Governor Daugaard kicked off the start of the 2013 legislative session with his State of the State Address on Tuesday. The Dow Jones weekly newspaper Barons listed South Dakota as the “Best Run State in America” this year and Gov. Daugaard addressed the good stewardship we practice in our state. Our budget is one of the healthiest in the nation because we made tough budget decisions.
The biggest problem facing us as we work on our budget this year is the federal government’s fiscal irresponsibility. Instead of dealing with the “fiscal cliff” on New Years Eve, Congress and the president delayed the debt crisis for another couple months when there will be another huge fight over raising the debt ceiling and cutting spending. The federal government’s financial woes will greatly impact South Dakota’s spending plans. In the governor’s proposed budget he left $26.5 million in anticipated revenue uncommitted over the next two years in case it’s needed if the federal funding comes up short. The legislature will likely spend most of the session under a cloud of uncertainty as we try to put together a budget without knowing how much we will have to spend.
Chief Justice David Gilbertson gave the 2013 State of the Judiciary Address on Wednesday. South Dakota spends more on our criminal justice system than most of the surrounding states and he addressed ways to deal with that. The first issue he talked about was the expansion of substance abuse courts. This year the women’s prison has 450 occupants – in 1982 there were only 32. The men’s prisons house 3,600 occupants while there were only 600 in 1980. The cost per inmate is $25,000 per year and substance abuse courts would help to reduce the number of prisoners. The success rate of rehab programs stands at 81% and due to current programs there 103 empty prison cells.
Chief Justice Gilbertson also addressed military veterans in the criminal justice system. 36% of the homeless are veterans, 76% of the homeless veterans suffer from alcohol, drug, or mental issues, and every day 18 veterans commit suicide. Thirty one states have created programs to treat these underlying issues rather then prosecution. Hopefully South Dakota can follow the lead of the other states by using what works for them.
The Chief Justice is also concerned about the decline of access to attorneys in rural areas. His three point plan to address the issue would 1)provide resources to law school grads who wish to practice in rural areas 2)develop incentives that encourage locating in rural areas and 3)create a website that brings together aging rural attorneys with law school grads.
I serve on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the Education Committee. Thursday the Ag Committee heard very interesting presentations about the devastation caused by the Pine Beetle infestation in the Black Hills and the science involved with the in situ uranium mining near Edgemont.
In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown and the call for gun control at the federal level, several bills are being written to improve safety for schools, protect Second Amendment rights and other gun legislation. Rep. Betty Olson, Rep. Scott Craig and Sen. Craig Tieszen are introducing a bill that will allow school boards to authorize certain individuals the right to carry inside a school. The proposed language is permissive, giving school boards the option to approve exceptions to gun-free zones based on certain conditions if adopted at the local level. I’ve heard reports of other gun bills in the works, but haven’t seen any of them yet. The focus on keeping our children safe and protecting our Second Amendment rights brought to mind this quote by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Hopefully legislators in Pierre can uphold the Constitution, as we are sworn to do, and get something done to protect our citizens.
The Oil and Gas Development Committee voted to introduce eight bills to address the issues that arose at our hearings. HB 1001 that would require mineral developers to give notice to surface owners before entering the land. Sen. Sutton is the prime sponsor of SB 2 and Rep. Betty Olson of the House would provide funding for unresolved surface depredation caused by oil and gas exploration and to make an appropriation therefor.
The other Oil and Gas legislation bills are:
*HB 1002 to provide for the creation of a trust account for un-locatable mineral interest owners.
*HB 1003 to provide for mediation between mineral developers and surface owners in certain disputes over surface depredation and to provide for mediation of mineral fee disputes.
*HB 1004 to provide for the award of treble damages in certain surface depredation cases.
*HB 1005 to require certain posting of information if hydraulic fracture stimulation is performed on oil and gas wells.
*HB 1006 to revise certain provisions relating to the termination of certain mineral interests.
*SB 1 to revise the provisions regarding plugging and performance bonds for oil and gas wells and to repeal the supplemental restoration bond requirement.
You can contact me at the House Chamber number 773-3851. Leave a phone number and I’ll call you back. The fax number is 773-6806. If you send a fax, address it to Rep. Elizabeth May. You can also email me at email@example.com during session. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/ You can also use this link to find the legislators, see what committees they are on, read all the bills and track the status of each bill, listen to committee hearings, and contact the legislators.