Monthly Archives: February 2011

Rules hearing set on prescription drug monitoring

The state Board of Pharmacy plans a public hearing March 15 in Pierre, regarding the rules for a new database on prescription drugs dispensed to South Dakota residents. To see the five pages of regulations, go to www.pharmacy.sd.gov and click on the Proposed Rules link. The hearing is set to start at 9:30 a.m. CT at St. Mary’s Hospital. Written material must reach the board no later than March 10.  The data collected through the new system will be kept for three years.

Garnos decides his school-funding plan won’t work

Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho, concluded that his plan to change the payment schedule for school districts, so that an additional $25 million in school aid might flow their way in 2012, won’t work. The Senate as a matter of courtesy kept the legislation, SB 133, alive last week and sent it to the House of Representatives for further work. On Monday morning, he sat down with the House Appropriations Committee and asked that it be killed. The members obliged, tabling it 9-0. Garnos had used a piece of legislation that Sen. Tim Rave, R-Baltic, had introduced specifically to serve as a vehicle for possible other use.

EPA’s hidden tax increase on rural electricity consumers — Updated

The Senate State Affairs Committee is under heavy pressure from the Daugaard administration to block a tax exemption sought by rural electric cooperatives. The legislation, HB 1147, seeks to protect cooperatives from having to pay state gross receipts taxes on the environmental-equipment costs they may incur in response to new regulations, laws and rules dealing with greenhouse gases and climate change.  President Obama’s EPA appears headed toward some form of additional regulations, and the rural electric co-ops are trying to protect themselves from a double whammy. As the law now stands the co-ops will need to pass along to their members the costs of complying, then the co-ops will need to pay gross receipts taxes on the higher rates that the members must pay to cover the costs. The legislation rolled out of the House of Representatives 66-2, but the bill might not survive its Friday hearing by the Senate panel. The bill’s defeat means rural rate-payers will get taxed by the state on something their electricity providers have no choice in doing. The winners in this deal are the school districts in which the co-ops operate. Revenue from the 2 percent tax are distributed proportionately back to the school districts. How much is at stake? One estimate is $5 million statewide. Investor-owned utilities and municipal utilities aren’t subject to the gross receipts tax and therefore don’t have a dog in this fight.

UPDATE: The Senate State Affairs Committee just voted 9-0 to kill the bill, after compelling testimony from interim secretary of revenue David Wiest. He pointed out the ambiguity throughout the legislation. School lobbyists also testified against it.

Is governor now putting up a roadblock on license plate fees? — Updated

Word is spreading fast through the Legislature that the Daugaard administration now is opposing the license-plate increases and other proposed changes that would raise an estimated $30 million-plus for local governments to use for roads and bridges. The legislation, HB 1192, flew through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support on a 53-13 vote Feb. 16, and there was no opposition from the governor’s office, the state Department of Transportation or the Division of Motor Vehicles. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Friday morning by the Senate Transportation Committee. Republican senators will be in an especially tough spot if Gov. Dennis Daugaard now wants the bill defeated. At the same time, the governor will face questions about the competency of his legislative task force if his folks are suddenly switching position — or are finally getting around to the issue at this late date in the 2011 session. The legislation needs a two-thirds majority, which in the Senate is 24 yes votes. A two-thirds majority is also needed for a veto override, but history has shown it’s sometimes easier for a governor to sustain a veto than to kill a bill outright. Here’s one more complication. The Senate committee members are Republicans Mike Vehle, Art Fryslie, Joni Cutler, Tom Hansen, Shantel Krebs and Ryan Maher, while it’s one Democrat is Jim Hundstad. The bill’s Senate sponsor list includes Hansen, Cutler, Fryslie, Hundstad, Krebs, Maher and Vehle. According to communications director Tony Venhuizen, the governor said during his weekly news conference last Thursday he’s opposed to the bill.

UPDATE: The Senate Transportation Committee voted 7-0 this morning to endorse the bill. The only opponent to testify was governor’s aide Jason Glodt. The next step is the full Senate.

This is not the way to get a bill passed — Updated (Again)

Freshman Sen. Angie Buhl, D-Sioux Falls, has a bill up for debate by the full Senate this afternoon. SB 161 would add military and veteran status as a class of people protected under South Dakota’s anti-discrimination laws. It’s only half of what she started with — she wanted to add age, too, but the state Labor Department and business lobbyists shot down that part of her bill. It will be interesting to see how her bill fares today, however, after she issued a news release through the South Dakota Democratic Party, trumpeting the defeat of a different piece of Republican legislation, SB 88, that sought to toughen the penalty for voter bribery and specifically prohibit the practice of offering food as an inducement for early voting. That bill, which passed the Senate 30-5 three weeks ago, died in a House committee today. Buhl’s news release about the bill’s death began, “The rights of South Dakota’s voters stood above the the overbearing will of Senate Republicans today…” In case you’re wondering, there are 30 Republicans and five Democrats in the Senate. Six of those Republicans, and Buhl, voted 7-0 in the Senate Commerce and Education Committee to endorse Buhl’s amended discrimination bill. Here’s the full release:

House Kills Bill to Impede Voting

 SIOUX FALLS (February 23, 2011)— The rights of South Dakota’s voters stood above the overbearing will of Senate Republicans today, says Senator Angie Buhl (D-Sioux Falls). 

 “Republicans have been trying to make it more difficult for South Dakotans to vote, and they succeeded by passing SB 88 in the Senate in January. I’m glad the House had the better sense to kill this bill today,” Senator Buhl said.

 South Dakota Senate Bill 88, sponsored by Senator Bob Gray (R-Pierre), makes false accusations of voter bribery. Its ramifications would have restricted the ability of South Dakotans to vote. The bill was voted down in South Dakota House of Representatives this morning.

 “Since there hasn’t been a single proven case of voter bribery in South Dakota, this bill was completely unnecessary, and the House committee recognized that.  I hope now we can focus on actual problems that face our state, including saving education and Medicaid from drastic 10% cuts,” Buhl concluded.

UPDATE: One of the committee members, Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, said during Senate debate later in the afternoon that he has changed his mind and now believes the legislation is unnecessary. That was echoed by Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, who said the state Labor Department has been very effective in dealing with problems between employers and National Guard members. “This is one more bill we don’t need. It’s being handled very nicely,” he said. The roll call was 9 yes and 25 no. Only four Republicans joined the five Democrats in supporting the bill.

SECOND UPDATE: Of the six Republican senators who voted for the bill in committee, five voted no when the bill came up for debate in the full Senate.

Jim Bradford: One very, very happy senator

“Today is the best day of my life,” proclaimed Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, moments ago to no one in particular as he stood at his desk on the Senate floor. Several other senators turned toward him, and one asked why. “That Senate Bill 88, that you all voted for,” he said, pointing one by one at several Republicans, “just went down, sent to the 41st day.”

SB 88 sought to increase the penalty for voter bribery and would specifically prohibit the practice of food-for-votes that was so controversial in the 2010 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives. The Senate approved the legislation 30-5 on a party-line vote Feb. 2. But the bill met its end today in the House State Affairs Committee, even though Secretary of State Jason Gant, a Republican, and state Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, testified in favor of it. The lone opponent to take the witness chair was Bradford. The committee took his side and killed the bill this morning on a 13-0 vote.

Non-SDHSAA activities stripped from concussion bill

Sen. Todd Schlekeway, R-Sioux Falls, was able Tuesday morning to keep intact half of his legislation that would regulate how concussions are handled in youth sports and other activities, but the bill still has a long road ahead through the full Senate and, if it survives, the House of Representatives. He originally wanted the regulations to apply for youth athletic activities sanctioned by the South Dakota High School Activities Association, and to also apply for “any youth athletic activity” not sanctioned by SDHSAA, including those sponsored by a city, business or non-profit organization in which the athletes are age 18 and younger. An amendment sought to strip the regulations from the non-SDHSAA activities, but that failed on a 3-4 vote in the Senate Education Committee. When it became clear that Schlekeway was going to lose the entire bill, he was saved by Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre, who appeared to privately warn him that a new version of the same amendment was needed for it to survive. After the non-SDHSAA activities were taken out of the bill, SB 149, the committee endorsed the SDHSAA-only version 6-1. The legislation requires SDHSAA and the state Department of Education to come up with a training program that every coach would need to complete annually, and every parent and athlete would need to annually sign an information sheet saying they understand the risks of concussions. Athletes exhibiting signs of a concussion would need to be removed from participation and couldn’t be returned without a health care provider’s signed clearance. The full Senate will consider the bill later this week.

Thune isn’t running for president

U.S. Sen. John Thune took the unusual route of using a Facebook page to declare this morning he’s not going to pursue the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Here’s the statement:

For months now, my wife Kimberley and I have received encouragement from family, friends, colleagues, and supporters from across South Dakota and the country to run for the presidency of the United States. We have appreciated hearing their concerns about where the country is headed and their hopes for a new direction.

During this time, Kimberley and I and our two daughters have given a great deal of thought to how we might best serve South Dakota and our nation. That process has involved lots of prayer.

Along the way, we have been reminded of the importance of being in the arena, of being in the fight. And make no mistake that during this period of fiscal crisis and economic uncertainty there is a fight for the future direction of America. There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now. So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate.

I want to thank those who have encouraged us and prayed for us during the past several months. We are forever grateful for all the support.

John and Kimberley

Vehle dumps his juvenile ‘sexting’ bill

Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, pulled the plug Tuesday morning on his legislation that sought to specifically prohibit juvenile ‘sexting’ in South Dakota and provide penalties for minors who use electronic or computerized methods to distribute materials about “any sexually explicit conduct or any lewd exhibition of nudity.” State law already has laws dealing with juvenile pornography. Vehle said state’s attorneys found a variety of problems with his legislation, SB 179. He said there’s no point in pursuing it if prosecutors don’t plan to use it, and therefore he asked the Senate Judiciary Committee to set his legislation aside. Vehle said he’ll bring back a revised measure for the 2012 session. “The problem is, once these pictures are out, you can’t get them back,” he said.