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With K-8 grades, Big Stone school to remain funded

PIERRE -- State senators gave unanimous approval Friday afternoon to keep Big Stone school district eligible for state aid, despite enrollment below the threshold of 100.

HB 1097 now heads to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who is expected to sign the legislation into law.

Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, sponsored the bill on behalf of Rep. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, whose children attend the school.

Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, was the bill's lead sponsor in the Senate.

The measure proved so absent of controversy that it received final passage without debate on the Senate's consent calendar.

Wiik watched the 32-0 vote from the Senate gallery.

The Senate's timing was fortuitous.

The annual pork-loin dinner that raises money for the school's fourth grade students to take a trip to the Black Hills was already scheduled for today.

The Big Stone and Ortonville, Minn., school districts operate under an arrangement where Big Stone provides classes for the K-8 grades while Ortonville operates the high school.

TRIBAL ID: The state Senate deferred debate until Tuesday of House Concurrent Resolution 1008 that calls on Congress and the U.S. president to recognize tribal-issued identification cards for official purposes.

The issue is complicated because the federal REAL ID law, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, doesn't provide for using tribal ID cards.

State government would recognize tribal ID cards for all purposes if that conflict could be resolved, according to the resolution.

State House members voted 49-20 in favor of the resolution Wednesday. The prime sponsor was Rep. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge. All of the nays came from Republicans.

Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, is the lead sponsor of the resolution in the Senate. The resolution is a statement of the Legislature's position but doesn't have a binding effect on the federal government.

STANDING ALONE: Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, was the only member Friday to vote against confirmation of the reappointment of state Education Secretary Melody Schopp.

The tally was 31-1 with three excused.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard promoted Schopp from the deputy position when he took office in 2011.

SCREENING COSTS: Some state House members crossed one another Thursday afternoon over requesting a fiscal note.

The legislation in question, SB 60, would expand newborn screenings to include inherited and genetic disorders.

Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, sought the fiscal note, which is an estimate of the cost resulting from the legislation. He predicted the impact would be "huge."

Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City, spoke against his request. Sly quoted a statement from state Health Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon there wouldn't be any fiscal impact to state government because private insurance and Medicaid would cover the costs.

Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, replied that state government pays a large portion of Medicaid costs.

That drew in Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City. "The screening is already happening," Conzet said.

Haugaard responded this isn't the same testing that was done for many years. "This is expanding this dramatically," he said.

House Speaker Dean Wink, R-Howes, had intended to let Haugaard have the final word on his motion seeking the fiscal note. But Sly wanted to rebut Haugaard.

Sly said what's known as a PKU screening began in 1973.

She said that if the disorders aren't diagnosed and treated immediately in infancy, there is a high likelihood of previously was known as mental retardation, and now is generally called developmental disability.

"We will be paying for them in many ways," Sly said. She predicted the costs for state government would be much higher if the screenings aren't conducted and followed with treatment.

Haugaard needed support from one-fifth of the 70 House members and got it after the back and forth.

NEXT WEEK: The Legislature doesn't meet Monday and gathers for Tuesday through Friday.