The good news was the 42 degree temperatures we experienced towards the end of the week here in Pierre. It was kind of nice being able to walk around without heavy coats on in the middle of winter. Our bill loads in committee have still been pretty light compared to previous years. From my understanding we will be looking at close to 230 bills in the House this year, compared to about 300 last year.
The Senate is down as well. Many of bills this year are being knocked off right in committee because the ideas were not accepted by other members of the House or because the homework on bills was not done prior to committee. What I mean by homework, is that networking is the key to any bill�s survival or failure.
Department agencies, lobbyists and other associations like to be made aware of bills before they are dropped in for committee hearings. When this does not happen, these groups come out to oppose that bill for a number of reasons. One obvious reason is that it could negatively affect their program or people. Other reasons would be due to the effects on the budget or the fact that they were not notified about the bill in the first place to get their support/blessing.
Enough about that! As for the Health and Human Service Committee, we will be seeing our first interesting bills next week which deal with taking people/families off welfare programs if they have been found to be on illegal drugs. This of course has implications due to the negative affects it has on the children when the parents make bad decisions. I believe we have two of these bills coming on the same day. The other bill we will address is the mid-wifery bill. This year the mid-wifery bill has lots of legs under it, meaning it has momentum to make it out of committee. I am not overly in favor of the bill due to several issues and we will see next week if those concerns are still in the bill.
We have not done much with the budget, in terms of committees. The appropriations committee has been busy checking agency budgets. They have sent people back to redo budgets that did not have the 10 percent cuts that the governor requested. Wish I could say more but this committee�s budget review process will not completed for another three weeks. Keep in mind this committee goes into session at 7:30 a.m. and is usually still listening to each department�s budget until 5 p.m. or so every night (some LONG days).
I am very aware of the effects that budget cuts have on departments, programs/services and personnel. I myself went through a 5 percent cut in pay and lost a week of vacation to help out our hospital�s budget issues just over a year and a half ago. This lasted for a year (and a couple months). Since then we were fortunate enough to have the hospital�s bottom line come back to where the administrators felt it needed to be, and as a result all of the cuts were restored.
It did create some unease, but this turned out to be the most beneficial since we still needed all the work help, and no one wanted to reduce positions since that would not have helped the economy either. Not to mention, there would have been huge costs in re-training workers when new people were hired at a later date. In the end, we did go through a scary time, but we all stuck together and came through it really good. I pray we have the same luck for all the other agencies that may or may not be faced with similar budget constraints. I have found it is not fun being on either the receiving or the giving end of cuts.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to contact me by e-mail: Rep.Boomgarden@state.sd.us or by calling and leaving a message at 773-3851.