We are currently in week four of the legislative session and the debate continues to rise. I was beginning to think that this session may only see a kumbaya of representatives as the bills passed in the first few weeks went smoother than years past. But this week broke the House of Representatives smooth ride with debate over House Bills 1113 and 1087.
The House of Representatives saw House Bill 1113 January 29, which is an act to expand the definition of teleconference to include certain meetings conducted through electronic text colloquy and to require the retention of certain records of text colloquy meetings for public inspection. In other words, the bill’s main intention is to make government more transparent by defining public meetings as any official business discussed through means of text, email, chat services, and other similar media. However, this definition seemed much too grey for half of the voting body as roll was called. The bill was voted on with 35 yeas and 34 nays. However, one representative was not present during the vote and the intent to reconsider was passed and the bill moved to Wednesday, Jan. 30. Although there was still one Representative missing, someone had a change of opinion and the final vote was in opposition to HB 1113 concluding with 34 yeas 35 nays.
Those who voted against HB 1113 explained that it prohibits official business from being done and is a violation of privacy. Discussed further was how HB 1113 does not give concrete evidence on who would be viewing the text messages and how that person would decide what is considered to be official business and what was not.
Those in favor of HB 1113 rendered it to be a positive role in the progression of technology, keeping government open and fair. Representative Hunhoff (D – Yankton) stated that a bill similar to this was passed 10 years ago allowing for wired offices, and explained that today we must take similar actions as times are changing.
House Bill 1087, which would allow sentinels in schools, hit the floor running last week and finally made it to the House floor January 29 where an amendment to the bill hoped to sway voters in the right direction. After the close call of 7 yeas 6 nays in committee on Education January 25, the new amendment passed 42 yeas 27 nays.
Less controversial was Senate Bill 70, which is an act to provide public safety through implementation of drug and alcohol rehabilitation courts throughout South Dakota, passing 63-7.
As always your input and concerns are appreciated. I can be contacted by phone @ 605-769-1017 (please leave a message if you do not get me). I can also be contacted by email at either my personal justinRcronin@gmail.com or my state Rep.Cronin@state.sd.us . Traditional mail may be sent to PO Box 42 Gettysburg SD 57442.
Week four in the legislature found two interesting bills I will expound on today here. The first was SB 70, which will decrease incarceration of non-violent people who have had problems with drugs and alcohol by keeping them in drug and alcohol court increasing the likelihood they become cleankeeping them at home and working and taking care of their families. The way the recovery courts work is a person who has broken laws dealing with ingestion of narcotics or drunk driving and are close to being sent to prison get a deal from the Unified Judicial System. That deal forces them to come to class with others who are in the same boat and those who have successfully broken their addiction and are making something of their life.
Getting tested daily is part of the deal and if they follow all the rules they may in fact have up to half of their probationary time taken off. What we are facing if we do nothing is a near doubling of inmates in the next 10 to 15 years requiring the building of two new prisons costing hundreds of millions to build and maintain. We believe that this plan, which has worked very well in other states will in fact help families and taxpayers in South Dakota maintain a focus on family, sobriety, and conservative taxpayer responsibility.
The other bill of noticeable importance I will share some thoughts on is HB 1156. This bill will if passed place the responsibility of managing migratory waterfowl back in the Game Fish and Parks biological responsibility instead of being a political football we fight over every year. The bill takes the authority of setting license numbers away from legislative scrutiny and places it back onto the wildlife biologists within the GF&P ultimately seeing that commission vote on proper numbers.
One note of importance is the only wildlife hunting statute we in the legislature place numbers on for statewide distribution is that of migratory birds. All others are governed by the Game Fish and Parks biologists. In fact if the GF&P commission does not vote to change their rules nothing will happen or change as we have in place the current number lottery system and they would need to amend or change those rules within the commission first for a change to take place. I don’t know one certified wildlife biologist in the legislature, yet we have in the past tried acting and voting as if we were.
More coming from this bill, as it is being heard this week.
The pace of the legislative session has definitely picked up. There was also a minor record set as the senate managed to introduce 240 bills this session… more than any of the five years that I have served. Perhaps the silver lining in that “record” is that a number of the bills actually seek to repeal or eliminate laws that are currently on the books.
One of the bills heard in the Senate State Affairs committee was SB 117. This is an effort to streamline the professional licensing process for the spouses of our active duty military. While it is important to have safeguards in place for many of these professionals, the licensing process can sometimes take months to accomplish. This has caused undue hardship on many of our military families, as often the spouse must also be employed in order to make ends meet. This bill will expedite that process across many professions. The bill will go before the full senate this week and then move on to its house committee if successful.
Another bill that could impact this region was SB 118. This bill was a recommendation of the Governor’s Primary Care Taskforce, which I served on this past summer. The goal was to find a way to encourage more health care professionals to serve in rural areas. One of the recommendations was to revamp our state’s licensing procedures to allow resident medical students to serve on-call at local emergency rooms. Every other state in the country has already made that change. Without making this adjustment we have been losing a number of our promising new doctors to neighboring states as these residents establish a connection with these out-of-state facilities on the weekends and may ultimately take employment with them.
On a different note, I would like to take a moment to recognize the work of Rep. Cronin on HB 1091. This was the bill to rectify the issues over the sale of 85-octane fuel (not E-85 blended ethanol fuel). For over 70 years this fuel had been sold west of the river, but became a major issue this past year. Throughout the whole summer, Public Safety, the legislature, the Governor’s office, and the industry could not resolve the dispute. Rep. Cronin managed to get all of the parties to the table to find a solution that was acceptable to everyone. This is exactly the opposite of the stagnation we have seen out of Washington DC… we should be grateful he is representing us. Drop him a note if you get a chance. He made District 23 proud this past week and it was well recognized around the halls of the Capitol.
As one of your voices in Pierre, I hope that you will contact me as these issues are debated throughout the session. You can reach me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at: (605) 769-0540, or by mail at: 316 S Potter ST, Gettysburg SD 57442.