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Insecure About Security and a Plea for Fees: Senate Transportation Committee

The Senate Transportation Committee might be labeled as one of the more mellow committees, typically not dealing with too much social or political drama. We often lack the glamour of State Affairs and Judiciary, or the high impact of Education or Health and Human Services. I love serving as Vice Chair of Transportation, as we frequently make quiet decisions that benefit South Dakota, and the safety and sustainability of transportation- vital in our rural state. That peaceful enjoyment of due process was thrown a bit of a curve ball last week during our committee hearing.

SB 165 An Act to authorize the disclosure of certain expenditures for safety and security.

SB 165 tried to conclude without any evidence that the governor’s security detail could possibly be drawing funding illegally from the Motor fuel tax which is supposed to be applied to roads and bridges. The argument, while creative, provided no conclusive information, a hearty dose of flawed logic, and clear to anyone listening to the testimony, was a grasping at straws to make a political statement. A way to revive the deceased HB 1089 and try to funnel security concerns through… The Senate Transportation Committee??? Decisions in the legislature have to be based on at least one iota of evidence, not conjecture. You don’t have to take my word for it however, you can listen for yourself here

The testimony of Department of Public Safety Secretary Craig Price was compelling. The Department of Public Safety provides all security detail for the Governor, other state officials, and the State Capitol. DPS facilitates this through the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

SB 165 provided for any entities to request expenditure information with no limitations. Information released financial or otherwise, could put those being guarded and those guarding them at risk. Disclosing financial information would inadvertently reveal some of the following- the size of our security detail, location, concentration of security detail, and patterns of behavior for the person being guarded. Perpetrators pay attention, and this is exactly the kind of information that could place anyone with a security detail within the state of South Dakota at serious risk. Security is more effective when perpetrators know less. With SB 165, we would unnecessarily endanger our Capitol and Capitol staff, Governor, and other visiting leaders our security detail is charged with protecting. To put it in the words of Secretary Price, “Security should be based on needs and threat levels, not on politics.”

Electric Cars

House Bill 1053 establishes an annual $50 fee for certain electric motor vehicles. Why would a fee ever be a good idea for South Dakota?

I could take the time to write the argument for this bill, but I couldn’t have phrased it any better than the words of Anna Hays from Elevate Rapid City:

“As technology develops the system for how we pay for our roads, highways, and general infrastructure must adjust. Each year that a fee for electronic vehicle owners is not implemented in the state of South Dakota, the more road damage incurs without proportionate burden, and the more difficult it will be to implement a fee with a growing owner base. We support this as the most fair and widely implemented structure to ensure that there is a proportionate burden on all highway users in the state of South Dakota. For additional reference, North Dakota charges a $120/annual fee for electric vehicles. At least 28 other states in the U.S. have an annual fee for electric vehicle owners.”

Well put, Anna. Because electric car owners don’t pay a fuel tax, they aren’t contributing to help maintain the roads and bridges they utilize every day. As sale of electric cars continues to rise, this is one small step to equity in maintaining the quality of our road systems.

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