2008 Legislative Overview

Jason Mann

Jason Mann

It is time for another legislative session, and several bills could have a major impact on SDSU students and Brookings residents. Here are some of the big ones:

Senate Bill 59-The South Dakota Opportunities Scholarship

The Board of Regents is requesting that the SD Legislature make several changes to the Opportunities Scholarship that would affect current recipients as well as future students.

The most immediate change would alter the per semester credit requirements. Right now, Opportunities Scholarship recipients have to take 15 credit hours each semester in order to continue to receive money, but some programs-engineering and pharmacy, for example-require less than 15 during some semesters because of clinicals and labs. The BOR wants the legislature to lower the requirement to 12 credit hours per semester to help keep more students eligible and to match the federal government’s definition of a full-time student.

The BOR also wants to extend scholarship eligibility to four years for all students, regardless if a student has received a certificate or associate degree. Currently, if someone completes some type of educational program in less than four years, they cannot receive the remaining money to pursue a higher degree.

When SB 59 was introduced, a portion of it included a plan to increase the scholarship award from $5,000 over four years to $6,000 because of inflation. The State Affairs committee struck the proposal to increase funding on Jan. 11. Gov. Rounds has said that he plans to introduce legislation that would lower the ACT requirement from a score of 24 to 23, although it has not been formally introduced yet.

During discussion in the Senate on Jan. 16, Sen. Jerry Apa (R) of Lead asked that a fiscal note be attached to determine the financial impact of passing SB 59. Student Federation President Ryan Brunner expects the Senate to vote on the bill Jan. 23 at the earliest.

House Bill 1085-$75 million bond for research labs

The Board of Regents has requested that the state of South Dakota issue a $74.5 million bond to be paid off over the course of 25 years in order to pay for major upgrades of science labs at all six public universities. In order to pay off the bond, Gov. Rounds has proposed that the state commits $2.3 million annually, which would be matched by university students to total $4.6 million payments. In order to pay the bond during the time limit, $5.1 million would be required annually, according to the BOR.

SDSU has two projects included under this bond request. The BOR has allotted over $8 million to upgrade the basement and third floor of Agricultural Hall and approximately $8.26 million to renovate Dairy Microbiology.

HB 1085 was referred to the House Appropriations committee on Jan. 8.

House Bill 1086-A ban on firearms on campus

The Committee on Education introduced HB 1086 at the request of the Board of Regents. If passed, all firearms would be banned from college campuses with the exception of law enforcement officers, starting guns at athletic events, military assigned weapons, ceremonial unloaded weapons at color guard ceremonies and weapons in storage facilities or in transport to storage facilities. A violation of HB 1086 would be a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 1086 was referred to the House Education committee on Jan. 8.

Bill 126-Additional issuance of liquor licenses

This bill would allow cities and counties to issue on-sale liquor licenses to restaurant or bar owners beyond the previously established cap so long as the license would aide in the city or county’s economic development needs.

The Senate hearing for SB 126 has been scheduled for Jan. 23.

House Bill 1237-City regulation of tobacco use

HB 1237 would allow cities to make the decision to control smoking in entertainment venues individually.

HB 1237 was referred to the House State Affairs committee on Jan. 16.