By Mark Semlek
Probably the most important vote of the 62nd legislative session took place last Friday when the House of Representative passed SF 104 which had previously passed the Senate the week before. The House vote was 39 aye votes and 20 no votes. I voted no. The proposal seeks to change how the Department of Education will administer the policies set by the legislature which will result in a clear separation of powers and duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Education. The proposal which has passed both Houses and has been signed by the Governor will provide that the Governor appoint an interim director of the Department and then prior to December 1, 2013, appoint a permanent director from a list of three nominees from the State Board of Education. The debate on the floor was mostly why the change was deemed necessary and the questions about the constitutionally of the changes found in SF 30. It is likely the Constitutional question will not be settled until it receives the courts review and I would suggest that is a good possibility.
With the active fire season last year and the likelihood of another bad season this year, the Legislature is considering two changes in the statues regarding fires. HB 43 will further clarify and amend the language of what constitutes a misdemeanor offense of “lighting a fire outside of any structure” in place of the current language of lighting a fire “in the woods or on any prairie.” The new proposed language further states that the person will be guilty of a misdemeanor if the person leaves the vicinity of the fire without extinguishing “the fire or taking appropriate action to reasonably ensure that the fire is contained.” HB 155, burn order violations-restitution increases the fines from $100 to $750 and 6 months in jail or both for people who are convicted of violating a fire ban. The bill also allows for restitution for the costs incurred by a paid or voluntary firefighting unit. While I am hesitant in some cases to support increasing fines on our citizens, this is a matter of personal responsibility and reasonable judgment that should guide people in making good decision about the willful disregard of a fire ban and the implication that that decision may have on the personal safety of the public and the safety of fire fighters. It will be absolutely essential that County Commissions provide every means available to notice our citizens when they implement a fire ban.
House Bill 66, municipal solid waste facilities, will provide grants and loans for the capping of a closed landfill, other closure related expenses including engineering, geological and other professional services and construction or acquisition of appropriate solid waste transfer facilities and equipment. Small communities have been very frustrated by the seemly lack of assistance from the State in dealing with landfills and this proposal will provide some guidance and money for closing and capping landfills. HB 65, municipal solid waste landfill remediation, is a companion measure that will create a remediation program with monetary assistance for communities to help monitor the threat, if any, to public health, safety, welfare and the environment caused by pollution to soil and water from leaking solid waste landfills.
This week at the Legislature, we will consider the different gun related bills. HB 103, 104, 105 and 200 are the gun bills will be heard this week in the House. I expect to support all of the proposals but I will need some further explanation of the conditions considered in HB 200, concealed weapons- government meetings. Currently, there is a prohibition of authorized persons to carry a concealed weapon into any meeting of a governmental entity. This bill would allow the concealed carry with written consent of the executive head of the entity conducting the meeting. My logic in the past with this issue has been if you cannot be 100% assured that no guns (nearly impossible) will be in the meeting then I think it is necessary for authorized persons to be able to carry concealed in this situation.
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By Mark Semlek