Pierre Reports

Veto Day only day left

By Rep. Jamie Boomgarden

District 17

At last we are practically done in Pierre. The final day that remains is veto day, which is the day we as the legislature will consider if a bill that the governor has vetoed should be made into law anyway. Doing so takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate chambers.

As I write this the appropriations committee is still completing hearings on the amendments to the General Bill which contains all the expenditures to the 2013 budget year which starts in July. This year, the budget was much improved compared to last year's budget, where we cut close to 10 percent in state government.

So far this year we are giving additional money to technical schools, close to 5 percent one-time bonus to state employees (not to mention a 3 percent raise), additional money to education with no strings attached and extra to the health providers, as well. Extra money was also given to help up grade some dams that were in need of repair and also money provide to help defend potential base closures which may occur when the BRAC commission reviews begin next year. I believe this was all included in HB 1137.

House bill 1234 is the bill that the school boards and administration were not the most impressed with. The concerns for me as a legislator is that many times when money or extra money is given to the schools it is used for other purposes than teachers' wages.

Now keep in mind I understand that the schools have other expenses related to programs and buses needing repairs. However, as legislators when we hear over and over again that South Dakota is 50th in the nation in teacher pay, we kind of think improving teachers salaries would be most prudent. So part of the intent was to ensure that $13 million goes directly to teachers based on a merit pay system and determined by a series of evaluations.

Additional dollars go to teachers in areas of math and science. The education committee held numerous meetings and made significant changes to the bill. The money is still directed to teachers but the bill now allows schools to decide to do the program or not, they can set up their own program as they see fit (this has to be approved by an oversight committee), and now the schools can give the money to any teacher position of need (not just math or science positions).

Again, the problem I see with this is the extra work the superintendents/administration has to do. Instead of every other year evaluations, they must now be done yearly. My other concern is, will this be the first program cut from the budget if we have a economic downturn in the future? Tenure or continuing contracts is still eliminated but does not go into effect until 2016. School boards can still offer tenure in their contracts if they chose to do so but it is generally unlikely to happen.

There were so many bills that ran through the House the past couple weeks I do not even know which ones to talk about. If you have juvenile children who have cell phones, you may want to know that it is a class one misdemeanor for people under the age of 18 to send, receive, store or present nude photos of themselves or from another person on their cell phone.

Currently, some kids are not realizing they are committing a class three felony by doing this. The bill's purpose is to help provide some cushion for kids who made some mistakes but not so bad that it falls under child pornography penalties. This addresses people under the age of 18. For those older than 18, you better be deleting them now, because it is a class three felony if you don't and get caught.

The major concern for current and future legislators to keep in mind is the sequestration which is expected to take place next year. This is the direct result of the "Super Committee" in Washington that was formed to cut the federal budget\expenses last year which failed to come up with any recommendations.

As a result, a 10 percent across the board cut is supposed to happen in the entire federal budget. These cuts are expected to cost South Dakota in the range of $46 million. Many of us are scared to spend extra money on ongoing programs right now as a result. I feel bad bursting everyone's joy of seeing our state revenues improve, but keep in mind this factor that will be approaching us for the 2014 budget year. This was one a question asked at our first cracker barrel that was held in Vermillion this year.

As for everyone who was following the story with my 5-year-old son Owen, who made the trip to Pierre with me two weeks ago, I can report that we survived. At first he was really mad because he thought he was going to visit his aunt Karen in Spearfish, not go to Pierre and sit with dad all day. Anyway, no one got lost this year and he looked extremely sharp in his three new dress shirts and ties that grandma Gayle bought him, not to mention his dad's ability to style his hair with hair gel.

Luckily for me, another representative brought her 12-year-old grandson to Pierre that same week and the two kids ran around the capitol all day with each other, went sledding down some hills and swam in the swimming pool at night. We did have two walkie-talkies that they were using playing elevator tag and going through the tunnels throughout the week until they lost them somewhere in the building on that Thursday. He loved going to all the association meetings where we ate chicken drummies nearly every night. In his own words, "This was the best day ever!"

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!

State budget is finalized

By Rep. Tom Jones

District 17

At 8:30 p.m. Friday, the state budget for our next fiscal year was passed. After many recesses and a short debate on the House floor, we are finished with this year's session, with the exception of returning March 19, to revote on any bills that the governor has vetoed.

The General Appropriations Bill passed and will fund the on-going needs of state government for the fiscal year 2013-14.

As most of you know, the Education Bill 1234 was the main topic during this session. With many amendments and much discussion the bill passed 36-33. If the vote for would have been one less, the bill would have failed. The amended bill includes a scholarship program for prospective teachers.

While the addition of a scholarship program improved the bill, HB 1234 still maintains provisions that undermine collaboration among teachers, it mandates a one-size fits all statewide evaluation system and it phases out continuing contracts for teachers.

The Senate added an amendment to include a task force called the South Dakota Education Reform Advisory Council. The council will study the advantages and disadvantages of initiatives designed to provide for increased compensation for teachers, future teaching areas of critical needs, and solutions to recruit, retain and train teachers in these critical areas.

HB 1234 creates a total of six groups with 93 people "working on or studying the bill." It is still unclear how the cost of these 93 people will be covered and who will select them.

A bill to repeal Gov. Daugaard's economic development grant for large projects and replace it with a similar plan was tabled. As a result, voters will still get to decide the issue which will be on the November ballot. The question to us, as voters, is do we want to use general fund monies that is used for education and Medicaid to give tax breaks to help big industries in South Dakota expand or set up business here.

On other issues, Senate Bill 174 passed which will increase the monthly 911 surcharge on all landline and cell phones from 75 cents to $1.25.

HB 1137 and SB 48 passed and these two bills funded 5 percent bonuses for state employees, a Governor's program (called Manpower) to recruit workers to come to South Dakota, bonuses for nursing home and community support provider workers, and one-time monies for state aid.

All of the extra money this year was a result of us underestimating our anticipated income and overestimating our expenses.

Legislation passed this year also included the following:

1. Requiring all public schools to adopt an anti-bullying policy.

2. Repealed the sales tax on food program and use those monies for Feeding South Dakota.

3. Provided for the creation of a new state accountability system for public elementary and secondary schools.

4. Set aside $20 million of the excess monies from this year's budget for potential increases in Medicaid claims starting in 2014.

5.  Increased the maximum betting limits in Deadwood to $1,000.

6.  Allowed out of state veterans to attend state colleges and universities at the in-state level of tuition.

The governor did veto one bill. It made bedding for dairy cows exempt from sales tax. The Department of Revenue wanted dairy farmers to separate which part of straw was for feeding purposes and which was for bedding. The House over-rode his veto 66-2 and the Senate over-ruled 26-9

It has been my pleasure serving you as a representative the past two years. Thank you..

If you have other concerns, please feel free to contact me at rep.jones@state.sd.us.

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