Week 9

On March 7, 2007, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Final Report,

Hello again,

This will be my final report for the year. Session is officially over and now I get to return to my office and try to find my desk under the mountain of paper work that has accumulated over the last 2 months.

On Monday the 26th was what we call VETO day. We gather for the last day of session to decide if we want to override or uphold the Govenor’s vetoed bills. This year there were 5 bills the Governor vetoed and all of his vetoes were upheld.

Those 5 bills were, booster seat law changes, changes in Brand Board, funding for Conservation districts, new governance for the Tech schools, and tax exemption for nurseries and greenhouses. But they failed.

The conservation districts funding will be increased, but through a different fund, not the unclaimed motor fuel tax refunds. Hopefully it will be a more permanent source for the conservation districts. The other 4 bills will have to try again next year.

Other accomplishments in this years session include. Giving more protection to the elderly who are abused, created a task force to find a solution for health care for all South Dakotans, created new sobriety programs, created new Meth treatment programs, covered tuition reimbursements for health care professionals, appropriated $800,000 for special tax refunds for elderly, clarified end of life health care decisions, reimbursed funding for wildfire protection, increased the state’s minimum wage to match the Federal Law when passed, appropriated $15 Million plus for water and waste related projects, revised authorization of the Public Utility Commission to regulate electric rates, raised the State’s cost share of the Lewis & Clark Rural water project to $19 Million, authorized $12 Million for upgrades and additions in Custer State Park, appropriated $750,000 for the SD State Fair, funded drought tolerance biotechnology research, approved 3 new Ph. D. programs, authorized securing a dedicated internet line for research and use for high speed data transfers, funded the opportunity scholarships, increased funding to the Technical Institutes, extended the veterans’ bonus program, extended deadlines for abatement or refund of property taxes to military personnel, changed campaign finance laws, created a teacher compensation program for teacher pay ($4 M), funded the short fall of the Education Service Agencies ($1.7 M), appropriated $1.4 M for K-12 technology, appropriated $1.5 M for career/technical education, increased state aid to general education by $23.6 M, increased state aid for special education by $594,809.

This is a long list, but it is only a portion of all the things addressed this session. It was an honor to represent all of you again and I encourage you to contact me for any of your concerns that I may help with.

Until next year God Bless and please be safe, Rep. Val Rausch 1-605-880-5015

 

Week 8

On March 2, 2007, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 8,

Hello again from snowy Pierre,

Well this is a first for me, getting snowed in for the weekend. My Wife and daughters think I did this on purpose because of course, they have to move the snow. I did have extra gas for the snow blower, so I’m not totally in the dog house. I hope everyone was able to find a safe haven for the storm. What an event.

I did have an opportunity to take a look at the new emergency strategy room in action. What an impressive place. It is in the new DCI building that houses our training center for law enforcement, the Attorney General and his staff, and the State Lab. We have had tours of the facility before, but it is nice to see it in operation.

This week has been extremely hectic. It is 6:00pm Friday and we are just finishing for the day. All the bills have been voted on and have passed, failed, or are in conference committees trying to solve the differences the House and Senate have. All the bills except the budget. Now that were in Pierre for the weekend we’ll be working tomorrow trying to get all the numbers crunched so we can here the General Bill Monday on the Floor.

We will need to get the Education bills from the conference committee with the final recommendations for education spending completed and then the picture will be complete. It is still a work in progress with all parts agreed in theory, so just the final numbers will be hashed out. By the time you read this letter it will already be in the papers, so I won’t revisit them here.

The bill that would have changed the way property is valued in the state had a 1 1/2 hour floor debate and in the end it was defeated with a 30 to 40 vote. Next year will be another opportunity to try and deal with 150% rule and non-ag z.

The weather did not stop our Wednesday night House/Senate Basketball game. It is the final event of Kids Voting Week and their fund raiser. It is a lot of fun and probably the funniest sight most people see all year. Out of shape legislators, interns, pages and constitutional officers trying to play a game we couldn’t play when we were in shape. Quite a sight I’m sure. The fundraiser raised about $16,000, so it was very successful. My only regret was my daughter Brenna’s 8th grade class was not able to get to Pierre to present their project for the competition held as part of the activities for Kids Voting. It would have been nice to have them visit the capitol and watch the House beat the Senate.

I will try to get a final article in for next week and recap the year. A lot happens in 40 days and it is amazing how fast the time goes. I appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to represent your interests in Pierre and I hope I have not let you down.

Until next week God Bless and please be safe, Rep. Val Rausch 1-605-880-5015