Capitol News Bureau

Lawmakers Like Governor Noem's Plan For Raising More Wildlife Habitat Money With License Plates

PIERRE, S.D. - Governor Kristi Noem received backing Tuesday from legislators on the House Transportation Committee for her idea to make special South Dakota license plates available to raise money for more wildlife habitat.

Plate designs would change every year under Noem's plan.

People could buy the plates by paying an extra $10 to their county treasurers, who in turn would tell them how to contact the Second Century Habitat Foundation to complete each set of plates by buying special habitat emblems.

"She signaled this bill would be coming in her State of the State address," Jason Simmons, an aide to the governor, told lawmakers.

No one spoke against it, but legislators had lots of questions for state Revenue Department and state Game, Fish and Parks Department officials before voting 13-0 in favor.

HB 1181 now moves to the 70-member House of Representatives for consideration as early as Thursday afternoon.

GFP lawyer Jon Kotilnek said the emblem price hasn't been set but could be $20 to $30 for the decals. That would be in addition to the $10 special fee to the state plus the normal registration fee for the vehicle.

Kotilnek said Nebraska and Minnesota have habitat-plate programs.

Tom Kirschenmann, who is deputy director for the state Wildlife Division, said some example of projects that could receive funding are a saline-soils study and federal Farm Bill programs.

Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Kelly Hepler said there could be three or four different designs each year.

They could be images of ducks, pheasants, deer, mountain lions, flowers or other species of flora and fauna

Representative Tim Goodwin, a Rapid City Republican, said he voted against creating the special Dignity license plate showing Sacajawea, in part because he was protective of the Mount Rushmore designation on South Dakota's plates, and was surprised to see Dignity be so popular.

"I recommend we pass this," Goodwin said.

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