Legislators wrapped up the Main Run of the 2014 Session about eight o’clock Friday night with passage of the General Appropriations bill for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The appropriations committee spent last Thursday and Friday developing a balanced budget for the state without raising taxes. State aid to K-12 education takes the largest share of the state’s general fund budget, followed by Medicaid, higher education, and social services.
The legislature increased state aid to local schools by 3.3 percent, including $2 million in new money dedicated toward increasing teacher pay. The legislature also increased Medicaid funding by 3.3 percent, but did not expand Medicaid coverage as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.
The House and Senate finally came to an agreement on a statewide texting ban. As amended, HB 1177 creates a $100 petty offense for texting while driving. This would be a secondary offense, meaning a driver would have to be stopped for another offense first. The bill also directs the Department of Public Safety to develop a distracted driver’s public awareness campaign.
In a compromise measure dealing with autism treatment insurance, the Legislature directed the Department of Human Services and the Department of Labor and Regulation to jointly conduct a study of services and insurance coverage for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder for children. Results of the study and policy recommendations are to be submitted to the Governor and the Legislature by November 15, 2014.
On Friday I had the privilege of attending the ceremony where Governor Daugaard signed SB 46, the bill to improve animal care in South Dakota. This is the bill that would allow a potential felony penalty for malicious cruelty toward an animal.
Our State Veterinarian did a great job of bringing together livestock groups, representatives from local animal shelters, law enforcement, and others to develop a bill that we could all support. That same day, the governor signed SB 75, which prohibits local government from enacting dog breed-discrimination regulations.
The Senate failed to override the governor’s veto of SB 98, which would have allowed the City of Deadwood to charge a three-dollar occupational tax for motel rooms. If the governor issues any other vetoes, we will address them on Veto Day, March 31.
Even though the Session is largely concluded, you may continue to reach me by emailing email@example.com.