Week 3

On January 25, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 3 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre. It is hard to believe that another week has passed, but with the 4 day work week it probably should be expected. I hope the High School Juniors were able to read the articles that my daughter Molly wrote reflecting on her experience as a page. Hopefully it will inspire them to join us and enjoy an experience of their own.

This week the Appropriations committee continued our work of inviting the agencies and departments to the hearings to present and defend their portions of the general budget. The departments included the Board of Regents (8 hours of testimony) and the department of Human Services (4 hours of testimony) and then on Friday we had individual bill hearings for the House Appropriations committee. Most of the bills that we heard had to do with money that comes from either special funds or gifts, so will not affect the general fund dollars needed to run needed items in the state.

In session this week the activity has picked up and the number of bills that we voted on has increased. Many of the bills are still task force bills or agency bills trying to make changes in current laws that they feel would be better or a fix to arising concerns.

We heard from our Investment Council about the status of our Health Care Trust Fund and the Education Enhancement Trust Fund. The funds are healthy and continue to provide us with a good return to use as revenue for the state. The council also warned that we need to be careful not to spend more than absolutely necessary so the funds can keep pace with inflation and maintain it’s purchasing power. The desire to spend those funds is very real, but keeping them healthy and strong is the best for the long term health of the state. Not all agree with this and so we debate it every year.

We also got information on the property taxes and a couple of proposed changes and how they would affect the residents of our state. The meeting lasted about an hour and no specific bill was talked about, but the information was appreciated and hopefully will help us make informed decisions on the property tax bills that will be voted on this year.

Visiting the capitol this week included the Towns and Townships Association, County Commissioners and Officials, SD A.B.A.T.E., SD Newspaper Ass., SD Healthcare Ass., Community Health Care, Community Mental Health, just to name some of them. It is great to have the calls and notes to let me know when people from Dist 4 are here. It is great to see and visit with you, thank you for your efforts.

I need to keep this short because I’m off to my son, Miles, wedding. A great way to spend a weekend, welcoming another Daughter, Holli, into my family.

As always please contact me with any of your legislative concerns at 605-880-5015 or valrausch@hotmail.com or rep.rausch@state.sd.us Thank you and God Bless, Val


Week 2

On January 17, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 2 2008 Session

Hello again from Pierre, I will have Molly finish her report and get it to the paper as soon as possible. We are in the short session and with a 4 day work week, we have Friday off this week, so Molly had to go to school, so her final week’s report will be soon to follow.
The pages really had a great time and especially for me a very proud week!

The Appropriations committee met for an additional 22 hours this week, we continue to listen to the Departments defend their portion of the Governor’s budget. The departments that appeared in front of us this week included the Public Utilities Commission, Bureau of Finance and Management, Dept. of Tourism and State Development, State Treasure, State Auditor, Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Revenue and Regulation, South Dakota Retirement System, Secretary of State, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources, Dept. of Public Safety and the Dept. of Agriculture.

When the Dept of Public Safety was testifying we had a chance to hear how the Highway Patrol will be handling their proposed $2,000,000 cut. Many were concerned that their response and ability to patrol would be hurt or slowed. They assured us that the public safety will in no way be put in jeopardy. Their plan would mainly include controlling overtime and delaying or extending their car replacement schedules. Col. Mostellar assured the committee that, although the cuts were unwelcome, the services the public has depended on would be able to be met.

The Dept of Agriculture was happy to inform the committee that the State Fair has had a good year, exceeding their projected revenue. They were able to use the excess dollars to do some very necessary repairs and improvements to some of the buildings located on the fair grounds. The Governor has included the State Fair state money in the regular budget. Normally it has been issued through a special bill that goes through the legislature. I believe the Appropriations committee will insist we continue to give the state fairs’ money in the same fashion and remove it from the general bill and offer a separate bill to accomplish the same results. Sec. Even also said they will be hiring a new fair manager soon.

With the slow down in the State’s revenue most of the budgets are very similar to last year with only the necessary changes being proposed. It will be interesting to see if the rest of the Agencies and Departments carry on with the same trend.

The 4 day work week is having an effect on the committees that normally meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There seems to be a larger number of bills this year and with those committees losing one day every week they have started hearing bills as early as 6:30am. Serving on appropriations leaves me little sympathy for these committees, but it is nice to have the extra company in the early hours at the capitol.

With the shortened session the last bills to be entered will be submitted Wednesday, at that point we will know which bills need to watched and either passed or killed. As always please contact me as soon as you hear of a bill that affects you and I will help you get the answers to your concerns. The voting next week will start being on major issues so please keep yourself informed. You can track bills on the internet at legis.state.sd.us/session/2008/ or call me at 605-880-5015 or email me at rep.rausch@state.sd.us. Thank you again for all your support. God Bless


Week 1

On January 11, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 1 of the 2008 session.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year already since my last report, but session has started and things are getting moving at a fast pace. This session is the short session (35days) and it really pushes legislation to be handed in early and really gets the committee going quickly. Appropriations had already listened to 16 hours of testimony consisting of 7 agencies or departments. But instead of boring you with those details I thought it would be interesting to get a unique perspective on the session, so I asked my daughter Molly, who is my page, to share her experience with you. Hopefully it will be interesting and also encourage other students to consider the page program in future years.

For the first two weeks of session, I, Molly Rausch, am a page for my father, Val Rausch. I have been busy the whole week. From taking phone messages to making appointments, I have had plenty to do.

The legislative session started on Tuesday, January 8th, but the pages were hard at work two days before session began. We had to report on Sunday at 3:00pm. Here we met our page advisor, Val Melmer, and got a tour of the capital. It was a short meeting but very productive.

Monday was our first official day of work. There were still no legislators around, but we were busy all day dumping bill books and getting the capital ready for session on Tuesday. We learned what we were in charge of and got a better understanding of what was expected of us.

The rest of the week was full of activity. Every page is assigned six or seven representatives. We are in charge of getting all their paper work ready for them and getting their mail. If they have a special task for us, we complete it.

What’s a typically day for a page? Well, our mornings are pretty low key. We have to report to the Page Advisor office in the capital by 7:30 every morning. The first thing we do is hand out the daily calendar. Once that is finished, some report to committee meetings and others report to phone duty. I have worked both. In the house, there are two pages working the phones. Because there aren’t a lot of phone calls, we take turns running around and helping our legislators. We take shifts for lunch. The first group eats at around 11:00 and the rest eat at noon. We are allowed to eat where ever we like. For those who want to eat at a restaurant, Pierre offers a large variety of food. For those who want to stay at the capital, there is a little café in the basement of the capital.

After lunch is when we really get busy. During session, the pages are in charge of a row, if any one in our row waves at us, we attend to them. This year has been really neat. Usually they ask us to get them coffee or get a copy of a bill, but this year they are giving us more complicated missions. They are relying on us more, which really makes you feel significant. In the past, they have had the interns do jobs like making appointments and summarizing court cases, but they have been asking more and more pages to do these kinds of jobs. Our Advisor is really impressed with how fast we are catching on and how many compliments the legislators are giving her. She said that they are giving us really difficult jobs, but they are impressed with how well we are doing them.

After session, we wrap up the day by finishing up phones and getting the calendars all laid out for tomorrow. We are usually out of there an hour after session adjourns, but if there are meetings we are in charge of sitting in on them. This week appropriations have met after caucus so we have gotten out of here at about five every day.

I am enjoying my time out here so much. It is an amazing experience. I not only get to see hands on how my government is run, but I also get so see why my dad loves it out here so much. Everyone is really nice, and if we have a question they are more than willing to answer it for us. Being out here is kind of addicting. The energy of government is fascinating. Time is flying out here in Pierre, and I am enjoying every minute of it!

As always please contact me with any of your legislative concerns at 605-880-5015 or valrausch@hotmail.com or rep.rausch@state.sd.us Thank you and God Bless, Val