Editor's Note

Here is information to help understand

actions in the legislative session’s three-month run.

PIERRE — Is session off to a slow start? Only a few new bills trickled in since session began Tuesday. The count through Thursday’s introductions of new bills stood at 63 by House members and 73 by Senate members.

Why is that? Nearly one-third of the lawmakers are first-timers, so it’s not a surprise that bill filings are low so far. According to the Legislative Research Council, last year there were 197 Senate bills, down five from 2011. The House meanwhile had 274 bills, which was up 18 from 2011.

How many bills passed last year? 256 cleared both chambers and went to the governor’s desk. He vetoed four. The Legislature overrode one veto, so 253 became law. That was 27 more than in 2011.

Will the pace pick up? Activity kicks into a higher gear today when the first bill hearings are held by committees.

How long before all legislation is filed this year? The deadline for individual legislators to introduce bills and joint resolutions is Jan. 28, which is working day 13. The deadline for committees to introduce bills and joint resolutions is Jan. 29.

Are those really the deadlines? No. Under the Legislature’s rules a bill can be introduced any time during the session, provided two-thirds of the members in the chamber agree to allow it. The same two-thirds majority is necessary for the bill to be taken up in the other chamber.

What is Sen. Ryan Maher trying to do with the alcohol bill he introduced Thursday? Maher, R-Isabel, is trying to dismantle the state law restricting from whom licensed wholesalers can purchase or accept delivery of alcoholic beverages. He faces a steep hill politically, he knows it and he’s smiling about it.

What would this accomplish? Maher’s legislation, SB 73, attempts to repeal the current law allowing wholesalers to deal only with brand owners, their agents or other licensed wholesalers in the state. His perspective is of a bar and restaurant owner.

How will Senate confirmation fare for Larry Zimmerman of Rapid City as the new secretary of veterans affairs? All seemed content and quiet heading into today’s hearing before the Senate State Affairs Committee. The full Senate will vote next week.

Is this a new part of state government? Yes. The governor announced last year that he was establishing a Department of Veterans Affairs, separating those responsibilities from the Department of the Military. He said the new department would start in 2013.

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