Report from Pierre

This week marked the start of the 85th legislative session.

The first week is largely spent getting reacquainted with other legislators, listening to the state of the state address and circulating bills for co-sponsors.

The beginning of session is bittersweet for me. I am running for Secretary of State next fall which means that this will be my last session as a legislator. The legislature has been a huge part of my life over the past decade and serving the people of District 17 has been a great honor. 
The issue that everyone is talking about is, of course, the budget. South Dakota is doing better than most states but we are still in a hole and a lot of difficult decisions need to be made. We have largely been spared the economic turmoil that has been seen in the rest of the country because we have a fairly stable agricultural sector that has been able to pump money into local economies. 

One area that should be spared from cuts is education. State law requires that school districts receive 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lowest.  I have fought against this rule for the past 10 years. This year the battle is different.  The law dictates that the schools should receive an increase of 1.2 percent.  The governor's recommended budget calls for an increase of 0.  I disagree strongly with this. When the state budget was increasing by 6 percent a year for several years, we capped the schools growth at 3 percent. I believe it is unfair to ask schools to sacrifice in the lean times when they were not able to benefit from the good times. I know that it will be a challenge but the state needs to find a way to follow the education formula.

 I will be bringing one major bill this year. Last year I attempted to repeal South Dakota's ban on embryonic stem cell research. Since then there have been a number of developments in this area of research and I think that scientists in South Dakota can play a pivotal role in discovering cures for any number of diseases. In my research I have also discovered language in the law that effectively makes it illegal for anyone in South Dakota receive any treatment that involves embryonic stem cells. Researchers are making breakthroughs every day. This past year scientists have announced that there are some very promising treatments for most common causes of blindness. Part of this years legislation will include striking that ban in the law to ensure that every South Dakotan has the opportunity to decide for themselves if they want to receive particular treatments. This is a cause that I strongly believe in and will continue the fight this year.

If anyone has any questions or concerns about the legislature feel free to contact me at or call me at home at 605-624-6178.

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