsored HB 1056. During the debate Tuesday, Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, said servicemen and servicewomen aren't looking for preference.
PIERRE—Legislation intended to overturn a policy allowing transgender students to participate in athletic competition at the high school level in South Dakota won approval Tuesday in the state House of Representatives. House members amended HB 1112 and then passed it 45-23. The measure now goes to the Senate. The point of the bill is to block the policy adopted two years ago by the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors.
PIERRE—The Legislature is one step away from approving major changes in how workers' compensation benefits are calculated for employees in South Dakota. State senators are scheduled to vote on final approval as early as this afternoon on changing the income determination. Under the new approach, known as aggregation, all of the current jobs the worker couldn't perform because of the injury would become the basis for compensation. The South Dakota Supreme Court decided last spring that aggregation would be the correct approach.
PIERRE — Legislation that would require cemetery officials to file annual financial reports cleared its first test by a Senate panel Monday. The prime sponsor of SB 70 is Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, but she arranged for Rep. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, to present the bill to the Senate Local Government Committee. Last year Novstrup hit a dead end in the House Commerce and Energy Committee with legislation that attempted to put more regulations on cemetery finances.
PIERRE—Sales of wine and beer would be allowed at events on state university campuses under a measure supported Monday by the South Dakota Senate without any ayes to spare. Senators approved the change 18-13. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives. Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, is prime sponsor of SB 102. He said wine and beer already are given away with the university president's approval. Private vendors, rather than the universities, would hold the licenses for wine and beer sales, according to Tidemann.
PIERRE—South Dakota's highway fund doesn't receive tax revenue on the electricity used to power hybrid- and electric-powered cars and trucks. The Legislature raised most motor-fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees last year to provide big boosts in state and county highway funding. But lawmakers decided against levying special fees of $40 for a hybrid and $80 for an all-electric. The free pass for electricity as a vehicle fuel became the argument Monday against raising tax rates on other fuels that weren't addressed last year.
PIERRE — Every year, through hundreds of votes cast over eight or nine weeks, the 105 members of the Legislature decide for South Dakota just what is the greater good. They've been at it for four weeks already this winter. From now through March 11, the lawmakers will go through the hardest work of that process. Medicaid expansion, Indian Health Service reform, teacher pay, school funding, property tax relief, a sales tax increase and government ethics lead the agenda.
PIERRE—Some members want to talk about better pay for the Legislature starting in 2017 if money can be found. They currently receive $6,000 per year for their two-year terms. They also receive mileage and expense payments of $125 per day during legislative session and other official business. Sen. Deb Peters and Rep. Mark Willadsen are suggesting each of the 105 lawmakers get $500 per month for expenses in April through December when they aren't in session.
PIERRE—A state lawmaker from the home of the Big Stone power plant wants the Legislature to tell the federal government to back off. Rep. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, is prime sponsor of a resolution asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its current clean-air plan. The companies that own the Big Stone plant spent $384 million on its new air-quality control system that was completed in December after three years of construction.