Editor's note: As part of the coverage of the 2013 legislative session, the American News will provide, on most days, a list of 10 pieces of information helpful to understanding what is — and sometimes isn’t — happening at the state Capitol during the session’s three-month run.
Q. Is there peace at last over labeling of gasoline at the pump?
A. The dispute that blew up last year over lower-octane fuel being incorrectly labeled at some outlets seems to be resolved. The months of battling, through the series of hearings before the Department of Public Safety and the Legislature’s rules review committee, finally reached a successful conclusion in recent weeks with a compromise on legislation sponsored by Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg. No opponents testified against House Bill 1091 at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing Thursday.
Q. What is the final deal?
A. Gasoline with an 85-octane or 86-octane rating can be sold in nine western counties. Those are Butte, Custer, Fall River, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins and Shannon. Gasoline in all other counties must be at least 87 octane. Pumps with 85 or 86 octane in those nine counties will need a decal: “May not be suitable for all engines. Refer to owner’s manual before fueling.”
So there’s no new designation in the legislation as “sub-regular” for fuel with less than 87 octane? The petroleum marketers association succeeded in eliminating that word, which the Daugaard administration still wanted. Under the rule ordered last year by the Department of Public Safety, 86-octane and 85-octane must be labeled as “Sub-Regular Octane.” That rule remains in effect through June 30. The administration wanted to put “sub-regular” in state law this year, but that legislation, House Bill 1037 from the Department of Public Safety, was killed by a House committee.
Q. Does this satisfy all sides?
A. During the rules battle last year, the department ran into a political buzz-saw among some legislators such as Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron. Gibson voted against the compromise legislation last week, when the House passed it 64-6. On Thursday, another of the rules committee members from last year, Sen. Angie Buhl, D-Sioux Falls, said she’s now willing to support it because no opposition has surfaced again. Buhl said her biggest concern was that consumers should be able to know what they’re buying. The full Senate will get the bill for consideration as soon as Monday afternoon for possible final passage. Its lead sponsor in the Senate is Republican Corey Brown of Gettysburg.
Q. What are lawmakers doing on waterfowl hunting licenses?
A. The annual battle is under way again. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 9-4 Thursday in favor of Rep. Dick Werner’s proposal to repeal state laws restricting the numbers and types of waterfowl licenses that can be sold to nonresidents. The legislation would give full authority to the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission instead. The big struggle on House Bill 1156 now comes among the 70 members of the full House. The South Dakota Wildlife Federation has been working against it since Werner, R-Huron, introduced it Jan. 23.
Q. Who is winning the sports-broadcasting issue?
A. The South Dakota Newspaper Association took its argument Thursday to the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee. Senate Bill 119, sponsored by Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, would prohibit in a round-about manner the exclusive broadcasting contracts used in some K-12 school districts. Newspapers and other broadcast organizations that don’t have contracts want to be able to show events in entirety through Internet sites. School districts are using the broadcast contracts as a source of revenue and locking out competitors by offering higher-return exclusive rights
“I would tell you our silence does not necessarily mean we endorse the legislation,” Lindsey Riter-Rapp, a lobbyist for the South Dakota High School Activities Association, said. South Dakota Broadcasters Association executive director Steve Willard said sports is a sub-set of what radio and TV stations try to do for the schools, from lunch menus to school closings.
“Nobody gets rich doing high school sports. It’s just not there,” Willard said. Sen. Tim Begalka, R-Clear Lake, spoke in favor and said these are public schools funded by taxpayers. His position was backed by Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, who questioned whether school districts have the legal authority to put images of students out for bid and up for sale.
“There’s nothing like sunlight to disinfect,” Lederman said. He predicted “serious debate” in the full Senate. Agreeing was Buhl, who said exclusive contracts shouldn’t be allowed to the detriment of other media outlets. The committee voted 7-0 in favor. Next stop: The full Senate.
Q. Did the Legislature let DMV proceed on electronic titling of vehicles?
A. South Dakota is still some years away from putting a system fully into place, according to DMV director Debra Hillmer. Senators gave her final approval Thursday to take the next steps in the process as part of a multistate effort. The legislation, House Bill 1043, now heads to the governor for his signature. There wasn’t a single vote cast against it in either chamber or at either committee hearing.
Q. Any changes under way for small-enrollment school districts?
A. The Senate gave its OK Thursday to creating an exemption for districts of fewer than 100 enrollment so they can avoid forced consolidation. They would need to be in a consortium as part of a cooperative or joint-powers agreement. One route is via distance technology.
“They are bringing a lot of change through these innovative means,” Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, said. “This group of administrators has done a great job.” Senate Bill 96 now moves to the House after the Senate’s vote. The original bill’s prime sponsor was Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls.
Welke said size doesn’t matter: “Quality does.”
Johnston said education is moving “every single day” away from the old delivery model. “Consolidation doesn’t do anything but tear rural South Dakota apart,” Johnston said.
Q. What’s the first bill signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard?
A. He put his pen to House Bill 1066 on Thursday, making the state tourism tax rate 1.5 percent indefinitely. The rate would have decreased to 1 percent on July 1 without the permanent extension. The Legislature originally passed the extra half-percent in 2009 and the Legislature reauthorized it for two more years in 2011, rather than permanently as Daugaard wanted then.
Q. Is the Legislature taking off today or Monday?
A. This time it’s today. Most lawmakers exited the Capitol by mid-afternoon Thursday. They’ll be back Monday for another four-day week.