Legislative Report

Legislative Report
The second week of the legislative session has flown by. The weather has been very friendly for both travel and livestock conditions at home. I appreciate everyone's e-mails and/or calls regarding particular legislation or topics which is very helpful with seeing both sides of an issue before making a decision.

One of the big issues of the week was when we were advised of the costs the state is going to pick up from D-day.

D-day refers to the day that the prescription drug plan went into effect on Jan. 1. There have been multiple problems coordinating information between service providers and people signing up for these benefits which has resulted in many people not being able to obtain their needed medications.

The state at this time will be picking up an additional $230,000 for the month of January to cover this medication expense. This will be on top of the expected $13.8 million which is the "claw back" that the State of South Dakota will be required to pay back to the federal government to cover the people on the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. It is this claw back which is expected to grow by large numbers as more people sign up and use the benefit.

This will be in direct competition with the school funding issues and will challenge our budget reserves in the future. Some important words of advice will be to make sure if you are eligible for this medication plan that you determine which plan you want to participate in and then make sure you are signed up before May 15. After this date there are penalties that are assessed against all future premiums that you would pay to be in the program.

Bill 1027 on unemployment insurance passed the house commerce committee 12-0, after business leaders and the state officials came to an agreement to put a cap on how high the unemployment fund can collect funds from employers. This cap will gradually increase from $7,000 currently to $10,000 by the year 2010.

The second portion of this issue is the "future fund" which collects money from employers that have employees collecting benefits and this money is used to fund economic development projects. The Association of General Contractors is among those hit the most due to having seasonal workers. Another bill is being proposed to deal with this issue of the future fund.

Stalkers beware � Bill 1064 passed the House floor 68-0. This bill will make a second offense stalking charge a felony if it occurs within 10 years and regardless if it's the same or two separate victims. Currently as long as you did not stalk the same victim more that two times, it is considered a misdemeanor. It now goes to Senate committee.

Agriculture land will be readily reclassified as non-ag if it goes into commercial use if Bill 1008 passes the Senate. It has already passed the House 69-0. These changes can go into effect before the next assessment date.

The last bill I will speak about is House Bill 1058, which in a sense places restrictions on investigators for the Deptartment of Insurance. The portion I did not like was that it requires the person conducting the investigation to notify the agent that an investigation is being conducted against him.

I personally feel this may hamstring any official who's investigating cases to protect the public and make it harder for him/her to obtain information they need from a more undercover type of investigation. There are a couple of good points, such as after two years requiring an outside review of why the case is still open. The insurance division has made good improvements in their caseloads past two years with only a handfull still remaining and I do not see the immediate need for this legislation.

As always I welcome any feedback, and please keep in mind the the sacrifices of our troops and their families during these times away from home.

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