Editor's note: As part of the coverage of the 2013 legislative session, the American News will provide, on most days, a list of information helpful to understanding what is — and sometimes isn’t — happening at the state Capitol during the session’s three-month run.
Q. What was that device on display Thursday during the meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee?
A. Hookah pipes aren’t commonly seen in South Dakota. Rapid City officials want a definition of smoking added to South Dakota’s legal code. Several local businesses have offered the use of hookahs in the past year in what might, or might not, be a violation of the state’s smoking ban.
Q. What happened?
A. Rapid City police chief Steve Allender demonstrated how one of the smoking devices works. In turn, the Senate committee voted 6-0 to support the legislation from Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City. The measure heads to the full Senate next.
Q. Who else was involved?
A. Among those testifying was Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker. He warned that other South Dakota communities can expect to see hookah establishments crop up unless the law isn’t changed. “It’s obvious they’re getting some kind of high or satisfaction or enjoyment out of this,” Sen. Tim Begalka, R-Clear Lake, said.
Q. Are lawmakers reducing the requirements for the Opportunity scholarship?
A. House members fought again Thursday about Rep. Lance Russell’s attempt to make the state-funded $5,000 college scholarships more easily available to home-schooled students. Russell, R-Hot Springs, wanted to let home-school students qualify with a 24 ACT score, without meeting the requirements of a B average and rigorous courses for high school students. There already is a provision allowing students to test-in with a 28 score.
Q. What happened?
A. Russell lost on his initial try for the 24 score Tuesday on a 35-35 vote. Russell received enough votes for a procedural maneuver Thursday to bring House Bill 1128 back for further debate. He then offered to amend the bill to a 26 score for home-school students to test-in, while high school students would still need to score 28 to test-in.
Q. How did that go?
A. Rep. David Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, said all students should be either at 26 or 28. Rep. Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, who described herself as “a home-school mom,” said the bill simply is “a bad idea.” The oddest claim came from Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who said home-schooled students at 26 and high school students testing-in at 28 would be receiving equal treatment. Russell prevailed with the 26-version for home schoolers on a 37-33. HB 1128 now heads to the Senate.
Q. Is Good Earth State Park making progress?
A. The Senate approved formal designation of the park in Lincoln County 31-2 Thursday. The site was a meeting place for native peoples some 500 years ago. People who have contacted Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, “have extended the hand of thanks,” he said. Senate Bill 186 now goes to the House of Representatives. Voting no were Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, and Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen.
Q. How did Sen. Angie Buhl fare on making birth-parents information available to adopted adult children?
A. Buhl, D-Sioux Falls, lost 16-19 on Wednesday and couldn’t get a majority in the Senate to reconsider it Thursday. Needing 18 ayes to re-open debate, she got 17. The bill, Senate Bill 215, would have made an original birth certificate available to a child at least age 18. Buhl said in the Wednesday debate that she is adopted. “There’s no do-over, is what that meant,” Lt. Gov. Matt Michels said after the 17-16 vote. “But it was a good try. It’s always good to try.”
Q. Did the Senate adopt the resolution supporting the Keystone XL oil pipeline?
A. Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, spoke against it, saying the Canadian tar-sands product has environmental risks. Lucas said China is willing to buy it. Senators voted for the resolution 30-3. The House approved it 57-11 Tuesday. The resolution urges President Obama and the U.S. State Department to approve the pipeline’s federal permits.
Q. Did Rep. Charlie Hoffman succeed with his bill that would let small school districts avoid forced consolidation by accepting smaller amounts of state financial aid?
A. The measure passed 56-11 Thursday. His proposal would apply to districts with enrollments below 100 students. Hoffman, R-Eureka, wants to allow a two-year grace period and then start penalizing the districts financially. A district with 99 students would get 99 percent of its per-student allocation, a district with 80 students would get 80 percent, and so forth. No one spoke against House Bill 1213, which now heads to the Senate.