Capitol FrontThis week marked the half way mark of the 2014 South Dakota legislative session.  The weather is getting better outside the Capitol and legislative activity is moving along inside the Capitol.

On Thursday, Senate Bill (SB) 186 was debated during the Senate Commerce and Energy committee meeting. If you’ll recall, SB 186 allows an on-line driver’s license renewal once every 10 years without submitting a vision statement unless a South Dakota resident is age 70 or over.   The initial version of the bill called for on-line renewals to include a vision affidavit which requires the vision document to be notarized.  This proposed process is more burdensome than the current on-line vision statement the SD Department of Public Safety requires for on-line renewals.  AARP South Dakota successfully fought to amend SB 186 to include language that reflects current SD on-line driver’s license renewal regulations and allows for a vision statement to be submitted, not an affidavit.  The amended bill passed through committee on a 7-0 vote.  At the end of the day, AARP South Dakota supports in-person renewals at your local driver’s license exam station but didn’t feel this bill reflected the current South Dakota on-line driver’s license renewal standards.

On Tuesday, House Bill (HB) 1245 was tabled by the House of Representatives Health and Human Services committee.  HB 1245 would have given greater leeway for Assisted Living Centers (ALC) to provide feeding assistance and allowed ALC’s to admit/retain residents that requires assistance from up to 2 staff to turn themselves in bed and to transfer.  These provisions were discussed during the 2013 Dementia Care Workgroup that AARP South Dakota served on.  Ultimately, this bill was tabled because more time is needed for health care groups to reach a solution that can adequately serve nursing home’s, ALC’s and residents.  The Governor has pledged to continue to work with the impacted parties on this issue until common ground is found

On Monday, Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 3 regarding referring Medicaid Expansion to a state wide vote was defeated in the Senate State Affairs committee.  The measure was defeated along a party line 7-2 vote.  More and more legislators are open to discussing Medicaid Expansion in earnest and feel it is the legislature’s responsibility to work on this issue.

Senate Bill (SB) 132 would appropriate $350,000 to expand the 211 Helpline system to all South Dakotans.  211 connects people 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with thousands of non-profit, social service and government agencies in times of need, personal crisis and disaster.  Currently, the 211 Helpline is offered in Sioux Falls and the Black Hills and South Dakota is just one of a few states that does not have a statewide 211 system.  The Senate Appropriations committee has heard testimony on the issue and has deferred action on the bill until later in the session.

Four bills related to state retirement funds are making their way through the legislature this year. SB 40, 41, 42 and 43 have all passed the Senate unanimously, 35-0, and will have House of Representatives committee hearings during the second half of the legislative session.

As you see lawmakers out and about in the community ask our Question of the Week:

What have been the biggest legislative surprises during the first half of the 2014 session and what are the biggest issues facing the legislature during the rest of the session?

We want to hear from you! email us at with their responses.

Photo credit: Erik Nelson

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