Legislative Report

Legislative Report By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden First of all, I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who helped give me an opportunity to represent your interests in Pierre. As you can see from my campaign finance report, I did not have additional funds to purchase advertisements to thank everyone following the election. I am thankful.

My first week in Pierre has been very exciting and educational. There are so many things to learn for a new legislator, which probably seems pretty elementary to the returning legislators. There are 23 new legislators, so just learning everyone's name is the first challenge.

The entire Legislature has received new Gateway notebook computers and we have spent several hours learning all the functions of the computer, e-mail, personalizing our legislative Web page, and Westlaw.

Westlaw is the compact disc which contains the laws, statutes and all the Supreme Court opinions for South Dakota. It is just amazing how 150 feet of book shelf space can be condensed into two small compact discs.

I am not sure how to take the fact that on the first legislative day I was on the House floor for at least 10 minutes before my family in the upper balcony noticed me. Their comments were that they did not recognize me in a suit. I guess I can't blame them since the last time I wore a suit (excluding two weddings) was in high school.

The first day consisted of each legislator taking an oath of office which was given by Supreme Court Justice David Gilbertson. The next order of business was the election of Rep. Matthew Michels as Speaker of the House for a second term.

The remaining time on the House floor was dedicated to getting rules and procedures in order for the days to come, which concluded House duties for the day.

Immediately after the House adjourned, the governor's State of the State Address was presented to us. Some of the highlights included the potential of two coal-fired power plants to be established in South Dakota. One plant could be included in the expansion of the Big Stone Electric plant, while the second is yet to be determined because three other states are also trying to acquire it.

The significance of this is that if it is built in South Dakota it would need to have ways of transferring power via transmission lines to other cities and states. This is the large obstacle that the wind energy proponents and developers are faced with.

So it could be possible that the one could help facilitate the growth of the other. Let's hope.

The governor defended his stance on the need for increasing FTEs (full time equivalents) in state government which is based on 2,080 worked hours per year. I am comfortable if these FTE increases are all for research purposes and primarily covered by federal grants, but I have not received a direct answer to this question.

Our GOP caucus is requesting a special meeting with the governor to address this concern.

As for education, the governor repeated several times during his message that the one-time monies schools received the last two years were clearly indicated as being "one time." He advised the $7.3 million that was given out each of the last two years is not available this year!

The feeling I am getting from other legislators and the governor is that the 3 percent increase school boards are requesting will be hard to pass. The one bright side of things I found out during a health appropriations committee is that there is a federal program which will reimburse schools $5.5 million for administration costs related to Medicaid programs.

This is expected to be an ongoing amount which should be in addition to Gov. Rounds' 2.9 percent increase. I am not sure how the money is to be redistributed and what rules will be attached to it but will update you as soon as I gain more information.

One sad part of our second day of session was information provided to us by Chief Justice David Gilbertson regarding child victims of abuse. His presentation informed us that in 2004 there was 490 new child victim cases in South Dakota and he labeled it as an "alarm and concern for children in need."

This is one of my biggest peeves � hurting helpless victims. I am not sure I will have the experience or the information necessary for this year's session to pass legislation to punish the "bullies" but be sure to look for it next year!

Other information brought out by the Unified Judicial System is the mandatory sentencing rules that judges must follow with certain crimes. First of all, it is felt that the more discretion left to the justices the better the system, because every violation should not routinely be prescribed a sentence. One point against mandatory sentencing is because it is felt that 75 percent of first time offenders through suspended imposition of sentencing become lawful citizens. The second portion was that the Supreme Court in an east coast state has just ruled that mandatory sentencing is illegal.

This may create a reaction from the legislature to expedite giving this discretion back to the judges.

As for landowners in Turner County, there are several bills, one in particular, that is designed to help correct some of the dramatic increases in land tax values which were assessed last year. The attempt will be to allow tax valuations to be calculated by cash rent over a period of years and will also consider soil types and production potentials as well.

The problem with last year's legislation is that it valued land so that wetland, pastures and other non-farmable ground was being taxed the same level as high- yield producing ground. These pastures are costing farmers more in taxes than whatever could be produced on them.

I expect the pace of the legislature to pick up dramatically next week. Feel free to contact me through my e-mail � rep.boomgarden@state.sd.us

And please keep the U.S. troops and their families in your thoughts and prayers as they perform their duties.

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