Ahlers Selected for Emerging Leaders Program

DanAhlersStateRepSIOUX FALLS, S.D. – State Representative Dan Ahlers (D-Dell Rapids) has been selected to participate in the Emerging Leaders Program, an annual seminar sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) and the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Rep. Ahlers will join 44 other legislators from 42 other state who were selected to participate in the Program.

“It’s an honor to be selected to the Emerging Leaders Program,” said Rep. Ahlers. “I am humbled by the opportunity to be South Dakota’s representative at this prestigious event, where I can both learn about important national issues and trends in state government and share with others South Dakota’s values and vision of leadership.”

Legislators were selected to participate in the Program based upon criteria including the candidate’s long-term commitment to public service and keen interest in self-development, as well as a demonstration of the skills and aptitude to attain positions of greater political responsibility.

According to SLLF, the key objective of the program is to develop the leadership potential of emerging political leaders for the challenges of the 21st century. This will be accomplished through a highly interactive program that focuses on:

  • Analysis and feedback on elements of personal leadership style.
  • Awareness of the importance of values and ethics in governance and public service.
  • Gaining perspective on the importance of the role of the state legislature in contemporary American politics.
  • Recognition of the importance of legislators as consensus builders and facilitators of compromise.

Rep. Ahlers represents District 25 in the South Dakota Legislature, which includes parts of Minnehaha County.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Tom Pischke Week 9 Update

Pischke_2017The main portion of the 2018 Legislative Session finished up on Friday, March 9th, and while it included many positives, people should be alerted to the dramatic expansion in government spending that is occurring each year and the increasing tax burden placed on the shoulders of our citizens.

South Dakotans take pride in the fact that their State Government, by comparison, is one of the more financially sound states in the nation. Our state retirement is fully funded, so we can keep our commitments to our teachers and state employees. We have a AAA bond credit rating, enabling us to construct buildings at low interest rates. Our state Constitution, approved by the voters, requires a structurally balanced budget, so we can’t spend more money than we take in.

But while we are not on the brink of insolvency like some other states, I don’t believe that’s enough to say that we are doing well at managing our responsibility to you, the citizens and taxpayers. If you’re like me, you expect that we will find ways each year to spend your dollars more effectively, and you expect our programs to help people toward personal responsibility, not create more dependency.

In 2017 the State spent $4.148 billion. In 2019, the budget is set to spend $4.688 billion. That’s an increase of $540 million or 13% in just two years. That’s $5417 for every man, woman and child and an increase of about $623 per person in 2 years.  Personally, my income hasn’t increased 13% in two years so it’s hard to justify that the government should increase it’s spending by that same mark.  We’ve also added 612 full time employees (FTE) in two years.

One substantial portion of the increased budget this year was due to the Federal Government changing the rules to comply with their responsibility to fund healthcare for our Native American population. They directed Indian Health Services to pay for 100% of the medical costs for their enrolled members who are eligible for Medicaid. This resulted in substantial savings to the state, which could have been used to reduce the tax burden on our South Dakota families, spent to ensure there are enough high quality workers caring for disabled citizens, or used to fund the education increases we passed so that you wouldn’t see your property taxes go up.

Instead, the proposal was to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates, expand Medicaid services, and expand the number of people eligible to bill Medicaid for their services. Some targeted reimbursement rate increases are necessary to ensure we have the staff to help care for the truly disabled. But much of the benefit of this expansion goes to the big 3 hospital systems in our state, who put a lot of pressure on legislators to go along with the “grand bargain” and not to change it. Once these expansions are authorized, there is no discretion by the State. We simply have to pay the bills.

Some of us determined that it was not necessary or prudent to expand Medicaid services at this time, and fought to stop Medicaid expansion in the state budget. We have seen Medicaid expansion plans really sink state budgets in other states. It seemed wiser to wait until the next Governor takes office before saddling them with an expansion that could really get out of control. We got 17 legislators to oppose the budget presented, but were unsuccessful in stopping the expansion.

It will be important to watch carefully what happens with this in the session next year. Will the numbers come in as predicted, or will it be another bait and switch that promises savings, but really ends up growing government? The important thing is to remember history and stay watchful. If we do so, we can keep the government accountable to the promises made so that your taxes are being spent as wisely as possible and that your family budget is the one that grows, instead of the State’s.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Dan Ahlers Week 9 Update

dan_ahlersGreetings from Pierre. We have completed the final week of session. I will cover the new Precision Ag Center at SDSU as well as provide a breakdown of the additions to this fiscal year and the state budget approved for 2019.

In this final week, the legislature approved a $55 million precision agriculture project at SDSU. SDSU will become the nation’s first university to offer a B.S. degree in Precision Agriculture. Precision Agriculture combines engineering, mathematics, agronomics and environmental analysis to improve traditional agriculture methods. GPS guidance systems in tractors during the 1990’s were the early stage of precision agriculture. An example of today’s precision agriculture combines GPS-based soil sampling, software and variable rate technology to maximize the distribution of fertilizer. Farmers, ranchers, foresters, etc. can use these tools to optimize yields and profits while protecting water, soil, livestock and wildlife.

Each session, we amend the current fiscal year’s budget. Sometimes we make cuts because revenues fall short of projections. Other years, we may have a surplus. During surplus years, we can choose to put the money in reserves or address other unmet state needs. In 2018, we added an additional $5.4 million in one-time money to education. An additional $2 million was approved for the Precision Ag Center at SDSU. We approved money to start the application for the State Veterans Cemetery near Sioux Falls. We also put $4.7 million toward state employee health insurance reserves. The Governor proposed an increase to a group of Medicaid providers to get within 90% of cost in 2019, so the legislature appropriated an additional three months of funding in 2018. We also included an additional $2 million in one-time money to all providers. Finally, we appropriated additional money in 2018 to increase starting wages for correctional officers and employees at the Human Services Center in Yankton. These facilities have experienced high turnover and overtime pay due to non-competitive wages.

For fiscal year 2019, we focused on three main areas: Medicaid providers, state employees and education. For providers, we approved a 1.5% overall inflationary increase. The newspapers reported a 2% increase, but that is not accurate. Our Medicaid providers are classified by a tier system. Providers like Avera and Sanford Hospital will see a .5% increase, while nursing homes will see a 2% increase to their reimbursement. State employees will receive a 1.2% salary policy increase. The legislature prioritized state employee salary policy early in this session. The departments have had a difficult time filling many positions throughout state government. This problem is due to wages not being comparable to the industry median. Finally, education will receive a 1% inflationary increase. This increase will apply to special education, education and technical schools. Newspapers reported that the legislature increased taxes again to give money to teachers. This statement was also inaccurate. The increase given to schools is not required to go to teacher salary. However, those schools that did not make their teacher salary accountability last year will need to use this money for salary in order to make accountability this year. With respect to taxes, the mil levy changes for property tax correspond with the increase in state general fund dollars. These levy adjustments happen each year with changes in state aid.

Thank you for electing me to represent you in Pierre. Your calls and emails during session were valuable in my decision-making process. Please continue to share your input on any issue or concern. Throughout the summer, I will continue to work on constituent issues. Sometimes these issues can be resolved without legislation. Otherwise, I use your input to create legislation for the next session. You may email me at dan.ahlers@sdlegislature.gov.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Dan Ahlers Week 8 Update

dan_ahlersGreetings from Pierre. We have one week left of session. I will provide an update on some of this week’s bills as well as an update on the Appropriation budget hearings.

During this session, there has been a silent assault on the ballot initiative and constitutional amendment process. SB 9 & 13 are another example of changes to make this process difficult for voters. These bills require fiscal notes to be attached to ballot measures. While understanding the potential cost of a change in law is important, the way in which the information is disseminated is equally important. These bills require the information to be included on the ballot. This requirement makes the ballot longer and more difficult for voters to navigate. Proponents of this measure know that the average voter will vote not to change a law or amend the constitution if the measure appears to be complicated. Another problem with this requirement is a fiscal note is an anticipated cost. As we learned with Marsy’s Law, many of the anticipated costs were never incurred.

Term limits have been part of this year’s issues and bills in Pierre. SB 80 & 89 set term limits for members of the Board of Regents and Board of Education. Full disclosure, I do not like term limits. Term limits set an artificial maximum not based in fact or merit. We have always had a form of term limits called elections. If we do not like our representation, we can elect someone else. Term limits give bureaucracy, lobbyists and other entities more power. These institutions do not answer to the people. When we limit a public servant’s service without cause, we cheat ours institutions of knowledge, experience and opportunity. These bills were brought because of one person that recently retired from one the boards. People felt that this individual had too much power and influence over the process. Regardless of the merits to this claim, we should not legislate due to one bad player. Should we throw out the Electoral College because we have Donald Trump as President? (Maybe that’s not the best example). These board positions are appointed by the Governor and must be voted on by the State Senate. If a person is doing a poor job, then it is the duty of the State Senate to not approve the appointment. If this person really had too much power and was abusing his position, it is the failure of the legislative body that continues to approve the appointment.

In Appropriations, we voted to approve the veteran’s cemetery located near Sioux Falls. The committee will appropriate $600,000 toward the application process. The bill also requires an endowment to be established and minimum $3m in the fund by 2023. This money will go to operational expenses. Once the project is completed, the $600,000 from the state will be refunded by the federal government and be deposited in the endowment. Thank you to all of the supporters that contacted your legislators and encouraged their support.

The Appropriations Committee has started the budget setting process. We break each department down into their individual units and set the budget. For example, in the Department of Revenue under audits, there is request for 5 auditors. The Appropriations Committee denied this request saving $327,293. As we continue this process, the committee will make similar reductions and additions to reflect our spending priorities. This year, there will be targeted increase and an inflationary increase for community based providers, an inflationary increase for education and an increase for state employees.

It will be important to hear from you during session. I would appreciate your input on any issue or concern. You may email me at dan.ahlers@sdlegislature.gov.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Tom Pischke Week 8 Update

Pischke_2017The South Dakota Legislature concluded its eight week of session on Thursday.  We had a busy week in the House dealing with all of the bills that passed through the Senate.  On one day, we dealt over 30 bills, which is large number to be debated in one day.  As the session is now winding down, we are focusing on finalizing the budget and choosing our priorities in what should be funded and with how many dollars.

HOUSE UPDATES

•SB 105 allows a physician to administer a toxicology test on a newborn baby (neonate is the first 28 days of life) if the child exhibits symptoms of illness related to drug abuse. SB 105 includes a provision to exempt a healthcare provider from criminal and civil liability both if this test is administered and if in good faith the provider decides against performing a toxicology test. SB 105 passed Senate Health and Human Services 6-1 and passed the Senate Floor 33-2. In the House it passed the Judiciary Committee 10-1 and the House Floor 59-5.

•SB 84 prohibits any state agency from entering into a confidential settlement with a third party. All settlements requiring monetary damages or equitable relief shall be a matter of public record. SB 84 passed Senate Judiciary 5-2 and passed the Senate Floor 21-13. However, it failed in House Judiciary 10-3.

•SB 64 changes the penalties for trafficking a minor. Previously, the criminal penalty for attempted trafficking was less severe than if the trafficking was completed. However, since many human traffickers are caught in  stings, which only allows a criminal charge for attempted trafficking, in that scenario the offender would receive half the prison sentence. SB 64 changes statute so that attempted trafficking and trafficking both receive the same criminal penalty. SB 64 passed Senate Judiciary 6-0 and the Senate Floor 34-0. In the House it came through both House Judiciary and the House floor with zero no votes.

•SB 9 would require a fiscal note, compiled by LRC, to accompany both initiated measures and constitutional amendments to determine the cost or lack thereof to the state upon passage. This bill passed Senate State Affairs 7-2 and Passed the Senate Floor 29-6. In the House it passed State Affairs 8-2 and the House Floor 58-9.

SENATE UPDATES

•HB 1199 Banned collective bargaining at the regental schools. HB 1199 passed the House. However, after passing the Senate State Affairs Committee 5-4 HB199 failed on the Senate Floor 16-18.

•HJR 1004 would submit to the voters for approval changes to the victim’s rights or “Marsy’s Law” constitutional amendment passed in 2016. HJR 1004 clarifies certain provisions of the law and allows law enforcement to release certain information regarding criminal activity. HJR 1004 passed the House State Affairs Committee 13-0 and passed the House Floor without opposition. The Senate Taxation Committee concurred 6-0 and it passed the Senate Floor 27-8.

•HB 1311 would change legislator salaries from 6,000 dollars a year to one fifth of South Dakota’s median income as defined by the U.S census and would be adjusted by the South Dakota Board of Finance. HB 1311 passed the House State Affairs Committee 10-4 and passed the House Floor 50-16. HB 1311 will be heard in Senate State Affairs.

•HB 1081 expands the sunset clause for the non-meandered waters compromise until 2021. This bill passed House State Affairs 11-1 and passed the House Floor 51-12. HB 1081 passed Senate Agriculture 7-2 and Passed the Senate Floor 20-15.

•HB 1100 requires a printed name to go along with a signature on all public contracts. The reason for this change is a public contract involving an illegible signature. This bill passed State Affairs unanimously and passed the House Floor with one no vote. HB 1100 passed the House Judiciary Committee 5-0 and passed the Senate Floor 33-0.

•HB 1264 authorizes the construction of a precision agriculture classroom and laboratory at SDSU. HB 1264 passed House State Affairs 13-0 and passed the House Floor 66-0. It will be heard in Senate Appropriations on Monday.

If you have any questions and/or comments on these bills or any other legislation, please email me at tom.pischke@sdlegislature.gov

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Dan Ahlers Week 7 Update

dan_ahlersGreetings from Pierre. This past Friday was crossover day. All bills, in order to continue, must be out of their house of origin. I will provide an update on some of this week’s bills as well as an update on the Appropriation budget hearings.

In the 2016 election, we passed Marsy’s Law to protect victim’s rights. Although many of the concerns by opponents have proven to be false, there have been issues with the definition of what constitutes a victim. HJR 1004 narrows the definition of victim to better allocate resources for victims of crimes. Because Marsy’s Law was a constitutional amendment, voters will have to vote on these changes in the 2018 election. HJR 1004 passed the House 65-0. In conjunction with HJR 1004, we passed HB 1174 which gives a victim cause of action and defines members of the multi-disciplinary team that can have access to information. This bill passed the House 66-0.

Earlier in the session, HJR 1001 was passed to put a legislative salary increase on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. On Wednesday, the House voted to increase legislative salary by the same amount through statute. This bill would not require voters to approve the increase. While this bill may appear as an attempt to by-pass the voters, it is actually a better approach. If voters were to pass the constitutional amendment in November, the legislator salary increase would be put in the state constitution. Amending legislator salary going forward would be extremely difficult and locks in this higher salary rate. In prior elections, attempts have been made to eliminate the five cent a mile travel reimbursement and it has failed each time. Subjects like legislative salary should not be in the constitution. The constitution should be a framework for our government and not a place for public policy. As mentioned previously, we have to vote on Marsy’s Law again to fix problems identified by the proponents of the constitutional amendment. It is another great example of why public policy should be in statute and not in the constitution.

As part of balancing the fiscal year 18 budget, the governor has recommended some one-time transfers. One of these transfers was from the South Dakota Health and Educational Facilities Authority. The money in this fund comes from fees generated from low interest bonds. While this authority was created by the state, it is not a state entity. Because the SDHEFA is not a state entity, HB 1318 which authorizes the transfer, is unconstitutional. The SDHEFA can use this money to support education and health facilities and their activities. In order to make this bill work, I crafted an amendment that would allow a one-time transfer by the SDHEFA board. After this bill passes, the board will allocate approximately 2.5 million in funding to an educational and/or health care facility. HB 1318 passed 49-17.

In Appropriations, we continue to debate SB 91 which provides funding to establish a state veterans cemetery in Sioux Falls. Please contact the members of the Appropriations Committee and encourage them to support this bill. The land will be donated by Sioux Falls and various veterans organizations have raised $100,000 to put in an endowment to help pay for ongoing costs. The funding request from the state is $600,000 which would be reimbursed by the federal government upon completion of the cemetery. A last minute amendment has threatened to derail the efforts of our veterans. This amendment would require 9.4 million dollars in the endowment before the application process could begin. Currently, South Dakota is in a race for this cemetery with Minnesota. If we do not apply by July 1st, Minnesota will most likely get the cemetery grant and South Dakota would not be eligible due to the proximity of Minnesota’s proposed cemetery location east of Brookings. This amount is more than what would be necessary to annually maintain the cemetery. Annual costs for this cemetery would be $261,000. While the governor has denied this amendment comes from his office, they will not support the bill without this amendment.   Hearings for this bill will continue this week. I encourage readers to voice their support by contacting the governor’s office and emailing members of the appropriations committee.

It will be important to hear from you during session. I would appreciate your input on any issue or concern. You may email me at dan.ahlers@sdlegislature.gov.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Tom Pischke Week 7 Update

Pischke_2017The South Dakota Legislature concluded its seventh week of session FridayFriday was crossover day, a day in which all of the bills need to be out of the chamber in which they originate.  This means all House Bills needed to be voted on by the end of this day.  Luckily, we managed the schedule pretty well this year and we were able to end at a decent time on crossover day with only a few bills left for consideration.

HOUSE UPDATES

•HJR 1004 would submit to the voters for approval changes to the victim’s rights or “Marsy’s Law” constitutional amendment passed in 2016.  HJR 1004 clarifies certain provisions of the law and allows law enforcement to release certain information regarding criminal activity. HJR 1004 passed the House State Affairs Committee 13-0 and passed the House Floor without opposition.

•HB 1293 would make assaulting a firefighter or a paramedic while they are performing their duties a felony.  A simple assault would be classified as a class 6 felony and aggravated assault would be classified as a class 2 felony.  HB 1293 passed House State Affairs 13-0 and passed the House Floor 64-0

•HB 1201 would have required ballot initiatives to include the county in which the sponsor of the initiative resides, and also would have required the total amount of compensation for sponsorship on the ballot.  HB 1201 passed the House State Affairs committee 9-3 but failed on the House Floor 34-32.

•HB 1311 would change legislator salaries from 6,000 dollars a year to one fifth of South Dakota’s median income as defined by the U.S census and would be adjusted by the South Dakota Board of Finance. HB 1311 passed the House State Affairs Committee 10-4 and passed the House Floor 50-16.

•HB 1275 would have required petition gatherers to acquire petitions from a majority of South Dakota’s 35 senate districts.  The senate district in which the signature was gathered would need to be noted on the signature line and without that note the signature would be invalid.  HB 1275 passed the House State Affairs Committee 7-6 but failed on the House Floor 20-45.

SENATE UPDATES

•SB 93 would make knowingly exposing an individual to a sexually transmitted disease a class one misdemeanor.  SB 93 passed Senate Judiciary 6-1 and passed the Senate Floor without opposition.

•SB 182 would have changed statutes regarding rape.  Currently under South Dakota law the prosecution must prove that the defendant knew the victim was underage or incapacitated.  Provisions under 182 would have changed that requirement and lessened the prosecutorial burden to a reasonable person standard.   SB 182 passed Senate Judiciary 4-3 but failed on the Senate Floor 16-18.

•SB 155 would make transportation costs the responsibility of an individual incarcerated in a county jail.  SB 155 would allow for repayment plans not exceeding one year and would also allow a judge to waive the fees if the individual demonstrates an inability to pay.  SB 155 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee 5-2 and passed the Senate Floor after being amended 34-0.

•SB 95 would change South Dakota’s “ingestion” law from a felony to a class one misdemeanor.  SB 95 passed out of Senate Judiciary without recommendation, it was put on the calendar but failed on the Senate Floor 12-22.

•SB 169 was hog housed to allow manufacturers of confectionaries to use small amounts of alcohol in frosting or other stages of baking.  SB 169 came through the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee 6-1 and Passed the Senate Floor 34-1.

•SB 92 prohibits willfully attacking an individual with corrosive materials otherwise known as “acid attacks”.  SB 92 makes the offense a Class 3 Felony.  SB 92 passed through Senate Judiciary 5-1 and will be heard on the Senate Floor Friday.

If you have any questions and/or comments on these bills or any other legislation, please email me at tom.pischke@sdlegislature.gov

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Dan Ahlers Week 6 Update

dan_ahlersGreetings from Pierre. This week, I will provide an update on bills pertaining to the initiated measures, referendums and rural healthcare as well as an update on the Appropriation budget hearings.

HB 1282 would require any ballot question receiving more than $10,000 in out of state contributions to include a disclaimer stating it is paid for in part by out of state interests. At first, this bill seemed reasonable, but it became clear the intent was to single out certain ballot measures. The bill did pass out of the House 49-16 and will be debated in the Senate.

HB 1216 would limit out of state contributions by out of state entities to $100,000. Limits on contributions by PACs and other special interests have been adjudicated numerous times. Each time limits like these have been imposed the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional on the basis that you cannot limit freedom of speech. This bill passed the House by a vote of 42-24. Ironically, the sponsors of this bill have asked an out of state entity to help finance a ballot measure to fix problems with Marcy’s Law. The amount of funding needed for this type of statewide campaign will exceed the $100,000 limit proposed in this bill.

HB 1201 will be require any initiated, referred or constitutional ballot measure to include the name, address and compensation for a petition circulator. Opposition to this bill fears a requirement to include personal information like a petitioner’s address could lead to acts of violence. This bill will be heard on the House floor this week.

Workforce development has been a reoccurring theme this session. This week we will vote SB 31 which reimburses $832,972 to doctors and other healthcare professionals that serve in rural South Dakota communities. The Recruitment Assistance Program is designed to assist rural communities recruit physicians, dentists, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives. Participants must agree to practice in the community for three years. The Rural Healthcare Facility Recruitment Assistance Program is designed to assist hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities retain healthcare professionals. Eligible professions receive an incentive payment of $10,000 upon completion of a three year commitment. Participating facilities are required to pay a portion of the incentive payment based on community size.

In Appropriations, we heard SB 91 which provides funding to establish a state veterans cemetery in Sioux Falls. The land will be donated by Sioux Falls and various veterans organizations have raised $100,000 to put in an endowment to help pay for ongoing costs. The funding request from the state is $600,000 which would be reimbursed by the federal government upon completion of the cemetery. A last minute amendment has threatened to derail the efforts of our veterans. This amendment would require 9.4 million dollars in the endowment before the application process could begin. Currently, South Dakota is in a race for this cemetery with Minnesota. If we do not apply by July 1st, Minnesota will most likely get the cemetery grant and South Dakota would not be eligible due to the proximity of Minnesota’s proposed cemetery location east of Brookings. This amount is more than what would be necessary to annually maintain the cemetery. Annual costs for this cemetery would be $261,000. While the governor has denied this amendment comes from his office, they will not support the bill without this amendment.   Hearings for this bill will continue this week. I encourage readers to voice their support by contacting the governor’s office and emailing members of the appropriations committee.

It will be important to hear from you during session. I would appreciate your input on any issue or concern. You may email me at dan.ahlers@sdlegislature.gov.

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Tom Pischke Week 6 Update

Pischke_2017The South Dakota Legislature concluded its sixth week of session Thursday.  We are finally starting to get caught up with our heavy workload.  2018 has been one of the busiest sessions in recent history with over 500 bills that have been submitted for consideration.  This is among the largest number of bills submitted in over a decade.

HOUSE UPDATES

•HB 1109 would allow inmates who are over the age of 55, have not committed a crime in the first degree, have served ten consecutive years of their sentence, and have a serious medical condition that requires heavy medical supervision to be paroled provided they have a plan for medical care. HB 1109 passed the House Judiciary Committee 10-1 and passed the House Floor 48-17.

•HB 1250 would have raised the legal smoking age in South Dakota from 18 to 21. HB 1250 passed House Health and Human Services 8-4 but died on the House Floor 21-45.

•HB 1268 would change the prefiling date for legislation and would allow legislators to pre-file legislation as early as July. HB 1268 passed House State Affairs 11-1 and passed the House Floor 66-0.

•HB 1199 prohibits collective bargaining by employees of the Board of Regents. HB 1199 passed House State Affairs 8-5 and passed the House Floor 37-28.

•HB 1184 allows for waste disposal lines to be laid along or underneath highways. HB 1184 passed the House Transportation Committee 7-6 and passed the House Floor 45-20.

•HB 1216 would prohibit citizens or entities not from South Dakota or registered with the Secretary of state 4 years prior to the election from donating more than one hundred thousand dollars in the aggregate. HB 1216 passed the House State Affairs Committee 7-6 and passed the House Floor after being reconsidered 36-30.

•HB 1230 would make texting and driving a primary offense. HB 1230 passed the House Judiciary Committee 11-2 and passed the House Floor after being reconsidered 40-26.

•HB 1305 would have allowed Independents to vote in party primaries. However, the bill would have also required the voter to indicate in which primary they would like to vote. HB 1305 passed House State Affairs 10-2 but died on the House Floor 29-37.

SENATE UPDATES

•SB 214 would create an independent commission to set legislator pay. The commission would be set by the executive board and require that no more than 6 members of the same party comprise the board. The commission would examine salaries in other state legislatures and consider a number of factors to determine the appropriate compensation and give this report to LRC each January. SB 214 passed the Senate Committee on Appropriations unanimously and will be heard on the Senate floor next week.

•SB 185 allows for the expungement of criminal charges if an individual avoids going to trail by agreeing to a diversion program. In order to qualify, the individual must finish the diversion program and remain drug free for one year following release from the program. SB 185 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Floor with zero no votes.

•SB 65 changes the criminal penalties regarding drug deliveries. If an individual dies from an illegal substance, whoever sold the substance to the victim is subject to the principle offense being 2 classes higher not exceeding a Class C Felony. SB 65 passed Senate Judiciary 6-0 and passed the Senate Floor 32-3.

•SJR 3 To apply for a convention of states under Article V of the Constitution of the United States to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. SJR 3 passed Senate State Affairs 7-2 but died on the Senate Floor 16-18.

•SB 24 extended the effective date of provisions regarding the recreational use of non-meandered water. SB 24 passed Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources 7-2 and passed the Senate Floor 26-9.

If you have any questions and/or comments on these bills or any other legislation, please email me at tom.pischke@sdlegislature.gov

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2018 SD Legislative Sessions – Dan Ahlers Week 5 Update

dan_ahlersGreetings from Pierre. This week, I will provide an update on three bills I sponsored as well as an update on the Appropriation budget hearings.

HB 1076 will allow townships to use an existing tax levy to support emergency medical services. The bill allows local government the flexibility to use property tax in a way that best serves local needs. Local government could create an ambulance district, but it would require a vote to increase taxes. This bill has passed through the House of Representatives and just passed Senate Taxation 7-0. It will be on the Senate floor on Monday.

HB 1154 will allow cities to extend municipal lease-purchase agreements to 20 years. Currently, these agreements are limited to 10 years. This bill will benefit communities that are considering a community center or similar projects that involve real estate improvement and construction. The lease-purchase agreement has several advantages over bonding. Bonding will have a slightly lower interest rate, but require significant investments in time and money to comply with regulatory debt restrictions. Municipal lease-purchase agreements do not require a bond election, underwriting fees or long term administration of the bond. This bill passed the House 67-0 and moves to the Senate.

Finally, HB 1155 will create an advisory board under the Department of Education to assist with the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. Since the South Dakota School for the Deaf closed its campus, deaf and hard of hearing students have been relocated to their local school districts. Outreach services provided by the School for the Deaf do not involve daily instruction and often do not involve interaction with the student. Due to the natural language barrier, a deaf student often struggles in a typical classroom. A deaf student often becomes isolated when he/she is unable to communicate with peers. The best example to illustrate this situation is to imagine a Spanish speaking student in an English speaking class without anyone to assist in translating classroom instruction. This board will be comprised of professionals, parents and representation from the department of education. The board will create benchmarks for students and resources for schools to assist in the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. The bill aims to reverse the trend of students with this disability graduating at an average 3rd to 4th grade reading level and improve post-secondary success. HB 1155 passed out of House Education 13-1.

In Appropriations, we heard budget requests from the Tech Schools and Department of Education. The department outlined 4 outcome goals: 1) All students enter the 4th grade proficient in reading; 2) All students enter the 9th grade proficient in reading; 3) Native American students will have increased academic success; 4) Students graduate high school ready for postsecondary or the workforce. These goals will be challenged by the governor’s recommendation for a zero inflationary increase to the per student allocation. The governor has also recommended a zero inflationary increase to teacher salary. This recommendation creates a paradox since, in 2016, the legislature passed the ½% percent sales specifically to increase teacher salaries in an attempt to stay competitive with surrounding states. The Appropriations Committee to this point has remained committed to finding additional money for education. We will do revenue projections this week and receive an economic forecast for the next fiscal year.

It will be important to hear from you during session. I would appreciate your input on any issue or concern. You may email me at dan.ahlers@sdlegislature.gov.

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