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South Dakota Legislature: School safety to be spotlighted

Posted: Wednesday, Jan 23rd, 2013

PIERRE — South Dakota lawmakers are set to weigh proposals affecting school safety and the sale of 85-octane gasoline as the state Legislature enters its third week.

The House Education Committee holds a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would allow individual school boards to designate teachers, administrators or others to be armed with guns to protect against an attack like the Dec. 14 elementary school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Any school board starting what is called a school sentinel program would first have to consult with local law enforcement agencies. In addition, the bill says a school board could not make a school employee carry a gun unless that employee consents.

The Legislature is expected eventually to consider another measure that seeks to prevent people found to be mentally ill and dangerous from carrying guns.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s expected:

State and tribal officials hold annual event

The annual State Tribal Relations Day will be in the Capitol on Wednesday, focusing this year on tribal housing needs.

State Tribal Relations Secretary J.R. LaPlante says the event will highlight the need for housing on American Indian reservations and the accomplishments of tribal housing projects. He says state and tribal leaders will get a chance to meet and exchange ideas that will improve relations between state and tribal governments.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard and tribal leaders will speak during a ceremony that will run from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. CST.

Low-octane bills

The House Commerce and Energy Committee is to hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would allow the sale of 85-octane gasoline in some western South Dakota counties, but it would require gasoline sold in the rest of the state to have at least an 87-octane rating.

A state rule currently allows the sale of 85-octane gasoline in nine western South Dakota counties until the end of June, and the proposed law would permanently allow retailers in western South Dakota to sell the lower-grade blend that is typically used in higher elevations.

The issue arose after a state investigation found that some stations were selling 85-octane fuel mislabeled as higher octane gasoline.

Officials said state law technically prohibits the sale of 85-octane gasoline. The temporary sale of 85-octane was allowed by passing a rule following a law that permits state requirements to conform to some national standards.

Unlimited bill proposals ends Wednesday

The Legislature’s first two weeks proceeded at a relatively slow pace, with some House and Senate committees holding short meetings because they had few bills to consider. That will change now that more bills have been introduced.

Jim Fry, director of the Legislative Research Council, says about 225 bills had been introduced by Friday. In the past few years, an average of 500 bills has been introduced in each legislative session. Fry notes that the all-time record was about 900 bills in the 1957 legislative session.

Wednesday is the final day for unlimited bill introduction by individual lawmakers. After that, each can introduce a total of only three bills by Jan. 28, the final day for bill introduction by individual lawmakers.

Back to work today

Lawmakers will once again meet Tuesday through Friday this week. The Legislature was be off on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, which fits into the Legislature’s practice in recent years of meeting mostly four days a week to give lawmakers a chance to spend an extra day at home with their families while taking care of their jobs and businesses.

The Legislature for many years resisted honoring the slain civil rights leader with a non-working holiday. Until 1991, it was a state holiday on which people generally worked. But the 1990 Legislature passed a law making it a non-working holiday after lawmakers said the move was needed to counter the perception that South Dakota was a racist state.

The 1990 law also established Native American Day on the second Monday in October, the date celebrated nationally as Columbus Day.

For the complete article see the 01-22-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 01-22-2013 paper.

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