Pierre Reports

Long Days and Debate

By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden
District 17

I cannot begin to tell you all how glad I am that last week has passed us by, mostly because of the difficulties that go along with all the bills that have controversy/debate that linger around until the crossover date, which was last Tuesday.

This day was when all bills had to pass out of their chamber of origin. So as we spend more time arguing over bills late into the night, eventually fatigue sets in on many of the legislators. As a result, bills have a better opportunity to make it out of the House or Senate. You can argue over this being a good thing or bad thing depending on which side of the bill you are on.

This last week we addressed which kind of baby bottle/sippy cups that stores can sell due to BPA (a synthetic estrogen chemical), which is part of the plastic bonding of many food and drink containers. Pretty much all the testimony indicated that due to public pressure this chemical has already been removed from all baby drink bottles/cups.

However, the sponsor of the bill still wanted it to push on. Minnesota passed this same bill last year in their legislature, and now this year they are fighting off a much broader attempt to ban it from all containers.

This is my main fear of banning BPA, because it is the substance that protects us all from food spoilage in canned goods. The BPA is that protective liner inside cans and other drinks. From my knowledge, there currently is no substitute for it, not to mention nobody knows what the effects are from the substitute material since limited studies have been done on it, as well.

To a small degree this reminds me of the global warming fears we heard about a couple years ago. Remember when we were all expected to have to buy carbon credits and that whole marketing program to help offset how much energy/electricity we used? Well it took some time but now the science has started to counter those claims and as a result the climate change talk is not as heated anymore. This is what I see BPA being, as well. Eleven states have passed such legislation. The FDA has not banned it and thus far has not come up with any reason to do so. We will see what happens to this over on the Senate.

Surrogacy arrangements were under fire this week. The sponsors of the bill wanted to prevent any contracts from being enforced if lets say a couple wants to make an arrangement with a woman to give birth to their baby (for whatever medical reason). The sponsors feel that it is not right for the mother – even though it is not her DNA makeup of the child – to have to give up the birthright of that baby.

The terms best interest of the child comes into play here. I am not a big fan of this bill, which passed 36-34. It does not affect those cases where the adoption has already been completed but could cause some concerns for those who have not completed that part of the process. If the bill goes into effect, it would nullify those contracts where adoption is not completed. From my understanding, some women are getting $18,000-$22,000 to be a surrogate mother. These moms then have to take time off work for obvious reasons, and also use their medical benefits to pay the expenses, which I am hearing some employers do not like, either.

Synthetic marijuana ban has now passed the House and will be over on the Senate. It has an emergency clause on it so that when it is signed by the governor it can go into immediate effect. This synthetic marijuana is some bad stuff. From my understanding it carries much longer-lasting psychosis. Some kids are not coming out of this psychosis and are so far permanently being housed in chemical dependency facilities.

SB 23 makes it a felony to possess any of these items. This week we also heard so much about bath salts, loose leaf incense, and other chemicals that kids are smoking, shooting into their body, ingesting that it makes me pretty sad. As parents/family members, I would strongly encourage you all to make sure you're talking with your kids and looking for signs/symptoms. These items are packaged in all forms, but are usually about the size of a sugar packet you get for coffee. They just have more design and color to them.

For those of you who have heard news reports or blogs regarding one of our Republican members from Fulton: Stace Nelson continues to report and claim that legislators do not vote on the merits of the bills. He believes that we are all being told what to do by leadership. When you hear this rhetoric, it is important to know what is said in committee and what is actually written in the bills and how it can be applied.

An example is Rep. Nelson's HB 1143. In his bill he wants to make it so no matter what, if the victim is incapable of giving consent because of any intoxicating, narcotic, or anesthetic agent or hypnosis, "regardless of whether or not the perpetrator knew or should have known that the victim was incapable of giving consent."

The problems the defense attorneys had with this bill is that it removes any defense for someone accused of such a crime who was out dating or met someone in which later developed into a sexual event. The "victim" in this case could claim she was raped, did not give consent (or could not remember). HB 1143, removes any defense one would have to avoid a felony and prison time.

Of course nobody on the committee thinks that if someone is clearly passed-out that it is okay to take advantage of that situation. But there are too many gray areas to not allow for some defense possibilities for the accused. A simple possibility would be a young lady who gets pregnant and doesn't know what to tell her parents. She could claim she was raped ortaken advantage of without her consent so her parents redirect their anger. Try defending yourself if HB 1143 passed.

Rep. Nelson makes comments on blogs about the committee members who opposed his bill, stating we are supporters of rapists. It is this tactic that he has been using to bully and pressure people that is causing a lot of problems for himself. Quite frankly, it is he who needs to learn to vote on the merits of the bill, not just a title that sounds good.

My five-year-old is coming with me this next week. He is the same one I lost for about 10-15 minutes last year when he ran all the way down to the basement of the Capitol. This time I am going to remember what he is wearing in case I do have to give a description to capitol police to locate him. Wish me luck on this venture.

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.

Remember our troops!

Education Revamp

By Rep. Tom Jones
District 17

In our sixth week of legislature, the much-discussed bill dealing with total revamping of our state's education was presented on the House floor. Once again, a lot of time was spent debating the three parts of this bill.

They were: 1) A 20 percent bonus to the top teachers in each district. 2) An $8,000 bonus for new teachers going into the math and science fields. This would be for five years to each for a total of $40,000. 3) Elimination of continuing contracts (tenure) for teachers.

When the dust settled BH 1234 passed 41-28 and now goes to the Senate side for discussion. Since the bill was presented as amended in the House Education Committee and passed 11-4, some interesting events occurred. It appears that members of school groups didn't agree with their lobbyists' opinions in testimony. The Association of School Boards did state that they disagree with Gov. Daugaard's conclusion that our current public education system isn't working. Most administrators did not agree with testimony given in committee.

I have had several e-mails asking why legislators are messing with an issue they know very little about. Funding the base formula should be our job. We should let school boards, administrators and teachers at the local level make the education decisions.

It will be interesting to see what the Senate does with this bill.

Concerning other bills, HB 1080 was a bill to waive license requirements to hunt raccoon, skunk, jackrabbits, fox and coyotes. This bill failed 20-49. The Game, Fish and Parks reported non-residents spent $176,540 last year purchasing the license. I voted against the bill.

HB 1111 would give land owners more say in condemnation processes called eminent domain. This bill failed 30-39 with me voting for the bill. This bill came up the next day for reconsideration and again failed; this time 35-35.

If you have questions or an opinion on a bill, please feel free to contact me at rep.jones@state.sd.us. Please include your name and town you live in or near.

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