Front the notebook of legislative correspondent Bob Mercer.

PIERRE | The South Dakota Newspaper Association took its argument for sports broadcasting to the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee on Thursday.

SB119, sponsored by Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, would prohibit in a round-about manner the exclusive broadcasting contracts used in some K-12 school districts. Newspapers and other broadcast organizations that don’t have contracts want to be able to show events in entirety on their websites.

School districts are using the broadcast contracts as a source of revenue and locking out competitors.

“I would tell you our silence does not necessarily mean we endorse the legislation,” said Lindsey Riter-Rapp, a lobbyist for the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

South Dakota Broadcasters Association executive director Steve Willard said sports is a subset of what radio and TV stations try to do for the schools, from lunch menus to school closings.

“Nobody gets rich doing high school sports. It’s just not there,” Willard said.

Sen. Tim Begalka, R-Clear Lake, spoke in favor and said these are public schools funded by taxpayers. His position was backed by Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, who questioned whether school districts have the legal authority to put images of students out for bid and up for sale.

“There’s nothing like sunlight to disinfect,” Lederman said. He predicted “serious debate” in the full Senate.

Agreeing was Sen. Angie Buhl, D-Sioux Falls, who said exclusive contracts shouldn’t be allowed to the detriment of other media outlets. The committee voted 7-0 in favor. Next stop: the full Senate.

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The dispute that blew up last year over lower-octane fuel being incorrectly labeled at some outlets seems to be resolved.

The months of battling, through the series of hearings before the Department of Public Safety and the Legislature’s rules review committee, finally reached a successful conclusion in recent weeks with a compromise on legislation sponsored by Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg. No opponents testified against HB1091 at Thursday's Senate Commerce Committee hearing.

The final deal says gasoline with an 85-octane or 86-octane rating can be sold in nine western counties — Butte, Custer, Fall River, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins and Shannon. Gasoline in all other counties must be at least 87-octane. Pumps with 85- or 86-octane in those nine counties will need a decal: “May not be suitable for all engines. Refer to owner’s manual before fueling.”

There is no new designation in the legislation as “sub-regular” for fuel with less than 87 octane; The petroleum marketers association succeeded in eliminating that phrase, which the Daugaard administration still wanted. Under the rule ordered last year by the Department of Public Safety, 86-octane and 85-octane must be labeled as “Sub-Regular Octane.” That rule remains in effect through June 30.

The administration wanted to put “sub-regular” in state law this year, but HB1037 from the Department of Public Safety was killed by a House committee.

During the rules battle last year, the department ran into a political buzzsaw among some legislators such as Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, who voted against the compromise legislation last week when the House passed it 64-6.

On Thursday, another of the rules committee members from last year, Sen. Angie Buhl, D-Sioux Falls, said she is now willing to support it because no opposition has surfaced again. Buhl said her biggest concern was that consumers should be able to know what they are buying.

The full Senate will get the bill for consideration as soon as Monday afternoon for possible final passage. Its lead sponsor in the Senate is Republican Corey Brown of Gettysburg.

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The annual battle over waterfowl hunting licenses is under way again. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee voted 9-4 Thursday in favor of Rep. Dick Werner’s proposal to repeal state laws restricting the numbers and types of waterfowl licenses that can be sold to nonresidents.

The legislation would give full authority to the state Game, Fish & Parks Commission instead. The big struggle with HB1156 now comes among the 70 members of the House. The South Dakota Wildlife Federation has been working against it since Werner, R-Huron, introduced it Jan. 23.

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The Senate gave its OK Thursday to creating an exemption for districts with fewer than 100 students so they can avoid forced consolidation. They would need to be in a consortium as part of a cooperative or joint-powers agreement. One route is via distance technology.

“They are bringing a lot of change through these innovative means,” Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, said. “This group of administrators has done a great job.”

SB96 now moves to the House after the Senate’s vote. The original bill’s prime sponsor was Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls.

“Consolidation doesn’t do anything but tear rural South Dakota apart,” Johnston said.

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The Legislature will take today off. Most lawmakers exited the Capitol by mid-afternoon Thursday. They’ll be back Monday for another four-day week.

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