The pace of this week’s session was brisk. In my short tenure as a Representative (this is my 4th Session) I’ve never seen the committees get to work with bill hearings and actions so quickly. Legislators are not shy to introduce bills, resolutions, and commemorations. As of Friday afternoon, I saw a total of 251 pieces of legislation. It’s a fast start and everyone seems to have their heads down as they prepare for each day’s business. I commend Speaker Bartels and Leader Mortenson for their determination in making the most of the 38-day session with their upfront communication skills and follow through. Also, the “work together” attitude between the House, Senate, and Executive Branch is the best I’ve ever seen. Kudos to them, their leadership team, and the LRC staff.
As legislation made its way through the House this week, several issues and bills stood out to me and there was great interest and discussion over the following: 1) Our state being able to join licensure compacts (for social workers, advanced practice registered nurses, and counseling) to hopefully increase our health care workforce. 2) Updating a current statute that allows the governor to apply to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for “Agreement State” status (this would be the first step in getting a state ready for a nuclear-powered electric generation plant). 3) Pipelines and property owner permission, allowing companies to conduct surveys when authority for eminent domain is present. Let me try to elaborate on these.
Licensure Compacts – Joining multistate compacts (agreements between states) make professional licensing easier to navigate for workers (in the respective mentioned fields) by streamlining an application process to practice in multiple states. With the advancement of telehealth services, the opportunities for our health care centers to employ (or have access to additional professional practitioners) has been expanded. By joining these compacts, hopefully more professionals will be attracted to practice in our state thus filling positions that currently unfilled. Workforce challenges continue to receive much attention in the legislature. The only hesitation I heard legislators’ debate about was to make sure these new practitioners follow the high standards of our state for health care professionals. After the questions were asked and deliberated on, all three compact bills passed and will go to the Senate for consideration.
Nuclear Power – HB 1071 was inspired by the interest of an instate investor-owned utility company to invest in a small 4th generation nuclear plant for electric power generation. Also, an informational paper (Issue Memorandum 2023-06) published this year by our LRC on the status of nuclear power was helpful to determine if South Dakota was ready for such a facility. The purpose of HB 1071 was to update the current statute 34-21-3 so if a governor of our state was to ever apply for “Agreement State” status with the US Government for limited nuclear regulatory authority, the application would be going to the correct agency. Although the legislation was just an update to current statute and authority, it caused some fervor in the community. As a sponsor of the bill, I received emails expressing dislike and phone calls questioning the merits of nuclear energy. Surely, I understand. After a presentation, testimony, and questions in committee and on the House floor, HB 1071 passed and now goes for consideration in the Senate.
Pipelines / Survey Permission – On Monday the House passed HB 1034. This allows the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to site transmission facilities (pipelines) that involve the transfer of hydrogen. With this bill, any proposed project that transfers hydrogen by pipeline must be permitted by the PUC. There was not much opposition to this legislation as most recognized we must have authority to do the research on any such project. Hydrogen may be next “big thing” in energy production, but no one really knows this time. We’re just getting the state ready if this becomes a reality. The Survey Permission issue (HB 1079) is a topic that will take some article space to elaborate on. More on that issue next week.
Thank you for your interest in these updates, I appreciate the opportunity to serve District 24.