Legislative Report

Legislative Report
One event that I looked forward to this year was the South Dakota National Guard legislative dinner. This is a formal event where military personnel come in their very best dress uniforms and really put on a wonderful evening. It is filled with emotion from being very proud hearing all the comments and seeing the video of all the good that our National Guard has done at home in our state, for other states and countries related to natural disasters and the Global War on Terror.

This evening also leaves me very humbled, realizing the sacrifices our troops and their families, friends and communities give so that our National Guard can achieve its foreign or domestic missions.

The surprise for the evening was the reaction our very own Governor Rounds showed when he was the recipient of the R. Williamson Militiaman award. He quickly turned his head and demonstrated a very surprised look of disbelief in hearing his name called for the award. He was already on the stage assisting to give out the award, only to give it to himself. When you hear how the governor and the SD National Guard have been working so close together you will quickly realize this is a deserving award to Governor Rounds.

The next point I feel I need to repeat, is to make sure if you're eligible or have a family member or friend who is eligible for the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan � get them enrolled. After May 15 of this year if a person is not enrolled, there will be a one percent penalty for every month they are not enrolled. In a three-year time frame this will result in a 36 percent penalty, and if you are receiving Social Security, the penalty will be automatically deducted from that amount you receive.

If you have no prescription drug needs, you can still enroll for $1.87 per month. More information and calculations of your prescriptions and the plans that may be best for you can be found on the Medicare website.

The bill of the week would be SB 207 which places pseudo ephedrine and ephedrine products behind the counters of stores where these products are sold. The main controversy is the requirement that the person purchasing these products provide identification which has their name and date of birth, be recorded. At the end of each month this information will be sent to the sheriff's office where they can review the data.

There is a new term called "smurfing" which is when a person who makes methamphetamines goes from store to store to get the ephedrine product needed. States which have enacted this law have seen large reductions in local meth making because of the paranoid state meth makers are in. They are too scared to have to place their names on a piece of paper that could result in their being identified. For that reason lots of border towns are seeing increases in this "smurfing."

With the extreme costs related to cleaning a meth lab � at least $50,000 for the state, not to mention the clean up for the home/property owner, this is in my opinion a small inconvenience for our retailers to endure. It also limits no more that 9 grams of ephedrine that can be possessed by any one person without a prescription. This bill passed the house 68-0.

A number of sex offender laws passed the house this week. SB 149 will restrict new sex offenders coming into South Dakota to live or establish residence no closer than 500 feet to pools, parks, playgrounds or schools where children would be. It will not affect those who are already residents of the state.

It also addresses any convicted offender who may have intent to observe children. So if someone has to go to the school for business they would be exempt, but if they are hanging around after that purpose was completed, they could be in violation of this provision.

Amendments were attempted for 1500-foot restrictions which I supported. Under the 500-foot rule the towns cannot expand the distances, they can only restrict it down further. It passed 50-18.

Other sex offender bills have also been forwarded. These were:

SB 148, which adds information to the sex offender registry and increases penalties for not registering;

SB 150, passed 68-0, helps us get on board with the national sex offender public registry. It provides that information will be current, giving the division only five days to update the information once it is received. It also clarifies what information will be included on the registry such as date of occurrence, offender restrictions, and an offender's status, such as inmate, parolee, or completed correctional placement;

SB 208 enhances criminal penalties for certain sex crimes, especially for recidivist sex offenders and those with young victims. It also provides felony penalties for harboring a sex offender in your home and knowingly not having them registered. This bill also has a risk assessment that must be done before sentencing. This assessment will provide some reasoning to a judge that this person may need a longer sentence than another for the same crime.

The risk pool for health insurance will expand if SB 201 passes the House floor.

What this bill does is expand the pool from 619 people and increase it by another 300 persons. To be eligible for this plan you have to lose your insurance for no reason of your own, and your health insurance premiums must increase 200 percent from the time you lose coverage. It has some limitations and has had some problems with balancing money due to being funded by medical providers, insurance providers and the state, each are supposed to cover 1/3 of the costs.

All the organizations came together and advised this would be an okay bill but to remember that the fund to date has not had any catastrophic claims against it yet. If this were to happen the risk pool fund could face some financial woes in the future.

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