My view: Week 4 Legislative Report

Blogpic1With four weeks now complete, things are beginning to pick up.

The bill I introduced to prevent consolidation of the Big Stone School continues to move through the legislature. After passing through the House Education Committee with a 15-0 vote, the bill passed through the full House with a 68-1 vote.  Next stop for the bill is the Senate.  Keep your fingers crossed!

The week finished with a great deal of excitement with the announcement of Blue Ribbon Task Force for education.  The task force will be charged with making recommendations to the 2016 legislature that should spark extensive discussion how we can improve education in South Dakota.   Two significant components of the discussion will be improving student achievement and addressing teacher pay/teacher workforce.  Just as a recent justice system taskforce involved hundreds of stakeholders and many months of work that resulted in significant reforms, the expectation being communicated to legislators is that something similar should happen with education.

In education committee, a total of 31 bills have been introduced that will come before us.  This week we passed a bill to increase the amount of the annual awards given to South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship recipients from $1,000 to $1,300 in their first three years or college, and from $2,000 to $2,600 in the fourth year. The South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship was established in 2004 to encourage more rigorous high school course work and promote enrollment in South Dakota’s postsecondary institutions.  Currently the state spends $4.2 million per year on the scholarship.  The proposal adds an additional $1.3 million and is currently a part of the Governor’s budget proposal.  I voted for the measure and it passed 14-1.

Legislator Salary Bills

We also saw three bills dealing with legislator pay.  HB 1149 would change the current annual salary from $6,000 to “at least” $6,000.  Another bill would adjust annual legislator salary by the same rate provided across-the-board to salaries of state employees. For example, if state employees receive a 2% raise, legislators would receive a $120 raise (2% of $6,000).  I voted against both measures, though they both passed.  For me, it’s the principle of giving ourselves a raise when teacher pay is last in the nation. I’m just not comfortable with that.

The third salary bill provided per diem compensation for Legislators to attend the inauguration, the required Governor’s budget report, or approved travel.  I thought this bill was reasonable and I voted to it.  It also passed.

Passing Bills

Two vehicle passing bills are making their way through the House.  The first would allow motorists to legally exceed the speed limit by 10 mph when passing another car on a two-lane road.  For example, it would allow a motorist to drive up to 75 mph when passing another vehicle traveling slower than the posted speed limit of 65 mph.  You would not be able to pass a vehicle traveling 65 mph in a 65 mph zone.

The second passing bill would require motorists to provide bicyclists a three-foot cushion when passing on roads with posted speeds of 35 mph or below, and a 6 foot cushion on roads with a posted speed above 35 mph.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in Pierre.  Please contact me at Rep.Deutsch@state.sd.us with any questions, concerns of suggestions, or leave a comment here on the blog. You can also follow my daily votes on my facebook page.

Let me know what you think! – Fred



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