The rumblings around the Capitol are picking up. The appropriations process is now complete and we are just starting to get a little insight into the budget. Unfortunately, by the time you all read this, this will be old news. However, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) has come up with a preliminary budget that has a 20 million dollar optimistic view of the current financial situation we present ourselves with.
I hold my breath as I say this because many times this can be where number games come into play. In the past, Gov. Rounds has always painted an optimistic view of the budget and the Legislature and LRC painted it more conservatively. So to have a reverse situation where the governor is more conservative than we are has me wondering who is more correct. The rumors running around that I have heard is that there is some giving and taking going on with specific budgets.
The nursing home groups will find they are being given some strong consideration since they are really in a pickle. Sixty percent of their residents are on Medicaid. Their only way to generate income to offset the cuts is to raise the rates for the other 40 percent who are private pay residents. When you increase the costs to the private pay residents, it only puts them on the Medicaid list faster which only compounds the problem. Unfortunately, with this give, there will be more take from other groups to achieve the balanced budget. Those details have not been released yet but that is what you can expect.
Education as far as I am aware is still on track to have 10 percent of the state portion of their budgets reduced. Most of the schools in our district received 60 percent state funding, and it is this 60 percent that will face the 10 percent cut.
As I stated in the cracker-barrel and previous news updates, I am not putting my neck out on the block to say the cuts are solid, since I am now starting to hear some talk about this too is being adjusted. How much and if any adjustments will be made, I do not know. I do not have as much privileged information as I did last year when I sat at the leadership table.
We have only Monday left for bills and then all committees should be done with their work. The committees really did a lot more work defeating bills before they got to the House floor which saves a lot of time and debate later. Many bills were just plain bad bills and others that had topics that fit the Republican platform were good topics but the bills were written bad enough that they could not be supported by the majority.
Some bills of interest this last week was SB 164. This bill was a result of a lawsuit the state brought against the city of Colman related to writing city ordinance tickets on state highways. The issue here is if a city ordinance ticket is written the fine money goes to the city, if a state ordinance ticket is written the fine money goes to the school district.
Colman basically was abusing this privilege you could say, because they generated about 15 thousand dollars a year enforcing the speed on their short stretch of state highway that goes through their town. Since this lawsuit has taken place, Colman, we were told, no longer has a city police officer. So the question in this case is, is it right to have incentives for an officer/municipality to write tickets? The bill failed, which means the towns/cities are still prevented from colleting the fine money. The cities� position is that they pay for the officers to enforce the law on that part of the state highway, so it is only right that they get the money also.
HB 149 was a bill before my Health and Human Service Committee which deals with athletes and concussions. The NFL has some interest in pushing this legislation through but it basically mandates the SD High School Activities Association and the Dept of Education to come up with plans for when athletes suffer a concussion on the field of play.
I am not a big fan of mandates for any state department because any mandate increases costs. This bill will require coaches to watch a 45 minute video and take a test each year. There is no cost. The bill originally included all youth sports including YMCA, city leagues, etc� but they were all amended out (thank goodness), because generally we cannot get coaches the way it is, let alone if they now know they have to watch a video and take a test.
My only concern is this seems to be going commercial. I think there may be a bigger motive behind the bill but I cannot say for sure. In this bill if an athlete gets his �bell rung� he cannot return to play until an assessment is performed. This assessment from my understanding can be performed by the trainer, EMT, or whoever provides the athletic care and has a health license for the team. It is good to have this in place because too often we see the kids talking and walking and feeling they are okay but in reality they cannot balance a checkbook or remember what they read, etc� It still has to face the House floor but should easily pass.
That is all for now. Sorry I am not returning any messages on e-mail, but it would just consume all my time and I like to have a partial life on the side. Education has certainly won the e-mail contest this year (again)! Not exactly sure how next week will turn out as we vote on the general bill (budget), but certainly hope next year will be better by taking the pain this year!
If you have any 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.
Remember our troops!