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. Will school districts get any help with their health insurance expenses?
A. The House of Representatives rejected a measure that would have allowed districts to increase their pension levy and broaden the pension levy's use to also include health insurance. But Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, resurrected his bill, stripped out the levy increase and House members agreed 52-17 to let districts use the pension levy for health insurance, too. House Bill 1239 is up for final passage today in the Senate, where the lead sponsor is Democrat Billie Sutton of Burke.
Q. How much work awaited legislators when they returned today?
A. The House of Representatives has an incredible 41 bills stacked up on its main debate calendar for today, while the Senate has 15 bills for debate. The House also has three bills that have passed both chambers, but now require House decisions whether to agree with Senate amendments. On the other hand, the Senate Taxation Committee isn't meeting today and has just two bills left to work Wednesday.
Q. Is the fuel-labeling issue wrapped up?
A. Almost. The Senate added an emergency clause Thursday so the measure takes immediate effect upon receiving the governor's signature. That meant House Bill 1091 goes back to the House, where its prime sponsor, Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, is expected to ask for agreement. The bill deals with what different grades of motor fuel are called at the gas pumps and makes clear less than 87-octane gas is legal in at least part of South Dakota after the disputes, investigations, rules fights and general confusion during the past year.
Q. Why does the bill need to take immediate effect?
A. The changeover in fuel transported into South Dakota by pipelines occurs on or about the end of March or start of April. Without the emergency clause, the proposed law wouldn't take effect until July 1 as most new laws do. The bill's lead sponsor in the Senate, Republican Corey Brown of Gettysburg, offered the emergency clause amendment. The bill then passed 31-0. The House previously approved it 64-6.
Q. What does the bill do?
A. It makes clear that 85-octane gas is legal, and can be called regular, unleaded or regular unleaded, in the western counties of Butte, Custer, Fall River, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins and Shannon. In those counties 87- through 90-octane can be called midgrade, plus or super unleaded.
Q. What about elsewhere?
A. In all other counties, 85-octane isn't legal. Instead, gas must be at least 87 octane to be labeled as regular unleaded, as it has been, and gas must be at least 89 octane to be labeled as midgrade, plus or super unleaded. There is agreement that gas of at least 91 octane will be called premium, supreme or high test in all counties.
Q. What's a quasquicentennial?
A. It is the 125th anniversary of an event. South Dakota's quasquicentennial of statehood comes in 2014. The Legislature has a resolution starting to move through the process that recognizes the coming event, and makes special mention of the week of Nov. 2-8, 2014, to celebrate. Statehood became official Nov. 2, 1889. Sponsors of the resolution are — get this — Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau, and Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls.
Q. Why is the Legislature recognizing the achievements of President Gerald Ford?
A. The better question might be why he wasn't recognized prior to this. He died Dec. 26, 2006. Perhaps remarks from the resolution's sponsors — Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton; Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea; and Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission — will answer this mystery.
Q. Where's Rep. Troy Heinert been the past few days?
A. Heinert, D-Mission, is a first-year legislator and now a retired wrestling coach for Todd County. He needed to leave the legislative session at lunch hour Wednesday to head to Watertown for the state Class A wrestling tournament. A weekend ago, he was chosen coach of the year at the west regional tournament. He plans to serve only as a volunteer coach for the coming season. In addition to being a great horseman and a true cowboy, he's part of a very solid freshman class of new lawmakers this session. The leatherwork on his briefcase is something to admire if you ever get the chance.
Q. How many days left in the session?
A. Today is working day 29 of the scheduled 38-day session. Lawmakers will work today through Thursday this week, take a three-day weekend, and come back for their first and only five-day workweek, March 4-8. From there, they're off for a two-week break and return, if necessary, March 25, for what's known as veto day, the final day of the session.