Week 4 of the Legislative Session

On February 4, 2011, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Hello again from Pierre.

As the days slip by and the work loads increase I can feel the tension and anxiousness increase throughout all of State Government. Many are still trying to find support for the legislation they are carrying, trying to persuade others that their view or idea is worth supporting.

In State Affairs committee this week we had a number of bills that were offered that would try and change the way our legislative districts were established and who made up the committee to decide the districts. This is the year that the legislative districts need to be redrawn, with the new census completed and the population shifts accounted for, the districts need to be redrawn so the population in each district is as equal as possible. This process will take place over the summer and a final plan will be presented to the legislature in October. The bills that were brought to change the way that process has been done in South Dakota all failed, most on a party line vote.

We also had some bills to restrict who people can make campaign contributions to and to restrict where people could hold fundraisers, also a couple of bills that would have changed how the general appropriations bill is handled and what amount of money could be spent, all attempts, in my opinion, to be political in nature and all these bills failed.

In Local Government we heard bills that would change how some appointments are made, mostly clarifying language. The Secretary of State also had a bill to establish the date in which absentee voting could begin. It seems that it was not uniform throughout the state, this bill will make it uniform. The most significant legislation that passed out of committee was a change on how contracts can be awarded when there is no competitive bids and the local contractor is a member of the governing body. I think this change will allow for more rural areas to keep business local and use the businesses in their community to provide the services necessary.

This last weekend, Gary and Estelline, held cracker barrels for the local legislators. The focus in the meetings continues to be around concern for the budget and the affect it would or could have on area schools and area care providers. It is nice to see so many citizens attend the events. It is unfortunate that it takes a financial crisis to inspire them to come. Many in attendance feel that raising taxes is the way to fix the problem, it would certainly provide more revenue for the State to spend, however, a tax increase would require a 2/3rds majority vote and at the present time, those votes do not exist. We are continuing to search for ways to balance the state’s budget in a way that will create the least amount of hardship. I continue to ask you to send your ideas to me as we work through this crisis.

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 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

 

On January 24, 2009, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

Week 2 of the 2009 Session

 

As week 2 comes to an end I cannot say that it was better than week 1.  On Thursday the Governor gave us the updated budget.  It was very hard to see all of the cuts that are necessary to balance the budget.  The job ahead of us will be very difficult and painful.

 

With all the cuts proposed and fee increases presented I’m sure the e-mails and phone calls will be overwhelming.  We will continue to look everywhere we can to find new revenue or other areas to cut.  The Governor has presented a balanced budget so if we do not agree with a cut we must find a different cut or a new source of money to keep the budget in balance.  The same is true with the fee increases.  If we do not agree with a proposed increase we will then need to find another cut to keep the budget in balance.  As every area is affected every person will have a good but different reason why their portion of the budget should not be cut.  With the amount of cuts needed to balance the budget, $130 Million in total, I think everyone will feel the pain.  A new tax will be the last thing I look at to balance the budget.  The tax that we have available is a sales tax and that will hurt the low income the most, I’m not ready to do that.

 

The committee work this week was fairly slow, with only a few bills to be heard in most committees.  My 2 committees, State Affairs and Local Government, each had a day off this week because the bills are just not turned in yet.  I think most people were waiting to see what the new budget would bring before they commit to proposing new laws.  I have heard that over 500 drafts were being done, so we could end up with a very busy remainder of the session.

 

My Speaker Pro Tempore duties have been filling the slow time.  I find myself with meetings daily with leadership of both the House and Senate Majorities and also with the Governor and his staff.  My office has also had many Legislators and Lobbyists stopping by to ask questions or trying to find support on different legislation that is being considered.  The Speaker and I meet often during the day and at times I feel like his shadow as he has me follow and learn the job, it will be a great experience and an awesome responsibility.  On Wednesday the Speaker actually gave the gavel to me to run the house for 4 bills.  I was surprised at how nervous I was.  For my first time it didn’t go too bad but I’m sure practice will make better.  The Speakers platform is by far the best view in the House.

 

Please send me your concerns about the budget and individual legislation that you are following and thank you to all the visitors who have been to Pierre, always great to see faces from home.

 

God Bless,  Val Rausch