The legislature is in full swing as we complete our second week. Several major issues have come up in the past week that I would like to share with you.
Personally, I did not agree with or vote for the cigarette tax. However, the people of South Dakota approved the measure in the November election. I am supporting legislation that would take the additional tobacco tax monies and return it to the taxpayers in three areas; education, property tax relief, and Medicaid funding. These are the areas that the voters said they would like to see the taxes spent in and the legislation would spend $45 million in each of these categories over the next five years.
Another ballot measure that we dealt with last week concerned the use of government airplanes and vehicles. The language was changed so that it only dealt with state aircraft. There are already guidelines in place concerning the use of state owned automobiles, and those guidelines are adequately addressing issues of personal use by state employees.
I voted to continue funding of the State Fair at the $750,000 level in the House Ag. Committee. I do not favor state support in perpetuity, but I do believe that changes have been made in the past few years that will allow the fair to be more economically viable in the future.
I plan to introduce legislation that would repeal the law passed last session that required kindergarten attendance. Although that law does not go into effect until July 1, 2010, the state is already moving beyond kindergarten and is advocating state supported pre-school. Keep in mind, 95 percent of the children in the state attended kindergarten when this law was passed. Young families need to the chance to become families. I am not in favor of turning children over to the state at the age of three years old to begin their formal education.
HB1008 has received a lot of attention already in this session. It is a bill that would give the State Brand Board the ability to raise brand inspection fees from 80 cents to a dollar. Currently in state law the Brand Board may charge a maximum of eighty cents per inspection. I do not know if this bill will pass or not, but I do know that it will not result in an automatic or immediate increase in brand inspection fees. The State Brand Board has introduced this legislation so that it has flexibility in future years if the drought conditions continue.
I believe legislation will be introduced to limit the lobbying of Executive and Judicial branches of government. If such legislation is introduced, I will support it. To me, it is a simple issue of the responsibilities of the three branches of government. I plan to write more about this issue and education/taxation next week.
Thank you to those who have contacted me with your issues and concerns. E-mail - Rep.DeVries @state.sd.us; Phone - 605-773-3851.