Session 1 Week 8

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The second to last legislative week saw some of the more high profile issues this year brought to committee and the floor.

In Ag and Natural Resources we heard SB 131 which is the issue of stray voltage. Stray voltage is a problem of animals, primarily dairy cattle, receiving a slight electric shock when trying to drink from the tank. This could be due to many different problems dealing with bad grounding, wires underground, bad wires, motors, or a myriad of other issues. These slight shocks cause the cow to produce less milk and therefore results in a loss of production. Obviously the producer will want to find the reasons for the production loss and this bill provides a path for the producer to get the problems they may be dealing with remedied while providing the electric utility some protection from litigation that has been quite extensive in other states resulting in millions of dollars in payouts. The Public Utilities Commission will promulgate (create) rules that both producer and utility will follow for identification of stray voltage issues and procedures for the fixing of those issues. They will also be a neutral third party in disputes and act as an arbitrator in those cases.

As I mentioned last week most of the bills heard on the floor have been thoroughly vetted and most face little opposition. SB 89 was one of those bills that had a surprising ending.  It required the development of school safety plans and the conduct of lockdown drills in accredited schools. In light of the threats we face in this day and age this seemed like a good idea and it had passed all of its other votes unanimously and it would’ve been thought to be another easy green (yes) vote. It was late in the day when this bill was heard and there may have been some “green fatigue” because all it took was for one Representative to stand and say something akin to “don’t we trust our schools enough to be able to do this without the legislature giving them another mandate?” and it died 37-30. I’ll admit I changed my vote on that one from committee to the floor because it made sense – why would we force our schools to do something that most probably already do? And if they need guidelines on what to do they can go read the bill that didn’t become law and do it without government involvement.

The final week of the legislative session is shaping up to be quite interesting… and long. The House has two days, Monday and Tuesday, to hear the bills that remain on the calendar and some of them are quite large. Like SB 73 which is the Juvenile Justice Reform package that aims to increase public safety while holding juvenile offenders accountable for their actions and reducing the costs associated with incarceration of non-violent offenders. Of course SB 1 will be one of the final bills that will have its details hammered out right before we come home. Highway funding has been the hot topic this year and continues to be the buzz around the Capitol as to what exactly the bill will look like when it’s complete. There are many differing opinions on what should or shouldn’t be included and I hope people who are on all sides of the issue can come to an acceptable agreement that will keep South Dakota’s road infrastructure in great shape for generations to come.

Rep. Joshua Klumb