As our time in session starts to come to a close, many major issues are still being discussed and decided on in committees and on the floor. This past week, there were a couple of major issues being debated in the legislature.
The senate debated HB 1087, the “school sentinel” bill. First, I would say that there is a substantial amount of misunderstanding about what the bill is or does. Essentially, it would allow a school board, in consultation with local law enforcement, to adopt a program that would allow trained individuals to have a firearm in the local school. Realistically, I would predict that there would only be a handful of school districts that would consider this option.
There are schools like Buffalo, where the nearest law enforcement could easily be over 30 minutes away on a given day. Perhaps this could be an answer for a district like that. I do not think that this program would likely help many of the school districts in our legislative district, but that still would have been a decision for the local boards to make.
Having said that, I did vote no on this bill. In every committee and every floor debate, the bill had at least one major amendment that was adopted. While some of the amendments improved the bill, there were others that I thought changed the original intent of the bill making it less supportable. Those kinds of changes usually indicate that the bill making idea could use some more time and input. I do not think there was adequate input from all of the stakeholders.
I do think this bill also missed the mark on another level. I’m guessing that six months ago most of us really weren’t concerned about the safety in our schools. Obviously, the tragic events in December maybe gave us pause to reconsider that. While this sentinel bill attempted to “fix” a small piece of that issue, I do believe there could be a variety of other measures that would be prudent if we are concerned about school safety. The bill did pass the senate. The amendments now must be agreed to by the House.
One of the other major announcements this past week was the Building South Dakota initiative. Myself and a number of the other legislative leaders have spent this session trying to develop an initiative that would spur economic development in South Dakota. This was a bi-partisan effort. In fact, on Thursday both the Democrats and Republican leadership held a joint press conference to announce the proposal – the first time I can recall that happening in my career.
The irony of this proposal is that it was announced on the eve of sequestration out in Washington, D.C. While the federal government is bogged down in a lack of communication and partisan politics, here in South Dakota we were working together to find answers to tough problems.
We are heading into our final week Monday March 4th, and I cannot believe how quickly time has flown. We have had a good session with many bills passed and signed by the governor, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest of this week fill with more. There was a lot of talk about sequestration this last few weeks and whether or not it would come into effect, and as we saw Friday, March 1, it has. Overall sequestration is only making minor cuts to the budget, which, in the long run, does not have a major impact on Federal debt. South Dakota is said to be impacted with a twenty-four million dollar cut in federal funds per year over the next 10 years. But although that sounds like a large number I do not think South Dakotans need to worry about sequestrations effects on our state as we have strong programs in place and handle our budget much more carefully than others. Although it may be a bit challenging, we are currently working on finalizing how to divvy up one-time money this week, and long hours are being spent debating and concluding what is superlative for the state.
As for bills that crossed the House of Representatives last week, a few come to mind. I sponsored Senate bill SB 139 which regulates certain market activity in a health exchange. Since the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known to many as “Obamacare” required the states to implement on their own or have the Federal Government implement a health care exchange. Due to this, South Dakota needed to act with this legislation to allow our local health insurance agents to continue to sell us health insurance rather than forcing us to go to the exchange and buy insurance online or by calling a phone in center. I think we can all agree that anything over the phone is arduous and agitating. I liken this to allowing someone to choose a doctor, accountant, and basic insurance. I feel that most South Dakotans cherish the fact that we can deal one on one with our day-to-day business and wanted to keep that relationship in this case as well.
In order to help our states budget even further, I testified to SB 239, which repeals the state’s membership in the multistate tax commission. Currently we are putting out more money and resources then we are receiving and need to stay with MTC at the Associate level of membership instead of Compact membership. This bill was a reasonable and prudent way of handling our states money and resources, and I am happy it has passed.
I also testified to SB 198, which revises the membership of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. This bill made sure that the legislature is able to choose 2 members to sit on the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Many of us feel that in order to maintain a strong three branch South Dakotan government that the legislature needed to be a part of this commission. One of the main reasons is that since the legislature is enacting the bills, the legislature should be able to appoint two persons to the commission who will be able to help interpret the laws appropriately.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 3- This resolution deals with the Main Street fairness Act currently in Congress. This is ultimately a strong statement to our Congressional Delegation in DC that the state of South Dakota wishes to administer its sales tax policy as it sees fit.
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 e-mail 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.
The final week of session is here and we have some huge responsibilities to carry out before we can go home and back to our families. Monday of this week will see the final bills coming to committee and Tuesday will find the final normal floor session until we get to spending all the money which will be the final bill we vote on. Tuesday, March 5 is the last day for a bill or resolution to pass both houses. One note of interest is that while we are debating every imaginable bill in our various committees the Appropriations Committee meets every day from 7:45a.m. until noon debating spending bills or cutting spending and the final spending bill will be filled with amendments we decide on covering about $26 Million of extra revenue South Dakota took in because of our healthy economy. What we don’t ever do is spend more than we take in and contrary to what happens in Washington we actually do balance our budget every year. Thanks to you the voter we now have it in our constitution and cannot ever spend beyond our means.
The sky is falling, the military will be overtaken by foreign nationals, our electric grid will come to a grinding halt, hospitals won’t be able to operate, schools will shut down, our senior citizens won’t get their prescriptions, our borders will become paralyzed by illegal immigrant crossings, and all this because of a 2.4 percent cut in the National Budget according to the folks in Washington who want to continue spending money like drunken sailors.
One prominent Senator said on a popular news channel that we have already cut $2.6 Trillion over 10 years from the budget. Folks. that is an outright lie as it accounts to an agreement to not increase spending by $2.6 trillion with ZERO cuts proposed. Now we see an actual 2.4 percent cut; about $85 billion and the world is coming to an end. How many of you could cut 2.4 percent from your budget? I would bet everyone could with just a little work. Say a working family has a $40,000 budget and needs to cut 2.4 percent from it for whatever purpose. That amount comes to $960 dollars over an entire year or $80 a month. This is what Sequestration is going to do to America. We can handle it. And we will be stronger because of it.