Lawmakers discuss Pierre work

Eric Hortness with the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, left, moderated an online legislative cracker barrel session for District 8 lawmakers. At right are Sen. Casey Crabtree, Rep. Marli Wiese and Rep. Randy Gross.

Legislative bills that address homeschool rules in South Dakota may cause District 8 lawmakers to vote with different perspectives.
Senate Bill 177, which in part removes mandatory testing of home-schooled children, is too broad and includes multiple issues, said Sen. Casey Crabtree, R-Madison, who voted against the bill.
Voting “no” isn’t an effort against homeschooling, he said. But, he also doesn’t like that some people used the bill to attack public education, which has been tasked with providing a good education in unprecedented times during a pandemic.
“It fell on our local school board, our local teachers, our local administrators. I can’t image they could do a better job,” he said.
The bill bypassed that on a number of levels, he said. “I’m not saying there aren’t good pieces to this thing, but it is pretty sweeping in a lot of areas,” Crabtree said.
If the bill were to pass, it would remove the ability for districts to base participation in school activities on whether students are meeting academic requirements that other students must achieve.
Rep. Marli Wiese, R-Madison, said the bill is a repeat from over the years, and there are good arguments made on both sides. She wants to stay neutral for now.
“Homeschooling is exploding. You can see the progress of why this is coming together this year,” she said.
The lawmakers, along with Rep. Randy Gross, R-Elkton, spoke on a Facebook Live session Saturday, offered by the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce. Up to 31 people listened online.
Gross said he understands that many amendments will be offered on the bill. “I’m a strong believer in local control. To me, local control starts at the kitchen table and it filters up.
If the contents of a House bill are different than the Senate version, it will go back to the Senate for a second consideration before it would be forwarded to the Governor’s desk for signature into law.
Other issues touched on by the lawmakers included:
•A question was posed from a viewer on how the Legislature could increase the amount reimbursed to nursing homes for Medicaid patients’ room and board.
Crabtree said it has been challenging for the long-term care facilities, especially during the past year and the cases of COVID-19 that have hit them hard.
He supports two bills, including one on the Senate side that is innovative in addressing infrastructure.
Gross said the issue is real.
“The problem is, it just needs more money,” he said. While the state has more one-time money, the Medicaid increase would need to be sustained year to year, he said.
“It’s a difficult question without any easy answers,” he said.
Wiese said one-time money is not the answer.
•Crabtree helped sponsor a bill that provides the Freedom Scholarship plan, which is needs based and has received $150 million in private investment funding. The state is being asked to put in $50 million. The fund would be self-sustaining and provide a long-term benefit to education and the state’s economy, he said.
Wiese said she generally favors the bill, and Gross said some in Pierre favor spending that one-time money on roads and bridges instead.
Despite that sentiment, “I think everybody fully supports the long-term investment in education,” he said.
•Wiese said she is not trying to delay the implementation of medical marijuana, but the state Department of Health – charged with rule making on the issue -- is busy because of the coronavirus.
The rules were supposed to be in place by July 1, but lawmakers have said that isn’t possible.
“They have a lot on their plate,” she said. “We’re fully onboard with implementing it.”
Gross said lawmakers are making a good-faith effort.
“It’s clear what our citizens voted for. Most legislators did not support it. That doesn’t mean we’re trying to stop it.”
Crabtree said that in business, if a company is charged with coming up with a solution by a deadline, it does it. “We’ve got a timeline. We need to work on that.”
•Bills in the Senate would change how initiated measures are brought to voters, with language approval from the Secretary of State in advance of placing the issue on the ballot.
That avoids both sides using state money to fight the issues in court, Gross said.
“I think we all agree the current situation is not working,” he said.
The bills don’t try and thwart the will of the people but provides a clearer path to the ballot, Crabtree said.

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