Rep. Parsley’s Legislative Update

By Rep. Scott Parsley The second week of the 88th session of the South Dakota Legislature is now in the history books. The week saw action on several committee bills including two major issues. The two committees on which I serve began to hear bills this week. In House State Affairs committee we heard several bills relating to trust funds and the regulations under which they operate. The committee also voted to allow trust funds to create Captive Insurance Companies, a form of self-insurance. In Commerce and Energy the committee heard a report from the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Regulation and her staff providing the committee with an overview of the duties and responsibilities of the department. We also acted on two bills dealing with uniform insurance review and a third bill dealing with penalties for unemployment fraud. In dealing with a major piece of legislation the Senate State Affairs committee heard and unanimously sent the criminal reform bill SB 70, the Public Safety Improvement Act, to the Senate floor. This legislation adopts the use of drug and alcohol courts and changes the sentencing requirements for non-violent offenders who have committed crimes related to drug and alcohol addiction. The legislation would provide for treatment for drug and alcohol related issues rather than jail time. The new drug and alcohol courts would have very strict treatment, work and check-in requirements in order to avoid jail time for the offense. This type of alternate sentencing has been used with a great deal of success in many other states, and I am very optimistic about this approach to dealing with non-violent alcohol and drug related crimes. Besides the evidence that shows offenders have a significantly reduced recidivism rate when sentenced to drug and alcohol court instead of prison, this legislation has the potential to save the state tax payers over $200 million over the next 10 years by not having to build new prisons. The second major piece of legislation that saw action this week was making permanent a half cent sales tax to fund the tourism promotion for the state. The House Taxation committee passed the bill on a 12 to one vote and the issue passed the House of Representatives on Friday and now moves over to the Senate. These funds are used to promote tourism in South Dakota. There were several other bills introduced this week including bills directed at education funding. For the most part I have resisted signing these bills until we have a bill that will address permanently raising the base budget for education to begin to recapture funds taken from education in 2011. I am still optimistic that we may find a way to expand Medicaid coverage to the 48 thousand uninsured South Dakotans and discussions continue on this issue. During this week there was one bill introduced regarding guns in schools. This bill would make it permissible for school boards to decide if they want to have armed staff in their schools. As always I am very interested in hearing any issues or concerns you have and can be contacted at rep.parsley@state.sd.us.

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