It was a good week and there were a few topics that garnered much interest, emails, and phone calls. I’m referencing HB 1095 that established provisions for the operation of automated (autonomous) motor vehicles and SB -56 permitting the operation of electric bicycles on the Mickelson Trail.
Before I get into the details of the two aforementioned bills, I indicated last week that I would elaborate on HB 1079. It was defeated in the House Commerce and Energy committee, that I chair. This has relevance in our District 24 because the CO2 proposed pipeline would be placed in parcels in Sully and Hyde counties. As mentioned last week, this project does not have 100% support with the affected landowners. They deserve time to express their valid concerns of companies coming on their land to do surveys for proposed projects without proper notification and permission. HB 1079 would have not allowed survey companies to come on someone’s land without written consent for entry at an appointed date and time. For a project to be built, such as a pipeline, a siting permit is sought by developers of the project from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). For a siting permit to be issued, the PUC would need surveys of the affected lands to know of terrains, types of soils, challenges, or surprises that lands would pose in proposing the route of the pipeline. I think the difficulty with the bill, and why it was defeated in committee, was that if a company proposing the project needs the survey to get a siting permit, yet they couldn’t perform the survey because of permission couldn’t be obtained, then the project (regardless of the merits) could never be built. I assume the bill was brought because some of the survey subcontractors who went on people’s land didn’t seek the courtesy of permission or respect of the landowner’s property. As much as the committee was sympathetic of the people who testified for this bill, it didn’t seem workable that if the PUC needs the survey information to consider any proposed project, and the developer can’t get a survey because of this permission clause, then how can the needed information be presented for an informed decision to be made? One opponent testifier took issue with "the chicken or the egg” situation the bill would present. I think that summed up the feeling the bill had with the majority of committee members and why it was defeated.
If you’re driving a vehicle with adaptive cruise control or a lane-keeping feature, you’re driving a semi-automated or autonomous vehicle. HB 1095 brought to light that there are 5 levels of automated vehicles, from just having cruise control to commercial vehicles that are fully automated and do not have a human driver. And guess what, all of them are unregulated in South Dakota. I think every legislator agreed that some legislation needs to exist for our Department of Transportation (DOT) professionals to write rules around their operation and registration/fee schedule. HB 1095 was the framework of regulation that was put together by the DOT, law enforcement, truckers and retailers’ associations, and city government officials so that needed regulations, guidelines, and fee structures could be developed. While safety is the priority, having a good program would be helpful for commerce. There was some lively debate. Many questions were asked about autonomous vehicle operations and if their safety records were public, also whether electric automated vehicles are paying enough registration fees. The bill passed with the sentiments that we must get ahead of this pending use of autonomous vehicles and get on with needed regulation.
Game, Fish, and Parks (GF&P) sponsored SB 56 that permitted the use of e-bikes on the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills. I must admit I knew little about the classifications of electric assist bicycles, but now I’m a lot more informed. Currently the trail is marketed as “non-motorized” with only safety motorized vehicles being allowed. With the popularity of e-bikes on the rise, and businesses renting e-bikes to those who desire to ride the Mickelson Trail, GF&P was trying to get ahead of this popular form of recreation. The bill started in the senate and an amendment was placed on the bill to allow class I e-bikes only, and that version of SB 56 passed. When the bill got over to the House (Agriculture and Natural Resources committee), GF&P felt the bill was going in the wrong direction and asked that the bill be tabled. With so many e-bikes being class II or III, they wanted to do more research to see what makes sense for both safety and pleasure. I heard from several trail walkers and joggers that some e-bikers are not respectful nor do they operate their e-bikes safely. For the moment, it’s status quo until more information comes forward and GF&P has another proposal.
One thing I’ve learned from being a city councilman, and now a legislator, it’s hard to legislate good behavior. With that, thank you for reading and the opportunity to serve District 24.