Parsley’s Legislative Report

By Rep. Scott Parsley
The 2013 Legislative session is almost half over and one of the most significant pieces of legislation is already on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature.
SB 70, the Corrections Reform Bill, passed the House Judiciary Committee and the House Floor this week. This bill will streamline sentencing for nonviolent offenders and create drug and alcohol courts. These drug and alcohol courts will allow nonviolent offenders who have drug or alcohol related offenses to stay in the community and receive treatment rather than being sentenced to jail time.
Allowing the offenders of these nonviolent crimes to remain in the community keeps them at home and allows them to continue working as they receive treatment for their addiction. The folks sentenced to this type of court are required to stay clean and sober and are subject to random drug and alcohol checks.
In those jurisdictions in South Dakota and other parts of the country where this type of sentencing has been used the results have been overwhelmingly positive, with outcomes that reflect significant reductions in recidivism and significantly fewer costs to the judicial system. I did support an amendment to the bill that would have restored preliminary hearings for Class I misdemeanors. That amendment failed on a voice vote on the House floor. I did support the final passage of the bill which passed on a 63 to seven vote.
Another significant bill passed the House this week and is headed to the Senate, HB 1087, the so called Sentinel Bill. I spoke against this bill on the House floor as well as voted against the bill.
I have had an overwhelming number of superintendents, principals, teachers and parents contact me with their opposition to this bill. In all fairness, I did have a few school board members contact me with their support for the bill. However, the overwhelming response has been to oppose this bill. I am not sure what the right answer is for school safety, but putting more guns in the schools seems to me to be the wrong direction.
HB 1087 has been assigned to Senate State Affairs which is a little curious as this bill was heard in the Education Committee in the House. No hearing date has been scheduled.
The first of several bills designed to increase the base funding for education was heard in House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday of last week. The bill, HB 1201, would have restored the base funding for education lost in the 2011 budget cuts. The bill had an annual increase above the formula three percent for the next three years and would have restored the base funding for education to a level it would have been funded at, had the cuts not occurred.
Several school superintendents provided testimony outlining how the cuts had devastated their schools resulting in teacher layoffs, cutting class offerings and significantly increasing class sizes, all of which, according to testimony, has hurt the education of our youth.
The Department of Revenue testified against the bill saying that there would not be sufficient revenue for this type of funding formula. Unfortunately, the bill failed to get out of committee on a nine to four party line vote with the four  Democrats on the committee voting for the bill. The positive result of the discussion was an acknowledgement that there are some 10 bills introduced that will increase the base funding to education and we will be continuing the discussion as these other bills move through the process.
I am very excited about the meeting that will be held on Feb. 5 to discuss the expansion of Medicaid. A bill has been introduced in the legislature, HB 1205, that is focused on expanding Medicaid.
As I have indicated in the past, based on the information we have today, even with the insurance exchanges that will be available to us in 2014, some 26,000 South Dakotans will be left without insurance coverage unless we expand Medicaid. I believe that as a state we have a fiscal and moral responsibility to do whatever we can to help insure adequate health coverage for our citizens. The opportunity we have to do that with Medicaid expansion comes to us with limited costs and significant benefit.
According to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation in 2009, 179,900 of our workers in South Dakota made less than $11.50 per hour, giving further evidence to the need for Medicaid expansion as these working folks will struggle to afford insurance.
There is certainly concern about the federal deficit and the prospects of a significant change in the matching requirement post 2022, but I would suggest that none of us has a crystal ball that tells us what will happen in 2022 or 2018 for that matter. So I remain hopeful that these discussions will result in support for HB 1205 and we can expand Medicaid for South Dakotans who today live in fear of becoming ill because they have no health care.
Finally, the first bill of which I was the prime sponsor, passed out of committee and through the House this week. HB 1180 would allow veterans to receive credit for certain military training and experience.
What this bill does is allow the 36 professions and occupations that require some type of licensing or certification to establish rules that will give returning military personal credit for skills learned in the military. The bill makes it permissive for the professions and occupations to develop these rules and does not allow the veteran to by-pass any testing required to be licensed or certified. The bill has been referred to Senate State Affairs Committee, however, no hearing date has been set.
As always please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have; my e-mail is rep.parsley@state.sd.us.

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