Week 3 of the Legislative Session

On January 28, 2011, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Hello again from Pierre.

Week 3 was a very difficult week for me. I was the unfortunate victim of the flu. Not very much fun, if you have not received a flu shot you may want to think about it. I was able to make it to the Speakers Podium and committees, but I looked like I should have been in recovery.

As the session continues the bill count continues to climb, 250 bills will probably be the number we finish with for the House this session. Our average would be over 300, so not too bad, but a busy finish to the rest of the session. Several of these bills are, what we call, place holders or vehicle bills, designed to allow us to follow the rules but have a way to work on the final wording for the bill, without having to suspend the rules to do so.

As the session starts to take shape it is obvious that the discussion will center around the budget. The Governor’s budget is still the working document we are using to move through the legislative process. The Appropriations committee continues to look through the agency budgets in hopes of finding a few additional cuts that will help us balance the State’s budget. It will be a few weeks yet before we will be able identify just exactly what will be needed in cuts or in increased revenues to make the budget work. With the Governor promising to veto any tax increases it puts a lot more pressure on us because our options now require a 2/3 majority support or consensus on making the cuts, two tough choices.

In committee this week we heard a variety of bills, some in Local Government included changing requirements to be eligible to qualify as a voter in a water district, to provide deadlines for Auditors to file election results, to change requirements for Auditors to help find abandoned mobile homes in the county and finally to kill a bill that would let the state set salaries for the county commissioners.

The committee on State Affairs heard bills dealing with employers being forces to allow employees to respond to emergencies while they are at work, a bill requiring the State to approve all purchases of land by the Game, Fish and Parks over a certain acreage and also a bill requiring land purchases to be approved by the State Senate, none of these ideas passed. The biggest bill we addressed would have been the constitutionalilty of the Federal Health Care Bill to force the residence of the State to purchase insurance. The bill would have nullified the federal law. This idea, although very popular, was not supported, for several reasons. The main reasons were that we are already in a lawsuit with the federal government so no need for this bill and there was no place in code to put this bill, with no instructions for as to who would enforce the law and to whom it would be enforced against. In the end it was defeated 13-0.

I did attend the cracker barrel in Clear Lake this weekend and the conversation centered around the budget and the crisis that a 10 percent cut would do to the Deuel School system. Several suggestions were offered as to how to resolve the lack of revenue for the state. All of the suggestions to increase revenue would require a 2/3 vote and that task will be very tough to accomplish. We will continue to work on finding common ground that will lighten the burden for schools and providers and still allow us to balance our budget. Thank you to all who participated and offered suggestions to help solve our States problems.

Again my contact info is rep.rausch@state.sd.us or valrausch@hotmail.com. Or call and leave a message at 605-880-5015.

Sincerely, Speaker Val Rausch


Week 2 of the Legislative Session

On January 22, 2011, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Hello again from Pierre.

Well this week was very anticipated and then extremely sobering. Tuesday Governor Daugaard presented his budget address to the Legislature and the State, it was both very well delivered and informational, to levels we usually do not receive. I thought he did a very good job in illustrating the challenges we have before us. Now the tough job comes in deciding if he is totally correct or if other options can get to the same end, a balanced budget.

The Governor laid out a plan that would require a 10% cut to almost all corners of the State’s general funded budgets. He proposed a 10% cut to the Education system, the providers reimbursements, the Judiciary, the Governor’s office will offer up more than 10%, all constitutional offices, the Legislature, etc., all of the budget! He said the only way to do it right is for all of us to share in the pain and work through this tough time together.

With Education making up 47% of the budget, taking care of people using 37%, protecting people making up 12% and all the rest of state government being only 4% of the budget it will be impossible to balance, if the revenue can not be increased, without cutting some from all these areas, 10% as proposed from the Governor.

Raising taxes seems like an easy way to take care of the revenue problem, however, the Governor has said no new taxes. The election just 2 months ago seemed also to support cutting rather than raising taxes and just this week I heard the Minority Leader saying the Democrats are not for raising taxes either and with a 2/3 majority vote needed to pass any tax increase our options are limited.

We will continue to look for ways to support the schools and the providers, but it will be very difficult, at best, to prevent cuts from happening. We will also look to ease restrictions and barriers that would allow the schools more flexibility in using the funds they have in reserves. It will be very challenging to find any relief from pain.

The amount of bills, this year, has been very low, but the amount of activity at the end of the week was brisk, so I think the bill load will climb quickly as the this week unfolds.

The visitors continue to come and see the capital and invite us to their functions. This week we had the Tourism Banquet, which was well attended. We also had Specialty Hospitals, ALEC, Brookings Day, Beer Wholesalers, and many smaller groups that also have smaller receptions. Always good to see the faces from back home.

Again my contact info is rep.rausch@state.sd.us or valrausch@hotmail.com. Or call and leave a message at 605-880-5015.

Sincerely, Speaker Val Rausch