PIERRE — Rep. Tim Rounds hopes to push complicated legislation through the Legislature this session. But he also faces the even more complicated task of keeping two busy committees filled with inexperienced legislators working smoothly.
Over this session, Rounds plans to sponsor or support legislation dealing with ballot initiatives, alcohol licenses and state employee compensation. But he acknowledges his first priority is making sure his two committees — commerce and retirement laws — function smoothly.
“I have a responsibility back to the House as a whole on legislation that is coming through the committee,” Rounds said. “When a bill comes out of the commerce committee or retirement laws committee, I want to make sure it had a good, fair hearing and people understand it when it comes out.”
Rounds said it is rare for any legislator to have two committee chairmanships, though the retirement laws committee meets infrequently. As chairman, he said he spends several hours per day reading bills to make sure they are scheduled for hearings on the same day as similar bills and with sufficient time allotted for all testimony.
“It does make it more difficult in juggling your own legislation,” Rounds said. “With the help of other legislators and the interns and our leadership, it’s something that we should be able to do, and I do try to juggle it all. But I feel I have a priority to the other members of the commerce committee to make sure we have an agenda and bills in there, and help them understand what we’re dealing with.”
In between managing his committee, Rounds has signed on to an effort to reform state rules concerning ballot initiatives. Like Sen. Bob Gray, R-Pierre, another proponent of these changes, Rounds wants to move the deadline for ballot initiatives back from March to November and require petition-gatherers to show an attorney general’s explanation of the bill.
“When people are confronted by somebody with a petition, the person with the petition can just say, ‘This measure does this,’” Rounds said. “Well, as we’ve seen in the past years, there’s a lot more to it than just that.”
Rounds is working to clean up some existing legislation.
Last year’s law allowing local governments to issue additional on-sale liquor licenses, he said, has undefined clauses that need tightening up.
Another subject Rounds is working to revise covers property insurance. Under current law, he said, if a property was destroyed by fire or tornado while under construction, the owner of that property could possibly be entitled to reimbursement of the full value of the property. A bill Rounds is backing will remove that loophole to reflect the actual value, rather than the current value.
A final issue Rounds said he expects to address involves compensation for state employees. Current law reimburses state employees 20 cents per mile when they drive their private vehicles instead of state-owned vehicles for state business. Rounds wants to raise that to 30 cents per mile, something he believes will actually save the state money if the increase encourages workers to take their own vehicles.
“We think it will save the state, in the long run, dollars with the wear and tear of the motor vehicles they have in the pool,” Rounds said. “It’s an option. The cost of operating a vehicle from fleet is more than we are requesting per mile.”