Saturday, August 15, 2020

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Voices of our Political Leaders…

Oren Lesmeister


District 28A


The bitter cold blowing through the Midwest did not slow down South Dakota this week as we passed more bills through the committees, the house, and as Governor Noem signed her first bill into South Dakota law on Thursday, Jan. 31.

In the house we started the week by passing House Bill 1020 (HB1020) that will increase the spending amount on state building improving projects from $1.5million to $5million. This bill also stream lines some projects for state owned buildings. The last increase in spending towards improving state buildings was in 1994, and as we all know, the cost of labor and products has gone up. To replace the roof on a building on the Dakota Dome or any building repairs to state prisons would likely cost more than $1.5 million to take on so the house voted to pass this bill.

HB1044 will allow for active military families to be waved from the South Dakota residency requirements to enroll their children into our public schools, this just makes moving their family to South Dakota a little easier as they can enroll their children to their next school more smoothly.

HB1037, this bill allows the state to seek a contract for the building of a sports complex at Northern State University. The school has not had a home game since the 1930’s and the President of the University, Tim Downs, has reassured representatives that the school will always hold academics first and that this request is the last on their “Campus Master Plan” in improving their campus.

HB1038 is helping the home of the Jackrabbits, South Dakota State University in their campus improvement. The campus is requesting $500,000 to take down Scobey Hall. The repairs were estimated to be in the millions, so the school has chosen to take down the hall instead. The Scobey family was informed of the demolition and South Dakota State ensures that a new building will be up and be named after the Scobey family.

HB1067 will allow for the adoption age in South Dakota to be moved from 18 years old to 21 years old. This bill mostly affects individuals who foster older children, and would like to adopt that child but are told they cannot because that child may be 18 and 1 month. The House passed this bill, seeing no reason to stop a foster parent from becoming that child’s legal parent.

HB1027, allowing for voting centers to have both electric and paper means of voting.

HB1027 also allows for any registered voter living in the jurisdiction to be the superintendent of that voting disctrict, this comes in response to the increase in independent voters and the difficulty to staff voting centers within the current governor’s party.

HB1051, this bill would allow for a voluntary advanced civics program for High School students to attend, and upon completion of this program would have a “Civics seal” placed on their High School diploma. The largest concern to the bill was how would schools find the staff to teach and implement the program. A concern was the bill did not address how it would solve any short comings in high school civics programs. I was not in favor of forcing a school to twist a program to achieve a seal of approval for more students, so I voted nay. The bill failed with 36 yeas and 38 nays.

HB1073 will allow for hunters to use drones in seeking out coyote dens during January through September 30. It will be prohibited to use drones during October to November, during big game season, as we do not want there to be any potential for individuals misusing drones for big game hunting.

HB105, this bill updates a 1937 law, that prohibits soil conservation districts from combining without 10% of a county population signing a petition to do so. It was an out of date law that if Lincoln and Minnehaha county wanted to merge it would require around 15,000 signatures to do so. There are 66 counties, but we have 69 soil conservation districts, so this bill will allow for these districts to combine or dissolve with a vote at the next general election.

Senate Bill 35 (SB35) gives the electrical and plumbing commissions more say over the revoking of a license for individuals who are reported to violate city, state, or federal safety codes.

SB14 was a clean-up bill, giving a definition to solar fields and listing how permits for those felids would be issued.

SB47 as a bill that did have a little heat to it for debate on the house floor. SB47 removed the need for a permit to carry and conceal a pistol. South Dakota is an open carry state, and I understood both sides of the argument. One of which was, the permit was a tool for law enforcement to know who was issued a weapon, and another was the removal of the permit would make getting a weapon easier. I would like to reassure everyone, that the removal of the permit system will not make it easier to get a weapon. Overall, I felt that as an open carry state, you must go through a background check to get those weapons, and I believe that the 2nd amendment should be up held in a person’s right to have their weapon. I voted with my constituents, I had more emails in favor of this then I had not in favor, so I voted in favor of this bill.

SB12 passed unanimously. SB12 adds blood tests as an option for drug or alcohol testing after an accident with a commercial driver. A commercial driver is a person who operates a vehicle over 26,000 pounds or carries sixteen people or greater.

I and other legislators wrote a concurrent resolution supporting the Governor’s efforts to fuel the state fleet with premium E-30 fuel. This fuel reduces emissions, has better vehicle performance, and will hopefully help increase ethanol production by opening more ethanol processing plants. This will use our states crop yield and help our local, small town economies.

In Transport Committee we passed three bills. SB10 will change some regulations surrounding Commercial drivers. One big change in that bill is if a person hauls livestock, the 150 mile radius will be from the location where the livestock is kept, and not from the person’s home address. The other change allows for some minimal use of the commercial vehicle past the 11-hour driving cut off. If passed, it will allow for drivers to get to a safe location such as a truck stop and allow for use of the vehicle for getting dinner, going to a movie, or other short trip situations.

A very exciting bill also came through that may put South Dakota as a leader in use of innovative technology. HB1068 will allow for platooning vehicles (multiple vehicles following one another) to use technology that allows the vehicles to connect and input. This technology is being tested in commercial deliveries has shown to save up to 10% on fuel. There is still a driver controlling the direction of the truck, and there are multiple safety measure that disengage the technology and allow for manual control.

In Ag and Natural Resources Committee we passed a bill that prohibits hunting mourning doves on public roads and highways.

SB33 was killed in committee by the request of the commissioner, it was to allow the school of public lands to use a 1031 exchange which allows them to sell a piece of property and then buy a piece of property to gain better access to state lands.

A few of my bills are now being introduced as well. I and Senator Rusch created SB68. SB68 had its first read on Jan. 23. It is a bill that requires for non-meat products to be labeled correctly so not to be misleading. So, if a company makes a chicken substitute from tofu, they cannot label that product as “Chicken.”

I also am pushing a bill, HB1211, that allows for a person to have the option to remain anonymous if they won greater than $50,000 from the lottery.

HB1191 is a bill that will face the most debate. With HB1191, I am asking to have the growth of industrial hemp to be legalized in South Dakota. Any person who chooses to be a grower of the crop must first apply through the Department of Agriculture, pass a federal background check, and agree to only industrial growth. Industrial growth would mean shipping this product to be used in the production of cloths, makeup, CBD oil, and other various products. CBD oil is an oil used in some medical practices to reduce seizures, reduce shakiness in individuals with severe Parkinson’s disease, and treat pain with cancer patients. In the bill, if a person is found to be violating the agreement, there is an immediate disposal of the product at the cost of the grower.   

I want to thank everyone for their support, it means a great deal to me when I see people from or near my home district at public discussions or visiting the capitol. Again, thank you.

Stay safe, stay warm, and God bless.