Pierre Reports: Picking up steam

Action is picking up in the House of Representatives this week.  Let�s get started.

HB 1192 passed the House this week.  It is an increase in the license plate fees for vehicles.  None of the revenue from the license plates goes to the state.  Instead, the counties get 66 percent and the rest goes to townships and towns.  Our roads and bridges need a lot of repair in each county.  This is a good bill in my opinion and now goes to the Senate.  In Clay County, the county will get about $250,000,cities � $75,000, and townships � $55,000.  In Turner County, the county will get about $320,000, cities HCR 1006 failed in Judiciary Committee 24-44.  This bill dealt with BPA or the toxicity in plastic bottles.  Baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant toys have already dealt with this issue and are non-toxic.  I did testify about this, not as a representative, but as a grocer.  We need to address this issue again.  After two hours of testimony from both sides, it was killed.

HB 1248 required a 2/3�s vote to pass.  It did pass 64-3.  This is from the governor�s office to repeal the sunset of the one-half percent increase in the gross receipts tax on tourism.  This one-half percent tax was to go away, but the governor felt that it should be put back on the tax revenue.  Apparently the governor did not feel this would constitute a �new� tax.

HB 1215 gives back to the counties monies collected from the nonhighway purposes.  Once again, the counties should receive some much needed help in our county roads and bridges.

Talk about tough decisions.  HB 1230 was just that and it needed a two-thirds vote in favor to pass.  This bill would take 22 percent of the contractor�s excise tax and put it into an economic development fund.  This bill was at the request of the governor.  As an individual very interested in economic development I could see the plus side of the issue.  The negative side of it was that this money would come out of the general fund, which means that education and Medicaid would be shorted.  Approximately $15,000,000 each year is involved in this decision.  Education is our best form of economic development.  Period.  This bill passed along party lines, 50-18.

HB 1033 is to require an interim legislative study of the state�s higher education.  It passed 42-26.  I voted against this bill.  I felt the Board of Regents should and could do a better job of evaluating and the legislature should stay out of it.

Yes, we even voted on prairie dogs.  HB 1047 passed 62-7 and allows for the hunting of prairie dogs year round.

This week I received several post cards from concerned people in the Freeman area.  They addressed the proposed cuts to education and each was signed by one or two individuals.  This is their way of voicing their concern for their children�s education.  The legislators in their own district received handfuls.  I hope they get their point across. 

I was a bit miffed upon hearing the comment from a Michigan legislator who was brought in to testify concerning a bill our State Senator Grey wanted some help on.  His statement was the effect that there were two types of people in South Dakota � Democrats and Americans. Poor taste coming from a state representative from another state.

Cuts to Medicaid were a large topic of conversation this week as Health Services was to meet with the Appropriations Committee.  The prior evening the governor, selected leaders of the Republican Party, a couple of lobbyists, and some health care individuals met without the invite to any Democrats.  My, I didn�t realize how much of a minority we are.

Here are a few pieces of information that affect Medicaid.  The projected eligible people for Medicaid in FY12 will be 119,500, which is 5,000 more than in December.  As our economic conditions improve, our state share (versus federal share) of the Medicaid costs will increase.  We are adding $3.3 million of just general funds because of the high cost claim trends.  They are eliminating the graduate Medical Education Program at three of the largest hospitals.  The number of hospitals and nursing homes that have contacted me is large.

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