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Legislature: Fifth week holds crucial bills

South Dakota’s legislature has been busy discussing a multitude of new bills and amendments as it enters its fifth week of session.

Many of the bills voted on would directly affect students at the University of South Dakota, such as a “Good Samaritan” bill which cleared the Senate this week.

House Bill 1213

House Bill 1213 would provide a reduced amount of state aid to education funding to certain school districts with a fall enrollment of less than 100 students. Schools with less than 100 students that are not located in a sparse school district would be forced to choose between reorganizing with another school district within a period of two years to create a newly reorganized school district with a minimum of one hundred students, or to accept a reduced amount of state aid to education funding.

House Bill 1172

This bill aims to appropriate money for the enhancement of secondary career and technical educations within South Dakota. A secondary career and technical education enhancement fund would be created by the state treasury, and $1.5 million would be given to the S.D. Department of Education, which would allocate the funds to various school districts statewide through a competitive grant process.

Senate Bill 132

Despite opposition from law enforcement and prosecutors, Senate Bill 132—also known as the “Good Samaritan” bill—made it through the Senate on Feb. 5. The bill grants immunity from arrest and prosecution for certain alcohol consumption related offenses, such as drinking while underage, to people assisting certain individuals in need of emergency assistance, or who are themselves in need of assistance.

Senate Bill 213

Senate Bill 213, which did not get through the Senate, would have required certain opportunity scholarship recipients to reside in South Dakota for five years following graduation from an institution of postsecondary education. This would have been enacted for the first time during the 2015 academic fiscal year. Students would have been required to agree, in writing, to reside in South Dakota for five years after obtaining their undergraduate degree, though they would be eligible to leave the state during that period of time to pursue graduate studies in another state or country. Failure to comply with this agreement would have resulted in the scholarship being converted into an interest-bearing loan.

Senate Bill 223

This bill was introduced to create a critical teaching needs scholarship program and to make an appropriation to the education enhancement trust fund to provide for annual funding of the scholarships. The bill, which was amended and passed Feb. 5, was proposed to encourage South Dakota high school graduates to obtain their postsecondary education in South Dakota and to pursue a degree in teaching. It also aims to encourage aspiring educators to remain in the state after completing their education, and to contribute to the state by working in critical need teaching areas.
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Senate Bill 107

This bill would limit the number of passengers allowed in a motor vehicle operated by the holder of a restricted permit; specifically, a driver holding a restricted minor’s permit would not be allowed to drive a car carrying more than one passenger under the age of 18 who is not a member of the driver’s immediate family or a person living in the same household as the driver. An exception to this would be if the driver is driving to attend school or a school event, or if the driver is accompanied by a parent, guardian or member of the household over 21 years of age. The bill is on the Senate floor, waiting to be voted on.

House Bill 1164

House Bill 1164, which was passed unanimously on Feb. 4, will establish a classroom innovation grant program to provide funding for South Dakota teachers to allow them to utilize technology in creative and innovative ways to enhance student learning and achievement. The Board of Education will implement application procedures, application timelines and criteria which will be used to select grant recipients from the teachers who apply. It passed the House Education Committee unanimously.

House Bill 1166

House Bill 1166, which was killed, would have rewarded teachers in school districts with low percentages of graduates who needed remediation upon entering higher education. The secretary of education would have been responsible for calculating the percentage of high school graduates requiring remedial coursework for each of the state’s school districts, and rewarded the lowest scoring districts with an equal share of funds.