2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION COMES TO A CLOSE
By Sen. Tom Jones
The final week of our 2013 session has finished in a flurry of bills, amendments, and monetary decisions beginning on Monday and ending Friday. In the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, we passed HB 1060 which we “back-filled” the 2012-13 fiscal year. Many dollars were used to pay debts occurred during the year that were not in the original bill. One of the major adjustments that was made was taking out of the General Fund $5,000,000 that was to pay for two corporations that enlarged or just entered South Dakota. Instead, these obligations are to be paid from the “Futures’ Fund”. As you already know, these dollars, if taken from the General Fund, would reduce dollars available for two major areas which are dear to me: Education and health care.
We also passed HB 1184 which gave South Dakota a new state park to the tune of $2,000,000, $1.5 million for a new State Game Lodge in Custer State Park, and $500,000 for an extension to the Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills. This bill was bumped around quite a bit. The above numbers were decreased to $1 by the Senate and passed to the House. The House, in turn, returned the bill back to the Senate Appropriations Committee in its original form. The amendment to the bill passed in the Appropriations Committee 5-1 with me being the dissenting vote. Then the amended bill passed our committee 5-1 with me again being the dissenting vote. These millions of dollars are taken out of the General Fund.
We also had the privilege to meet the first graduates of the JAG Program. This pilot program for South Dakota produced 11 graduates from Wagner that, without this program, quite possibly would not have finished high school, let alone already being accepted into the college. What a big step in the right direction for these individuals.
We acted on most of the remaining bills that contained dollar requests. The Senate side passed legislation amounting to $21,254,318. The best part was approving $5,829,319 for K-12 education on a per student basis for fiscal year 2013. This bill was HB 1137 and amounts to approximately $45.50 per student in public schools. I’m proud that we did this as all of our schools need these monies after the disastrous cuts of two years ago.
Also, we approved $6,000,000 for the demolishing of buildings at the Human Services Center in Yankton; $2,000,000 for the additional health care costs for the Board of Regents; $2,000,000 for Pine Beetle suppression in the Black Hills; and $475,000 to help rural counties recruit attorneys.
Friday, the last day of this year’s regular session was a long one for everyone. The House of Representatives ended their session by passing HB 1185 which is the General Funding bill that does all of the final adjustments to the 2014 fiscal year. Forty-five minutes later the Senate passed it also. The time was 11:45 p.m. The Joint Appropriations Committee met all morning, afternoon and evening to put the last numbers and amendments into the bill. In all, there were 58 written amendments and 1 unwritten. The House vote was 7-2 and the Senate side of Joint Appropriations voted 6-3 to approve the amendments. I was one of the “no” votes on the Senate side.
A few of the amendments are listed here:
1) Tabled funds for Early Head Start Program – $1,094,221.
2) Passed funding for distribution to the universities for providing grants for research – $1,000,000.
3) Tabled funding for a feasibility study regarding the treatment of invasive species at McCook Lake—initial request was $75,000, reduced to $20,000 – still tabled.
4) Tabled an increase and FTE (employee) to add salary and benefits for a Supreme Court Law Clerk – $73,155.
5) Passed a transfer of General Fund money to the Cement Plant Trust Fund – $2,000,000.
6) Passed a transfer of General Fund money to the Future Fund – $2,000,000. These monies were for payments to corporations that came into our state or expanded their operations here. The House earlier pulled a request for money. The Senate earlier pulled a request for money. Last November, the voters of South Dakota rejected such a proposal.
7) Approved an upgrade for technology in K-12 – $500,000.
8) Turned down a request for a pool for one-time funding to health providers based on their reliance on Medicaid funding – $5,000,000 General Funds, $5,917,030 Federal Funds and $18,558 Other Funds for a total of $10,935,588.
9) Tabled to eliminate State Health Insurance funding for the proposed FY14 Wellness Initiative – $3,000,000 General Funds, $1,700,000 Federal Funds, and $3,400,000 Other Funds for a total of $8,100,000. If we hadn’t tabled this amendment, the employees would have had to pick this up.
10) Tabled to expand South Dakota’s Medicaid program in accordance to the Affordable Care Act – $1,499,482 General Funds, $58,294,779 Federal Funds–$59,294,779.
11) Passed at the rate of .5 percent an increase to provider rates for Medicaid as on-going money – half of each of the following: $3,654,870 General Funds, $3,956,638 Federal Funds, and $13,915 Other Funds – $7,625,423.
Please note #10. Yes, the numbers are correct.
One of the last amendments we approved was for $500,000 for legislator travel and possible hiring of two more in the Legislative Research Council. This request was unwritten and was passed after a recess and reconvened. If my math is correct, I take $500,000 and divide that by our number of legislators (105) and that amounts to just under $5,000 per legislator. That is more than what we, as a state, support per pupil education in South Dakota. I did vote against this.
I will conclude by saying thank you for allowing me to be your State Senator. I have learned and enjoyed being on the Appropriations Committee. I have tried to spend your tax dollars, not frugally, but wisely.
District 17, Clay and Turner Counties