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Week Three Recap

Week three of the South Dakota Senate has come to a suspenseful conclusion.

Last week was the deadline for unlimited bill introduction. Now, each legislator can only introduce three additional bills by Wednesday, February 1.

I have several prime-sponsored bills this year, each of which has the opportunity to help South Dakota.

House Bill 1151 is An Act to create the South Dakota paid family leave program. This paid family leave proposal will enhance paid family leave benefits for state employees while providing opportunities for the private sector and other public sector entities to offer the same benefits. The ability to provide paid family leave will be voluntary for all businesses – no mandates, just another, more affordable option to provide paid family leave to more South Dakotans. Paid family leave can also be a workforce recruitment and retention tool. This is one of the biggest challenges facing employers across our state, and this proposal can help businesses of all kinds attract more workers. As a small business owner, being able to offer affordable benefits to my employees has always been a challenge. This bill concept is from Governor Noem, was included in her State of the State Address, and is being prime sponsored by Representative Weisgram in the House.

Senate Bill 142 establishes title protection for Veterinary Technicians. A lack of title protection and consumer awareness challenges the Veterinary Technician profession. Consumers have an underlying understanding that there is a standard of professional education for registered nurses, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners. This same consumer understanding needs to exist for the veterinary profession, where Veterinary Technicians are differentiated from Veterinary Assistants and other paraprofessionals on the veterinary team. Title protection will ensure that only those with these requirements can utilize the title of Veterinary Technician in the veterinary profession.

Senate Bill 143 raises the amount for water development districts to have required audits from a $250,000 threshold to $350,000. Initially, an independent audit was required for all districts at the end of the year; however, for the smaller districts, the cost of an audit could be 10% of their levy income. Twelve years ago, one of the districts had the $250,000 threshold added so that in place of an audit, they would save money by doing an internal financial report instead. Now, it has been requested to raise the threshold to $350,000. Only the West Dakota Water Development District is affected since the others are already above the proposed $350k or well below $250k; however, the other WDD executive directors do not oppose the change. This adjustment is necessary since the last threshold review was a dozen years ago. The internal financial review will still be conducted, and the WDD will avoid a costly audit.

House Bill 1077 is An Act to prohibit eligibility for a suspended imposition of sentence for certain rape offenses. This bill had its first hearing on January 25 in House Judiciary. The committee had a few questions on amendments to avoid unintended consequences to underaged offenders and deferred this bill to another day, yet to be scheduled. For more information, you can listen here:

House Bill 1193 is An Act to codify the fundamental right of a parent. The bill's wording is as follows, The liberty interest of a parent in the nurture, upbringing, education, care, custody, and control of the parent's child is a fundamental right. No agency or officer of this state nor any agency or officer of any subdivision of this state shall infringe upon the fundamental right of a parent unless the infringement is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means as provided by law. Representative Sue Peterson and I brought this bill last year, similar to legislation recently passed in fifteen other states. This draft may be revised with a different bill number this week, but this is a vital piece of legislation that should pass in South Dakota.

Senate Bill Draft 549 is An Act to appropriate $2 million to help fund cancer research and resources. This bill is due to Hunter Widvy's (Miss South Dakota) hard work and addresses pediatric oncology needs in our state.

This week, I have a few more things in the hopper, including items clarifying existing law and establishing provisions related to the review and selection of instructional materials in school districts, as well as addressing access by children to pornographic material on the internet.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve as the state Senator for my home district of 35 (Rapid Valley, Box Elder, and northeastern Rapid City). More to come this week!

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