By Sen. Tom Jones
Opening our 5th week of the 2014 legislative session, Monday morning we listened to the Department of Corrections. The adult prison count is 3600, 3200 are male and 400 are female. Their budget is $113 million. The Mike Durfee prison in Springfield has 2/3 of their inmates in a trade learning program with a waiting list to enroll as the programs it offers are full. There are just over 200 inmates on work release. There are also over 500 inmates doing community service work in many communities. They amassed over 2 million hours last year and work at the rate of $.25 an hour.
In the Senate side of Monday’s session, we passed SB 2,3,4,5,6,7; all of which were initiated by a study group that met last summer concerning domestic violence. I voted for all six bills. A bill to appropriate money for Teach for America failed 22-10 as it required a 2/3 vote to pass (24 needed). I was excused and did not vote on the bill. It was brought up for re-consideration the next day and did pass (to reconsider). I voted to re-consider.
Monday evening Senator Vahle, the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, spoke at the Contractors’ Banquet. He is quite concerned about the future of our state roads. Today, we have only 2% of state roads that are in poor shape and 6% are in fair shape. This is a good picture of our roads now. However, projected out 10 years, assuming we do the same with our roads as we are doing now, 27% of our state roads will be in poor shape and 24% will be in fair shape. This is not good news for us down the road. No pun intended. Just imagine driving on Highway 19 and one mile of each four miles will be classified as a road in poor condition.
Tuesday morning we heard from the Office of the Attorney General. It has 170 full time employees and is requesting 5 additional new FTE’s. Mr. Jackley, our Attorney General, gave a detailed report of his offices’ activities. Since 1999, South Dakota has received $342 million in tobacco settlements, averaging somewhere between $20-25 million each year. We are getting tougher on “meth”. The meth arrests have doubled from 669 in 2012 to 1229 in 2013.
We also heard from the Unified Judicial System. This group is our court system. They are requesting an additional 8 full time employees which is a continuation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act that we passed in last year’s session.
Wednesday morning we listened to the Department of Human Services. They serve over 27,000 people and have a budget of $188 million. We also heard the budget proposal of the Department of Health. They employ 420 FTEs and have a budget of $89 million. They have a Hemsley Grant for $1.2 million for an Automated Chest Compression System for each EMS across the state. It will take 1-2 years to get these life-saving machines distributed along with educating the EMTs.
Senate Bill 169 is receiving a lot of attention. It provides for access to and use of public waters on public and private property and to protect private property rights to the owners. It did pass the Senate State Affairs Committee 6-3. However, it has been amended on the Senate floor and will be heard again on Tuesday.
In closing, 2014 is an election year again and I have decided not to run for re-election to the State Senate. I have enjoyed most of the last 4 years as your Representative in the State House and as your State Senator. It has been my pleasure to serve you and the entire State of South Dakota.
Again, if you have questions or opinions you would like to express to me, please e-mail me at email@example.com.