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SD panel moves to further regulate amusement rides

By: NORA HERTEL
February 25, 2014 Updated: February 25, 2014 at 2:46 pm
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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — New regulations for amusement rides in South Dakota cleared another hurdle Tuesday, as a measure spurred by a carnival accident in 2013 that left two girls stranded upside down passed a Senate committee.

The regulations, which mirror those in other states, would require mobile amusement ride owners to follow similar policies in South Dakota.

The measure is co-sponsored by Republican state Sen. Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, who is also president of Thunder Road attractions, a Dakotas chain of family fun parks offering mini golf, go-karts and other activities in the Dakotas.

"You of all people are asking to be regulated in your own industry. I find that interesting," Sen. Ryan Maher told Novstrup at the hearing. The Isabel Republican cast the lone dissenting vote in the seven-person Senate Commerce Committee.

"We thought we'd take a middle ground. It's reasonable regulation. It's something that the industry is supporting," Novstrup said, noting that the bill would not cost the state anything.

No one spoke in opposition to the measure on Tuesday, but during House debate, it was criticized for imposing too much oversight. Having passed the House already, the bill will move on to the Senate.

Novstrup said 44 states regulate amusement rides, including five of South Dakota's neighbors.

Under the measure, there would be four categories of regulation for portable amusement rides, such as the type travelling state to state for carnivals and fairs. Owners of mobile amusement rides are already required to have insurance, but the bill would require rides to have yearly certified inspections and daily inspections by the operator.

Fixed rides will not be subject to annual reviews by certified inspectors, Novstrup said, but they would be subject to the other provisions in the bill.

Inspections can be costly and there are no inspectors in the state, Novstrup said, which doesn't hamper owners of portable rides that are taken from state to state as it would an owner of a stationary ride.

Novstrup said riders are responsible for 90 percent of accidents, so the bill also includes a list of rider requirements, such as not getting on one under the influence of alcohol if it impacts their ability to ride safely.

Bill co-sponsor, Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, said the bill was developed after last summer's accident in the northeast South Dakota town of Sisseston that left two teenage girls stranded, upside down.

He said the state regulates the food and bingo games at fairs and should regulate the rides as well.

"Sometimes those rides are rusty, rickety," Hickey said. "We do have a due diligence at the state to ensure that these rides are in good working order."

The International Association of Parks and Attractions, a trade group of which Novstrup is a member, consulted on the bill, he said.

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