PIERRE – The state Department of Health is considering criteria for allowing more beds at nursing homes in Rapid City, under a major change quietly passed by the Legislature last winter.

A 2005 state law capped nursing-home beds at 8,130 statewide as of July 1, 2005, and restricted individual nursing homes to the number of beds they each had at that time.

But a 2012 state law, requested by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, provides flexibility to the Department of Health to work around the 2005 moratorium.

The new law authorizes the department to allow additional beds in an existing nursing home, or allow construction of a new nursing home, in a community. However, the additional beds can’t cause the statewide total of nursing-home beds to exceed the 2005 statewide level.

A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 26 at the State Health Laboratory in Pierre starting at 9.30 a.m. CT.

Because of closures, there were 74 bed slots available for redistribution as of last winter when the legislation was approved, according to testimony.

The Legislature gave the department permission to annually evaluate whether there are communities where additional beds are necessary.

Legislators also set seven specific criteria the department may use in its considerations. There are 107 nursing homes in South Dakota.

HORSES AND SLOTS: The state Commission on Gaming holds a public hearing Nov. 28 at Deadwood city hall on six pages of proposed changes in horse-racing and Deadwood gambling rules.

In a nutshell, most of the horse-racing changes would affect procedures regarding jockeys, while most of the Deadwood changes would allow independent makers of gambling devices to operate under the umbrella of state-licensed manufacturers.

The hearing is set for 9 a.m. MT.

LEGISLATORS BUSY: Various interim committees of the Legislature have lots of action planned this week.

The rules-review panel meets today (Tuesday) to consider regulations sought by 11 different state agencies, divisions and departments.

The special committee studying post-secondary education also meets today to discuss the legislation members plan to submit for the 2013 session.

On Friday, the Legislature’s Executive Board gathers to receive all of the reports from interim committees and to select a replacement for Rep. Paul Dennert, D-Aberdeen, on the recently formed Legislative Planning Committee.

Dennert lost his challenge to Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, in last week’s general elections. Four lawmakers will be under consideration for the Democratic slot on the planning panel.

They are Sen. Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge, Sen. Angie Buhl of Sioux Falls, Rep. Marc Feinstein of Sioux Falls and Rep. Spencer Hawley of Brookings.

CHRISTMAS BREAK: An official order hasn’t been posted yet publicly, but the unofficial word is that the governor has decided to give state government employees two days of holiday leave covering Christmas Eve, which is a Monday, and Christmas Day, which is Tuesday, Dec. 25.

APPOINTMENTS: The governor has selected several new members for three professional licensing and regulatory panels.

To the state Board of Dentistry he named Tara Schaack of Rapid City, who succeeds Glen Sachau.

The term runs until Oct. 30, 2014. He also reappointed current members Robin Hattervig of Howard and Audry Ticknor of Vermillion. Their new terms run until Oct. 30, 2015.

Leonard Petrik of Pierre was appointed to the state Pharmacy Board. He succeeds Arvid Liebe. The governor also reappointed lay member Arlene Ham-Burr of Rapid City. Both of their terms continue until Oct. 1, 2015.

Todd McCaskell of Pierre was appointed to the State Plumbing Commission, replacing Clark Hepper. His term runs until April 14, 2014.

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