Heinemann’s March 6 legislative report

This has been an emotional week for me. I finally started answering my emails, as some had become so angry and threatening that I couldn’t focus on the various topics we were discussing and voting on. The tax increase (HB 1182) passed in the Senate after there were several attempts to lower the half cent, as well as address some other issues in the bill. As it was stated on the Senate floor debate, no matter how one votes, we legislators are not against teachers.
The Governor vetoed the transgender bathroom bill 10 minutes after the tax increase passed the Senate. Further adding to the emotional stress, the next morning my wife, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were in a bad car accident east of the Capitol. No one was hurt, but I had to leave the Capitol and pick them up at the scene of the accident.
The next day, we had an emotional discussion on whether physicians should be allowed to prescribe cannabidiol (CBD) to patients that have intractable (uncontrolled) epilepsy. My brother has epilepsy, so while I sympathize with the proponents of the bill, I took the position of the health care provider, which was to not prescribe a drug that has not completed the research studies to control the amount and strength given to epilepsy patients. The bill passed out of committee 7-6 and goes to the House floor next week.
I was glad to head home Thursday afternoon, all of us packed into my pickup, since we didn’t have my wife’s wrecked vehicle to travel home.
The Governor decided it was too late to include Medicaid expansion in this session. Instead, he mentioned a special session to address it. There were too many unanswered questions. I have studied the issue intensely, and what I have found is many of the “players” promoting expansion don’t even know who is getting health care now, nor do they understand the Healthcare Exchange. As I mentioned  earlier in a column, almost 50 percent of the 50,000 eligibles have access to health insurance at an extremely discounted rate on the Exchange, to the tune of a dollar a day, but many choose either not to sign up, or insist it should be free. Of the other 50 percent, about one third of them have access to free health care, but it may not be convenient, or they don’t like it. This would include Indian Health Service, Veteran’s Health benefits, etc. I’m sure the discussion will continue.
The private school option (SB 159) has gathered a lot of media attention. Similar plans have been implemented  in dozens of other states. Let me know what you think on this topic.
We are still waiting to see if SB 2 will get funded, as it takes about $3.8 million from the state General Fund and gives it to the counties. Currently, 75 percent of the alcoholic beverage fund goes to the state and 25 percent goes to the cities, with nothing going to the counties.
As you may recall, the summer task force recommended giving the counties 25 percent of the alcoholic beverage fund to help with law enforcement and criminal cases, as they are saddled with most of those costs but, prior to now, got nothing from that fund. The cities get 25 percent, yet the counties are required by law to provide law enforcement, etc. Eighty percent of the issues counties deal with involve alcohol, so it seems appropriate the counties should receive a portion of that fund.
I was disappointed to see, after supporting the Dyslexia bill, HB1198, that the Senate killed the bill. It appears the Department of Education worked out a compromise with  parents of dyslexic children to address the need to clarify the law as to the school’s responsibility in determining and treating dyslexic children.  There will be more to come on this issue.
Please contact me at rep.heinemann@state.sd.us if you have any questions or comments.

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