2009 week 1

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

Week 1 of the 2009 Legislative Session

 

What a week.  The first day of session starts with the Oath of Office for the entire Legislature, then the elections of the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro Tempore and the Chief Clerk of the House.  All of the appointments of the staff, interns and pages all follow and then the arrival of the Governor and the State of the State address.   Normally I see these events as formality as we ready for the work at hand, but this year was a little different, I was elected as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the House.  What an honor.  I will now be working with the Speaker and must be ready to take over if the Speaker needs to be absent for any reason.  It is really a speaker in training position and in 2 years, if re-elected, I will be Speaker of the House.  Still hard to believe.

 

The Governor’s State of the State address was hard to hear this year.  The Economy was the main topic and we all know what that has been doing nationally.  We found out that the State, although not as bad, is in tougher financial shape than we thought when the Governor gave us the budget in Dec.  Enough has changed since then that the Governor took back his proposed budget and is redoing it.  He will give us the new budget on Thursday of this week.  The Governor is warning us that it will be a much tighter budget than originally proposed.  He has already indicated that fees and exemptions will be very strongly considered for adjustments and increases.  We must wait until Thursday and then the Governors recommendations will be fully known.

 

With my new role in the House I have also received new committee assignments.  Because of the extra demands of the Speaker Pro Tempore serving on appropriations was no longer possible.  The Speaker has appointed me to House State Affairs and House Local Governments.  I will be the Vice Chair of House Local Governments.  The change in committees will also be a new experience, but one that I look forward to.  The State Affairs Committee will handle the most important or most controversial bills because this committee is made up of the Leadership of both the Majority and Minority parties.  The Committee for Local Governments will handle just that, local government issues.  With my experience as Mayor of Big Stone City for 6 years, I felt that I would understand many of the issues that will come before this committee and I look forward to those challenges as well.

 

As this session gets underway I again want to encourage your participation in the legislative process.  Please let me know if you have concerns with certain bills and let me know what they are and which bill #’s they have so I can track them and respond to your concerns.  We will be struggling with the budget and I’m sure that will take most of the press, but many other issues will surface.  Things such as a smoking ban, property tax reform, sales tax, license fees for cars and drivers, gas tax, ethanol, wheel tax, school funding, and many others.  So please contact me with your concerns at the earliest possible opportunity.  Again my contact info is rep.rausch@state.sd.us or valrausch@hotmail.com.   Or call and leave a message at 605-880-5015. 

 

Thank you again for the privilege of representing you in Pierre.  I never see it as anything less than a great honor.    Sincerely,  Rep. Val Rausch

 

Session has started!

On January 21, 2009, in Letters from Val, by Valentine Rausch

starting my new role in the legislature is very interesting.  I’m now serving on State Affairs and Local Government because of my election to Speaker Pro Temore.  We face a very difficult financial challenge and will be working to balance our budget.

 

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