- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s six public universities could see wine and beer sales on campus at sports and other special events under a plan that a legislative committee approved Thursday.

The Senate Commerce and Energy committee voted 6-1 to send the bill to the chamber’s floor. The proposal could help control alcohol use on campus and would create an income stream for the universities, said Mike Rush, executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Board of Regents, which supported the bill.

Current state law doesn’t ban serving alcohol, but on-campus sales are prohibited. The intent of the new plan is to have private vendors manage the sales, which would be limited to specific events and would have to be authorized by the Board of Regents and approved by local municipalities, said Republican Sen. Larry Tidemann of Brookings.

“This does not mean that we’re just going to all start drinking on campus,” said Tidemann, the bill’s sponsor. The move would apply to events involving sports, performing arts, conferences and fundraising, among other things.

South Dakota is in the “very small minority” of states that has a blanket prohibition against all alcohol sales on campus, Rush said. The bill would create the opportunity for the board to develop policies to regulate alcohol sales on campus, but Rush said there’s “no interest to open this wide open by any stretch.”

He told the committee that the plan would also help fundraising events and other groups that use university facilities - campuses often offer the largest venue for an event - who find the lack of alcohol sales prohibitive.

South Dakota State University President David Chicoine said the sale of alcohol at the Brookings institution could help venues on campus tap a broader potential audience. He said the proposal could also help the university promote premium seating at the new $65 million Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

And allowing the sales is important to the community, which has put funding into campus facilities such as a performing arts center that it views as part of economic development interests for the city of Brookings, Chicoine said.

“I ask you to support this bill to help us grow as a city,” Brookings Mayor Tim Reed said.

Rush said he’s confident that the Board of Regents will be able to create a strong policy governing alcohol sales, citing his experience as executive director of the Idaho State Board of Education.

“We were very successful, so I don’t have any doubt that we can do the same here,” he said.

Sen. Jenna Haggar was the only lawmaker to vote against the measure. The Republican from Sioux Falls said that college alcohol use is becoming a more significant issue every year.

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