Jan. 17 Legislative Column

By Rep. Heinemann

It’s hard to believe we have started a new year already, let alone a new Legislative Session! I feel honored to serve the citizens of District 8 again. The challenges we have before us are numerous, so it’s time to get to work!
This past week we had three days of a joint session of the House and Senate to hear, first, the Governor’s State of the State, then the State of the Judiciary by Justice Gilbertson, and on Thursday, for the first time, State of the Tribes, by Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier. It was nice to see individuals from my district listen in on all three. I was able to visit with some of you at the evening receptions as well. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss, first hand, the issues that were raised during the week. Please let me know if you will be out in Pierre in advance so that I can plan to attend your activity and visit with you one on one.
The two main topics the Governor spent considerable time covering in his State of the State address were Medicaid Expansion and Education funding. Both have many moving parts, and it will take the rest of the legislative session to find out the ramifications of those proposed changes, as well as where everyone is in support of those proposals.
Most of you are aware that I am a provider for Medicaid services, and have consistently opposed the expansion. There are a variety of reasons why I am opposed, but a person has to ask  one important question. What changed from last year, when the Governor was opposed to expanding a government welfare program for able-bodied, childless working adults, to proposing  the state expand that same program this year? It is the hope that Indian Health Service [IHS] will change its long standing refusal to pay their 100 percent federal share, on  Medicaid eligible Native Americans seeking medical and dental services  outside of IHS facilities. This “reallocation”, as I would call it, would save the state of South Dakota an estimated $67 million, enough to fund the expansion. This change would require thousands of contracts between IHS and Medicaid providers, since the health care would still be required to be “received through” IHS, a process many of us do not believe would materialize. In order to realize the $67 million savings, every service performed outside of IHS facilities would have to be approved for the 100 percent federal share, and that is unlikely to happen.
The Governor shared his proposal to change school funding as we know it. It would represent a big change from the Per Student Allocation[PSA] formula, and, along with the change, a proposal to add a half cent sales tax to provide new money for districts to address the low teacher pay the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force identified as a critical need. The new tax would generate over $107 million in annual revenue. It will be a heavy lift, as the new tax will require a two thirds majority vote by both chambers. There will be much discussion in the next few weeks on this topic.
There were a variety of other topics in his State of the State address. I particularly liked his proposal to freeze tuition at post secondary schools by paying off some bonds that the Board of Regents holds, to free up some money to accomplish that.
Right after the Governor’s address, we had the ceremony to honor  Korean War Veterans. There were several dignitaries from South Korea present for the ceremony, and it was very evident they wanted to show their appreciation for all the Americans who risked their lives to help defend South Korea during that war.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me at  rep.heinemann@state.sd.us. If you will be out in Pierre, let me know. I will do my best to serve the citizens of District 8 in the coming weeks.

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