By Jason | March 4, 2013
Policy discussions are wrapping up in Pierre as we shift our focus towards approving a new State Budget in the final week of session. One of the final, but perhaps more important policy debates will take place centered on economic development. Prior to this legislative session and throughout the session I have worked closely with my Republican counterparts to craft a new approach to economic development. From my perspective three principles serve as a guide: identify a funding source, accountability/transparency, and upfront knowledge for new/expanding projects.
Voters this past November rejected the Governor’s Large Project Economic Development Plan which was Referred Law 14. This was House Bill 1230 in the 2011 Legislative Session and I didn’t support that concept because it diverted taxes paid on construction from all South Dakota projects to a “slush” fund. Recently I, as Democratic Leader in the Senate, and House Democratic Leader Representative Hunhoff were joined by our Republican leadership counterparts in both Chambers to announce the Building South Dakota Initiative. This new approach to economic development will use some additional funds from unclaimed property coupled with specific taxes paid by “new” projects to fund infrastructure, housing, local economic development, along with a strong focus on K12 education. Upfront knowledge is important for large projects and this initiative will allow the rebate of sales taxes paid based on discretion.
Rank and file South Dakotans exercised their right to determine which path we should travel on incentives for economic development. Throughout the time after the voter’s decision I have reached out to folks to gather input on how we can craft a “people’s approach” to economic development. During this entire legislative session I have solicited information from various interests along with fellow legislators to craft this economic development legislation.
I am thankful to the members of the legislature for giving unanimous support to HB 1180 which gives credit to returning veterans for their artisan trade. This will help to reduce the apprenticeship requirements and allow for a better transition to jobs back home.
Senate Bill 153 will streamline the establishment of watershed districts and itreceived unanimous support in House Judiciary committee and will now head to the fullHouse floor. This is important for our local watershed districts that are currently formed and will be formed in the future.
By Jason | March 4, 2013
We are on the home stretch for the 2013 Legislative Session. All of the bills are either approved or tabled from their house of origin. On the Senate side we have been hearing the House bills in our committees
House Bill 1135, the access to non-meandered waters legislation, was up for a hearing at step three in the five step process to become a law. Our Senate State Affairs Committee was asked by both sides of the issue along with the Governor’s Office to table the bill. Mutually the interested parties including lawyers, landowners, GF&P, sportsmen, and legislators have agreed to work diligently on this issue during the summer. Throughout this process which from my standpoint started about a year ago, I have continually been supportive on the intent of HB 1135. This issue originates from nine years ago when the Supreme Court issued its ruling along with declaring that the Legislature must make a decision on this access issue to non-meandered waters. I appreciate all of the communication from folks with a passion on either side of the issue, and I certainly am realistic that District One is the more affected than any of the thirty-four other legislative districts. As we move forward, one word describes my passion on this issue: RESPECT. The landowners affected by years of flooded lands deserve respect from wildlife enthusiasts. Please take an active role in providing ideas/feedback in developing a plan to determine access on these privately owned lands
Our Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee recently gave favorable approval to five different bills that enhance landowner protection in oil and gas mineral development. Some of the bills include a strengthened surface owner notification when a mineral right developer chooses to work on their land, along with a mediation program through the state Department of Agriculture.
Medicaid expansion is on the mind of many folks here in the capitol and across the State. Recently, a joint House/Senate Health Committee hearing was held to receive proponent and opponent testimony on Medicaid Expansion. South Dakota is one of just a handful of states who have yet to accept the federal investment for healthcare coverage. The folks who would qualify under Medicaid Expansion are hardworking individuals who may be working two part-time jobs. If this were federal highway funding, I guarantee you that we would be putting all of the dollars to use in our state treasury.
By Jason | February 15, 2013
Water is an emotional issue and it certainly has many folks from various backgrounds engaged and activated. In previous columns I have mentioned SB 153, SB 179, and HB 1135. At this point SB 153 and HB 1135 are alive and survived approval in their house of origin. I am very proud of the favorable support I received from the entire Senate to approve Senate Bill 153, which streamlines the process to establish watershed districts. One of the most important components of SB 153 is clarifying that an eligible voter is a landowner in these watershed districts. The bill will now be up for discussion in the House Judiciary committee. House Bill 1135 is the non-meandered water access legislation that has been elevated to the attention of many folks. I appreciate those who contact me to express their beliefs on either side of this issue. On the House side before it was approved by the entire House of Representatives they included some amendments to specifically identify that this bill is ONLY for non-meandered waters. As I mentioned last week the only intent on HB 1135 is to give private landowners the chance to post their property affected by non-meandered water. Meandered lakes such as Bitter and Waubay would not be affected by HB 1135. Senate Bill 179 brought many farmers to the Capitol this past week. This bill would have created a uniform permit for the 14 counties that operate with a drainage ordinance. One other component of SB 179 included the language that a professional engineer must sign off on these drainage permits. I heard from various folks both in support and against SB 179. The Senate Local Government committee tabled SB 179. This is a discussion that will continue immediately with our interim watershed advisory task force. I ask that any of you who are interested in water management that you follow this task force closely. I have served on this watershed task force and plan to continue to serve on the taskforce. On the Senate floor we debated SJR 2 which requires initiated tax increase measures by the people to receive a two-thirds majority vote, instead of current practice which is a simple majority. The main reason I didn’t support this proposed Constitutional Amendment is because in direct democracy through the initiative process the voters have the chance to impact the end result on a first-hand basis. In the Legislative process we operate as a representative democracy (each of us have a little more than 20,000 citizens we vote for on their behalf). Currently on the Legislative level for tax increases a two-thirds vote is required. I am pleased to announce that in our Senate State Affairs committee we defeated SB 197 which would have reduced the per student allocation for small schools who receive students through open enrollment from a large school district. Senate Bill 194 was debated and passed on the Senate Floor which extends the sunset to allow school districts to use a portion of their capital outlay for operating expenses. I have been consistent in my opposition to this legislation, because I feel this reduces the integrity of a capital improvement fund for our local school districts. Please let me know on the issues that are important to you. I will do my best to respond to emails and phone calls if you have questions when you leave a message.
By Jason | February 7, 2013
Citizen involvement in the legislative process is evident at this half-way point of the 2013 Legislative Session. Senate Bill 179 has created a “stir” amongst our rural communities. This is a bill that I have written about in previous columns, but I will explain further in this column. Over the summer and this past fall I have enjoyed working on Senate Bill 153, to streamline the establishment of local watershed districts. Currently there are 25 watershed districts formed across the state with the most recent, the Brown County Mud Creek. Prior to Mud Creek’s formation this past summer, it was 1984 when the last watershed district was created. Each county conservation district is given the ability to map the watershed districts located in their county. SB 153 will reduce the amount of paperwork/red tape to form watershed districts along with making landowners the eligible voters, instead of the resident requirement.
SB 179 is a bill brought forward by legislators who want uniformity among county governments in authorizing drainage requests. I did not sign on to sponsor the bill, and have various concerns when not all county governments utilize a drainage ordinance (especially many with water management issues). I can understand why some folks may want uniformity on drainage; but currently only about 19 county governments have a drainage ordinance.
Speaking of water issues, another proposal is HB 1135 dealing with non-meandered water bodies. This legislation is a result of a Supreme Court case: Parks v. Cooper where the Court ruled that this is a legislative decision. Non-meandered water bodies that meet up with a public right of way are being used for access to hunting and fishing. The land underneath these non-meandered water bodies is private land and taxable. An important amendment to HB 1135 includes clarifying that current “meandered” lakes such as Bitter, Waubay, Pickeral, etc. would not be subject to the posting requirements. Much discussion will continue on the overall impact of regulating access to this private land dealing with non-meandered water bodies. I am supportive of landowners who simply want the chance to post access to these sloughs/small lakes that are most likely only a few feet deep. I don’t envision us putting restrictions on proven fishing lakes.
One of the more emotional bills is Senate Bill 125 which sets up a presumption for shared parenting in all divorces and child custody hearings. I realize there are many factors to consider when the judicial system awards custody; at the same time my hope is that both parties will receive a fair shake at the start of custody hearings.
In our Senate Agriculture Committee we have taken time to focus on SB 116 which would allow an agriculture suppliers lien. This is a topic that we spent extensive time two years ago to discuss and determine if this type of lien is relevant. The proponents of this legislation have worked with the banking industry to strike a harmony. However, the livestock auction markets and agriculture producers still have understandable reservations concerning the possible effects to our agriculture operations.
Various folks from legislative District 1 have made the trip to Pierre from agriculture leadership and education backgrounds. Thanks to the Waubay Senior Government class for visiting the Cultural Heritage Center, attending the Democratic Caucus, and witnessing first-hand the State Senate in action.
We will have a few cracker-barrel sessions planned on February 23 in Sisseton at 10am and Britton at 1pm. March 1st in the evening at the Rosholt Care Center. Hope you can join us at one of the events for an update on the 2012 Legislative Session.
By Jason | February 7, 2013
By Jason | January 25, 2013
Week three of the Legislature is when all of the bills need to be filed and entered into the process. Legislators carry legislation through the halls of the Capitol and will approach fellow lawmakers to ask for their signature to cosponsor the bill.
Recently we held a joint session of the House and Senate to honor former Legislators who passed away in the last year. This service was special for myself and family as my grandfather, Bertrum Ellingson was honored. Representative Ellingson served six terms in the House of Representatives during a time when a true balance of power was evident in Pierre. I am grateful for the principles he has instilled in me and for his service to the people of South Dakota.
Our senate agriculture committee took swift action to immediately table senate bill 40 which would have allowed carrier enforcement to examine scale tickets at elevators within a year to determine overweight trucks. Also in the agriculture/natural resources committee we had a briefing from the game,fish & parks department. The GF&P shared information on their $10 million outdoor heritage project investment. They have a request to receive State general fund support which would include almost half of the total cost. These projects include the new Blood Run State Park, new Custer State Park visitor center, and connect the Mickelson trail to Mount Rushmore. The remaining funds will include license fee revenue, the parks and wildlife foundation, and the Mount Rushmore society.
In our senate state affairs committee we gave unanimous approval to create a Vietnam Veterans welcome home day as the thirteenth day of March. Many veterans from northeast South Dakota made the trip to Pierre and testified in support of the bill. We owe these Vietnam Veterans a proper welcome home day, and anything else to make them feel proud and welcome in our communities.
I filed senate bill 153 which is a cleanup bill to streamline the establishment of local watershed districts. SB 153 has been a work in progress over the summer and is a product of input from folks who have recently established watershed districts. We also know that various other new districts will be created with the hopeful passage of this legislation. Senate bill 179 was also filed that would create a uniform county drainage permit. I have some reservations on this bill and did not sign on as a sponsor. One main component includes the requirement that a professional engineer sign off on the permit.
By Jason | January 22, 2013
January 17th we held a joint session of the South Dakota Legislature to honor former Legislators who passed away in the last year. My Grandfather, Bertrum Ellingson served twelve years in the South Dakota House of Representatives and I had the privelege to participate in the ceremony.
I enjoyed the company of my parents, Kent and Faye Frerichs along with my sister Miranda and two of her kids Nic and Ava who made the trip to Pierre to attend the memorial service
Below you will find a tribute written by my father, former Representative Kent Frerichs.
Bertrum Ellingson: “Prince of a Man” “Finest Gentleman”
Tribute by Kent Frerichs
By Jason | January 22, 2013
Two weeks into the Legislative Session and we are off and running with bill hearings and briefings from the various State Departments.
Our Senate State Affairs committee gave unanimous approval to authorize the transfer of the Meade building on the campus of the Human Services in Yankton. This historic building is in the process of being restored by the local folks in Yankton, and we are all fortunate to have the chance to preserve this building. One of our important tasks in the Senate is to approve Governor appointees. Recently we approved Larry Zimmerman to serve as the Secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Command Sergeant Zimmerman will work closely with all of the County Veterans Service Officers and serve as an advocate for veterans needs throughout the State. I am working on legislation for veterans that would give credit to those who have a trained skill they possess from the military and apply that skill to a job in South Dakota. For example a trained heavy equipment operator in the Army could receive credit for that training towards a certificate in operating heavy equipment for construction projects.
In the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee we have heard from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) along with the Department of Agriculture. The DENR folks shared with us the current status of the oil and gas initiative which is primarily focused on the northwest part of the State. I had the chance to ask questions about the water rights program, and need for swift approval of irrigation permits. The DENR has received a strong increase in need for water rights permits and is trying to get these approved as fast as possible.
I attended a meeting conducted by the Governor’s Office on how low income individuals and those on Medicaid will be affected by the Federal Affordable Health Care Act. At this point the Governor is recommending to not participate in the Medicaid expansion. We will continue to engage in discussion on this topic of Medicaid expansion because this is significant when we can receive a large amount of Federal dollars in our communities throughout South Dakota.
Please keep me informed on issues that are important to you. It is a pleasure to represent you in Pierre.
By Jason | January 11, 2013
Hello from Pierre on our first few days of the 2013 Legislative Session. I am proud of the fact that we serve as citizen lawmakers and take great pride in our accessibility to all of you as constituents in our district. Our regular jobs and involvement in local community activities allows us to stay grounded and held accountable.
This year the Governor’s State of the State provided a shared optimistic outlook on the current status and future of our Great State. Stewardship is an understood concept by all of us who know how to pay our bills and be an asset to society. The criminal justice reform legislation will be a focal point for this legislative session, and I look forward to the rewards of this bill with an increased focus on alternative sentencing, mental health, and integrate our prisoners back into society as much as possible. All of this will require upfront investment of money and people, but we can hopefully avoid the need to build more prisons in the near future. The Governor chose to focus on the less confrontational issues, but at the same time avoided giving us his direction on working with our partners including schools and nursing homes. Along with our partners, my hope is that we can find ways to create true economic development throughout all of South Dakota with a strong focus of bringing more young people back in our rural communities. Housing is a critical component along with the necessary job opportunities. Lastly, we should give upfront knowledge on potential taxes and rebates to the wind industry when they want to pursue a project inside the borders of our State.
The State of the Judiciary reminded many of us of the fact that we have a shortage of lawyers in rural areas, which is related to my earlier mention of the need for more young families in rural communities. Our current drug and alcohol alternative courts proved they assist in rehabilitation of troubled citizens, and Chief Justice Gilbertson continues to expand their presence. Veterans needs are more important now than ever, with the most troubling statistic of how we are losing more soldiers back home from suicide than we lost overseas with the recent Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We all must do our part to provide help to our fellow neighbors that are veterans. Mental health services must take precedence and we owe that to folks who need the help the most.
I am in the process of working on legislation that came from our Regional Watershed Advisory Taskforce which streamlines the process to establish local watershed districts. The goal of this legislation is to allow the landowners to have voting rights, not just residents, along with various problems in paperwork that created unfortunate roadblocks to establish these important water management districts. I also continue to have a strong interest in possible changes to grain buyer rules and regulations in light of the recent failure of Anderson Seeds sunflower operation. Please let me know your thoughts on how we can give preference to the delivering producers/farmers when insolvency happens in grain purchasing facilities. Lastly let’s look for creative opportunities to invest in research at our land grant university along with public/private partnerships to brand our State as truly the most favorable research State in the Country!
By Jason | March 9, 2012
The Fiscal Year 2013 budget is adopted and our South Dakota Legislature has completed the main-run of the 2012 legislative session. The recently approved budget did not receive my favorable support, but I assure you that throughout the process I remained engaged and committed to working together for a quality product. Keeping tax dollars in the State coffers, instead of sharing with local school districts in my opinion was the wrong message to send from Pierre. At the end of the day a total of $26 million were put into our State reserves in total with closing out the FY 12 and starting our FY 13 budget. The excuse given by my friends on the other side of the aisle is that they don’t want to commit anymore ongoing dollars due to the looming mandatory federal cuts. I can understand the need to plan ahead, but yet we should also look at the reality which exists out there of school districts operating on fumes and will be forced to ask property taxpayers to pay more.
In the end the amount of one-time school funding equals the Rhoden plan, SB 124 that many of us supported from the beginning. The total of one-time school funding in SB 192 and HB 1137 totaled $99/student, whereas in the Rhoden plan the amount would have been $105. The difference between these two funding options is that the adopted plans are only one time money and the Rhoden plan was funding to the base for education. This is a big difference because school districts can plan accordingly for the future with funding to the base, but one-time money they can not bank on being there next year.
When the budget debate started I partnered with my good friend Senator Billie Sutton from Burke, to submit an amendment to the general appropriations bill which would have reinstituted the Career and Technical Education challenge grant program. This highly successful program started back in 2007, but has not been funded since 2009. We were not able to get this amendment to have a fair up or down vote, because the amendment was used to ultimately send some more money to the technical institutes. The legislative process broke down in the closing days and many of us who supported the technical school scholarship program were not able to get the House republican leadership to allow the concept to move forward. As a last resort option the above mentioned amendment was the vehicle to get some additional funding to our top-notch technical institutes.
When we take a step back and look at some of the positives of this legislative session in targeted funding we should be proud of the fact that Medicaid service employees, state employees, and hopefully the teachers through the school one-time money will receive some type of a bonus. I am also glad that research in oilseed development for biofuel received some funding for a project that will ultimately partner South Dakota State University and the Navy. Drug and DUI courts which focus heavily on rehabilitation received a boost along with teen court. Lastly, congrats to Representative Susan Wismer for securing some funds for state-owned dam restoration projects.
As many of you have probably heard the HB 1234 petitions are being circulated to have it referred. I support this effort and I hope many of you will join with us to allow the voters the ultimate decision on education reform. Teachers, parents, school board members and administrators voiced their strong opposition and reassured legislators that our education system is broke, not broken. If the clear problem could be addressed coupled with a clear goal on improving student achievement through HB 1234 many more of us could have given it support.
The unfortunate result of the Governors plan to reform education is that the true waiver to the Federal Education plan, No Child Left Behind which was in SB 25 basically flew under the radar. I voted against this bill the first time because it contained language trying to compare rural schools versus urban schools. Thanks to folks on the House side for removing that last section which made the bill more palatable in the end which I gave my favorable support. In SB 25 the focus on career planning, individual student planning around the common core are areas that peak my interest. I do have reservations in the teacher accountability areas, but I hope the oversight committee will be responsive to input. The ONLY education reform bill we needed this session was SB 25, and we did not need the Governor’s political education reform bill of HB 1234!
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