Legislative Highlights 1-30-13

Posted January 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm


Legislative Highlights

Jim White.jpeg

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As we move into week three of this year’s legislative session, traffic is definitely picking up. I have sponsored two bills for consideration. SD159 is our E.S.L. bill that addresses costs associated with educating students of our South Dakota schools who can’t speak English. Our Huron School System and our District 22 Legislators have worked very hard to address this issue.

SB158 is a parent-placement bill that is a result of a summer study that I attended. This bill establishes guidelines for the placement of a child in a residential treatment center and addresses the financial basis of that child’s expenses.

This week our Appropriation Committee will hear two bills that have Huron connections:

SB18 is an act to authorize the Department of Agriculture to construct a 4-H exhibit hall in Huron and to make an appropriation therefore. The Department of Agriculture may contract for the construction, completion, furnishing, equipping, and maintaining of, including heating, plumbing, water, sewer, electric facilities, architectural and engineering services, and such other services or actions as may be required to construct a 4-H exhibit hall facility, to be located on the State Fair grounds or in the immediate vicinity, in Huron, South Dakota.

SB19 is an act to authorize the Department of Agriculture to construct a housing unit in Huron, to make an appropriation therefore, and to declare an emergency. The Department of Agriculture may contract for the construction, completion, furnishing, equipping, and maintaining of, including heating, plumbing, water, sewer, electric facilities, architectural and engineering services, and such other services or actions as may be required to construct a housing unit, to be located on the State Fair grounds or in the immediate vicinity, in Huron, South Dakota.

Thank you for the opportunity to be your District 22 Senator. You can continue to reach me at 350-5127 or sen.white@state.sd.us.

The final deadline for introducing bills at the 88th Session of the South Dakota Legislature is Monday, January 28th. Each year that I’ve served in the Legislature I sponsor a number of constituent bills as well as some bills to improve our South Dakota governmental system. My first two bills- HB1144 and HB1145- will be addressed in the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday, January 29th. HB1144 permits the euthanization of deer that have been seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents and HB1145 provides that road-killed animals are in the public domain and provides the means of possession for these animals. All my bills can be tracked at the South Dakota State Government website. Click on the Legislative Research Council and request a bill number or my name.

The bill that received the most media attention this week involved guns in our schools or HB 1087-an Act to authorize individual school boards to create, establish and supervise individual school sentinel programs to promote school safety. South Dakota educators are solidly against allowing armed civilians into our schools. Supporters of the bill say school boards should have the option of employing so-called sentinels to protect schools against attack. However, the bill’s sponsors claim this legislation is about local control. They don’t expect many school boards to participate, but said armed educators or volunteers could keep our children safe in towns without access to armed school resource officers.

The lobbyist for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota firmly testified against this bill stating that allowing more firearms in schools would actually make them unsafe. He said the question is: “Is it acceptable to allow teachers and administrators to carry guns in schools?” He further stated that this decision is so important that it needs to be made at the state level. Unfortunately, HB1087 passed in the House Education Committee on Friday with a 7-6 vote, so it will now be debated on the House Floor.

Another bill that passed on the House Floor on Friday was HB1091 specifying that 85-octane gasoline may be legally sold in Butte, Custer, Fall River, Harding, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins and Shannon counties. This law, if passed by the full Legislature, would replace administrative rules from last year allowing the sale of 85-octane in those counties. The legislation keeps a requirement that retailers must post a warning label above the 85-octane pumps urging drivers to check their owner’s manuals to determine which fuel to use. (Remember I stated in earlier columns on this subject that your vehicle manual requires –not recommends- 87 or higher octane.) This issue arose last year when state officials discovered that 85-octane gasoline was being sold at East River stations using bogus 87 octane stickers.

I opposed HB1091 because I attended hearings where representatives of the major vehicle manufacturers emphasized that 85-octane gasoline could cause significant damage to modern vehicle engines. In addition, there is nowhere in our state that has an altitude high enough to properly burn 85-octane gasoline. Supporting HB1091 and allowing the sale of 85-octane in our state is a dangerous compromise for South Dakota consumers.

The biggest decisions we must still face as Legislators this Session are the following issues: whether or not to expand Medicaid for an estimated 48,000 uninsured South Dakotans, a sound and workable economic development plan and an increase in the funding formula for K-12 education. This week it was fun having breakfast with the F.F.A. youth from District 22, sharing lunch with the De Smet newspaper personnel, and visiting with our credit union representatives.

Thank you for paying attention to the happenings at your South Dakota State Capitol. Please feel free to contact me at (605) 352-9862 or peggygibson@hotmail.com.

This week in the Joint Appropriations Committee, of which Sen. Jim White and I serve on, we heard from the Department of Education. The largest single funding item of the Governor’s fiscal 2014 budget for the state of South Dakota’s budget is K-12 funding at 31.4% of the total budget. The current per student allocation, commonly known as PSA, is $4,490.92 per student. In the Governor’s 2014 budget request, he is providing for a 3% raise in the PSA to $4,625.65. However, when factoring out the one time funding that was provided to the school districts in the 2013 budget, the actual net increase is 2.3%. Funding for the state’s 151 school districts is based off the fall of 2012 enrollment count. Enrollment for the fall of 2012 for the K-12 in the state of South Dakota was 127,171 compared to the prior year of 124,772 for an increase of 2,399 students compared to a 1,216 student increase state wide the year before. School and state budget years are July 1 to June 30 and the legislature is currently working on the 2014 budget which is July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014.

In the four and a half hour presentation by the Department of Education we received great detail of the various programs and departments, etc. It also included detailed information about every school district in the state. I’d like to share just a few of these facts about school districts located in Beadle and Kingsbury Counties that I thought might be of interest to the readers. I realize there are other school districts that are taxing real estate in the two counties, but I am just focusing on districts that affect communities located in the counties. I will provide you each district’s fall of 2012 count and the current year opt-out information. The current number of school districts in the state that have selected the opt-out option is 66. The highest number of school districts ever selecting the opt-out was in 2007 at 76. School consolidation has affected this reduction as there are 17 fewer school districts than in 2007. One of the other main sources that can be used in the general fund is the small school factor. All school districts listed below except Huron, receive a small school factor which can add up to an additional 20% of the PSA for a maximum of $847.54 per student. (Huron is not eligible to receive any of the additional allocation for the small school factor, due to its enrollment size). A key possible funding bill to watch will be Senate Bill #159, which is the funding for the English as a Second Language (ESL). This bill has bi-partisan support as Sen. White, Rep. Gibson and I have signed on as sponsors. Three of the listed school districts would be affected as well as being a major general funding source for Huron School District.

A child needs to “learn to read” by third grade so that they can “read to learn” the rest of their life.

Thank you for your interest in state government and allowing me to represent you. You can contact me at 350-1371 or at my personal email at dickwerner_5@hotmail.com or my legislative email at Rep.Werner@state.us.sd.

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