Week 8

On February 29, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 8 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre.

What a final week! Very busy then slow then busy then slow and finally on Friday it was very crazy!! At least in the Appropriations committee. At the very end of session is when all of the bills that have spending in them are voted on by both houses and the conference committees then have the task of negotiating the differences between the House version and the Senate version. If they can come to an agreement we get to either approve or disapprove of that decision. If we do not agree the bill fails. Once all of the conferences are decided then the general spending bill can begin to plug all those numbers in and also make the amendments we’ve seen necessary after listening to all the agencies budgets. The whole process takes awhile, about 4 hours, and with 71 proposed amendments a lot of changes are made to the general bill. When we finally finished with all the amendments and passed the general bill out of committee it then needed to be printed with all the changes, about 3 hours. The House finally voted on the bill at 10:30pm and we were able to adjourn at about 11:00pm. A very long day.

As things usually go many are not satisfied with the final results. The Highway patrol budget was reduced by $2 Million dollars even though many tried to have the money put back in. The conference committee was not able to find a happy medium and the bill died. The Sec. of Public Safety, Tom Dravland said he can manage with out the money and would probably not spend it if he did receive it, so he got his wish in the end, sort of. State employees did receive an additional ½%, which brought their increase up to 3%, the care providers were also raised for 2.5 to 3% and finally the Education K-12 funding was increased from 2.5 to 3%. The .5% increase to be directed towards enhancing teacher salaries. In order to do these increases it will take almost $5 Million from our reserve accounts. If the economy goes into a long term slow down the money in the reserve accounts will not last very long, as it was we needed to use $11,000,000 to balance this year’s budget. Thank God we had the reserves to use. The Technical Schools received a $3 Million dollar increase for programming and maintenance and repair of their facilities. These 4 schools will be vital for the workforce necessary to tackle the major proposed projects in our near future, such as, Big Stone II, Hyperion Oil Refinery, Oil Pipeline, power plant by Mobridge and the possible building of the D,M & E rail line across the state. They will be working with these companies to develop the programs that will best fit these needs.

The overall budget for fiscal year 2009 will be $3,548,708,486 of that $1,207,785,260 will be General funds, $1,430,724,904 will be Federal funds and the remaining $910,198,322 will be from Other funds. It is a lot of money!! Hopefully we are spending it wisely.

March 17th will be VETO day and our last day of this session. The Governor has 14 days to consider the bills that were passed and if he vetos any of those bill we, the legislature, have an opportunity to override his veto. If there are no vetos then we will take care of the final reports and be done.
It has been my pleasure to serve you, District 4, these past 4 years and I hope you will support me again as the re-election process starts again. If you are not registered now is a good time to do so. Get registered and exercise your right to vote.

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 7

On February 22, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 7 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre.

This week in appropriations we heard the economist’s projections for the revenue that they feel will be available for the 2009 fiscal year. The Bureau of Finance and Management and the Legislative Research Council each made a presentation and then a sub-committee of the joint appropriations met to try and decide which, if either, we will use for the general bill’s projected revenue. I was appointed to sit on that sub-committee and the future is not bleak or doom and gloom, but the revenue stream has slowed and finding extra monies to increase the Governor’s recommended budget will be difficult at best. The final number from the Sub-committee for the revenue number will be revealed on Monday.

The Governor recommended in his budget that for the 2008 budget we would need to use $29,000,000 from the reserves to cover all of our commitments, things such as flooding, wildfires, energy savings loan fund, etc. He also thought we would need to use $5,000,000 to cover our budget for 2009 fiscal year. So now with the revenues slowing a bit we will need to use even more out of the reserves. We will continue our work of looking for things that can be cut or cut back and reviewing the requests still waiting to see if they can be funded. A lot of work to be done yet in our last 5 days.

There will be a lot of debate next week on several bills, some of which include eminent domain, liquor license, education funding, state employee salaries, health provider fees, public safety, well you get the idea. Always a challenge to make everyone happy and often times we do not accomplish that goal. I’m sure this year will be no different.

With the end of session coming soon, the associations have started to become fewer and fewer. Even some of the lobbyists have been able to go home with their work done for the session.

The legislature had a visit this week from the Madison 4th Grade students, they are our little legislators. In their classes they elect all the positions in the House and Senate and actually practice passing bills. They also adopt us and write us letters. Then as a finale to their project they come to Pierre and visit with us and then watch us during session. What a great experience for them and a treat for us. Many school groups have been to Pierre during session, but this is the only one that gets to come on the floor and visit with us.

If you are in Pierre, please look me up, I love to meet with those who make the trip.

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 6

On February 15, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 6 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre.

This week was a very busy and exciting week. All of the bills had to leave their House of origin and be either voted up or down and then sent to the other House for their consideration. It gives all the bills that are still alive about 2 weeks to find their final form and then to find their way to the Governor’s desk for his final consideration. The bills that will see the most changes will be the remaining education bills. I have already received numerous e-mails and comments and I encourage and welcome the feedback. It must be known that a majority of the members must agree before anything becomes law. So a lot of work to be done yet for sure. The 2 education bills would be HB 1124 & SB 187. Please review these bills and relay your feedback as soon as you can. I’ll be interested to see the responses.

Appropriations finished the week by clearing all the House Bills, as I’ve mentioned before, some of the bills had the money removed or reduced to a $1 so the bill could stay alive until we can see the revenue projections, which should be Wednesday or Thursday, and try and determine if and to what extent they can be funded. We started hearing the Senate Bills this Friday and will continue with them next week. We now will decide if the House and Senate agree.

The property tax bills 1005 & 1006 have now passed both houses and are being delivered to the Governor’s desk for his consideration. These bills will change how property tax has been figured and evaluated. The delayed implementation date will allow the calculations to begin and any necessary fixes to be made before it actually take affect.

There will be some very interesting debate coming in the next couple of weeks on issues such as Liquor License, minimum hunting age mentor program, changes to open meeting laws, open records laws, eminent domain laws, etc. You get the idea, lots of fun yet!!

There has been some flu and other bugs floating around the capitol and I managed to catch one. I was able to make all my meetings and votes, but I need to apologize if I missed some visitors this week. I’m feeling better and hope to be in full form again soon. My wife, Paula, did join me in Pierre for Valentine’s Day and also to attend the SD National Guard Dining Out. It is a black tie affair to thank and recognize our servicemen and women for all they’ve done and continue to do for our State and Nation.

If you are in Pierre, please look me up, I love to meet with those who make the trip.

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 5

On February 7, 2008, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 5 of the 2008 session.

Hello again from Pierre. As I report about the activities and legislation of the week I can’t help feeling so blessed. As I check my e-mails and messages I found that Miles and Holli had sent some pictures from their honeymoon. If we accomplish little this session I will always remember that the 2008 session was special for me and mine. Welcome to the family Holli.

This week found the hours in session lengthening and the debate on the floor impassioned. We even had some after hour caucus meetings to address the biggest issues and to try to reach some consensus as to how they can be resolved. With 50 members in our caucus that can be an impossible job. I can assure you we will spend all the money that we have available, hopefully where it’s needed the most.

We have finished listening to all the agencies and departments portions of the general bill and are now concentrating on the individual requests in the form of House Bills. We will need to make all our decisions by Tuesday at the very latest if we don’t amend the bill. Wednesday is cross over day, this when all the House bills must be out of the House and all the Senate bills need to be out of the Senate.

As we continue to look for ways to fund the special requests we will, in order to give us more time, amend the dollar amounts requested to as little as a dollar. This allows us to meet cross over deadlines and ensure that the bill will not be killed. The Senate will then amend the money back into the bill, if it can be found. Then the House will need to agree with the changes before it can be sent to the Governor. Several bills that were approved with the $1 amendment were the Technical School bills, 5 bills in total.

Other bills that came through appropriations included funding for the State Fair and the annual Omnibus Water bill. The water bill funds the special projects such as Lewis & Clark Pipe Line, Southern Black Hills Water System, etc. Although deadlines are approaching it doesn’t mean the final decisions have been made on the bills still alive. So please continue to follow the bills of interest to you and let us know which ones they are, we can still influence some of the results.

Some of the groups that visited the Capitol this week included SD Physical Therapists, SD Voices for Children, SD Nurses, SD Veterans of Foreign Wars, AFL-CIO, SD Municipal League and other individual city and civic groups. Also this week some legislators had shadows. The shadows were part of the CTSO’s in our high schools. They included FBLA, FFA, DECA, PAS, PBL, FCCLA, & SkillsUSA. I had 2 shadows Mary Remily of Doland and Ethan Remily of Aberdeen. They are 1st cousins and Ethan is also my Nephew. It was great to have them as shadows, I hope they enjoyed their day at the Legislature, I sure did.

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