By Rep. Ray Ring
One week left. The 2013 Legislative Session is rapidly coming to a close. All bills must pass both houses by Tuesday, March 5. The final three days are reserved for concurrence or conference committees. Sometimes the Senate and the House pass the same bill in different forms because of amendments made in one chamber but not the other. When that happens, one chamber agrees to accept the other’s amendments (concurrence) or a conference committee works out the differences. In the latter case, the proposed reconciliation must be approved by the chambers. The Transportation Committee chair has named me to one conference committee.
Rosalyn Rasmussen from Viborg did an excellent job as a legislative page for the last two weeks. Pages keep busy with a multitude of important tasks, like keeping legislators’ packets of bills up to date and distributing information during committee meetings and on the House floor. When I leave the House in the evenings, pages are often still there, updating materials for the next day’s session. A page’s term in Pierre is not a carefree break. It is an invaluable learning experience and an essential service to the state. We hope it also plants in some the thought of coming back some day as legislators.
I was also glad to greet USD students (and former USD colleagues who accompanied them) in the Rotunda for the “Pierre Poster Session.” Each year undergraduate students from all state universities, as well as tribal and private colleges, present their research in the Rotunda. It’s important that legislators see our students’ accomplishments. This was doubly meaningful to me, since I sponsored students for “Pierre Poster Sessions” before I retired from USD.
Several of the issues I mentioned in earlier columns are coming to finality. This week the Transportation Committee killed two bills concerned with teen driving. One would have extended the time for an instruction permit; the other would have limited a teen’s passengers except when they were driving to school and school-related activities. Based on research and other states’ experience, I think both changes would reduce teen accidents, justifying the extra inconvenience to parents driving them to non-school activities. Fellow Transportation Committee members disagreed and both bills failed in committee. The committee did pass a ban on teens with learners’ permits and restricted licenses using wireless devices while driving. That bill comes up for a vote in the full House this Monday.
The school sentinel bill, allowing “school employees, hired security personnel, or volunteers” to have guns in school, passed the Senate this week and now goes to Gov. Daugaard. I still think it’s a bad idea and hope the governor vetoes the bill. Please let the governor know how you feel about this.
The bill to provide Medicaid to pregnant undocumented immigrants has been delayed in the Senate. It should come up for hearing next week. The bill to increase income limits for all pregnant mothers was tabled by a Senate committee and hasn’t made it to the House yet.
This week the Education Committee considered the bill to let school districts continue to divert Capital Outlay funds to current spending. It will come to the House floor this week. I still think it’s bad policy, but will vote to let school districts meet their current needs until state decision makers live up to their obligations to adequately fund education
So far we haven’t seen much progress on expanding Medicaid. It defies common sense to pass up two billion dollars from the federal government because it will cost the state a few million dollars. It’s inhumane for such a rich society to deny health care to poor people. It makes little economic sense to force people to go to the more expensive emergency room. It must make political sense, because eight Republican governors have changed their minds about expanding Medicaid. I hope our leadership sees the wisdom in the expansion soon. Please let your Legislative and executive leaders know your opinion.
I still need to hear from you, too: Rep.Ring@state.sd.us or (605) 675-9379.