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VEHLE: Legislature begins on positive note

By Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell

Sen. Mike Vehle, R-MitchellThe first week of the 2014 legislative session had few surprises. Last year, there were 492 bills introduced, and so far there have been 123 bills introduced.

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The governor presented his State of the State Address last week, and said the state of South Dakota is strong. He gave several examples where South Dakota ranks No. 1 or near the top in several areas, and has the lowest cost of living in the nation. He also said South Dakotans smile more than any other state, which got a smile from everyone.

Some of the issues he touched upon were work force development, criminal justice reform, budget and the increase in unclaimed property income, Common Core educational standards, the need to reform the bank franchise tax to a more stable revenue source (will not affect community banks and will not raise rates, just stabilize it year to year), certain insurance regulation reform changes and a discussion of the economic development EB-5 program once all three of the remaining investigations are complete.

On Jan. 15, the chief justice gave his 12th State of the Judiciary message. The tone was different this year. Instead of discussing problems and options to solve them, this year he focused on the challenge of successfully implementing the programs that the Legislature provided last year.

“Problems do not solve themselves no matter how noble the plan. People solve problems.”

Some of the items he discussed were alternative sentencing, veterans courts, juvenile detention alternatives initiate, rural attorneys, probation, interactive television in the courtroom and electronic filing.

The chief justice was excited about implementing my bill on incentives to place rural attorneys. If you know of someone who wants to practice law in a rural community (whether they are intending to go to law school, or are already practicing), please contact the Supreme Court for further information about this incentive program.

Issues that are being discussed early in the session in the hallways include: budget and education funding, common core, Medicaid funding, non-meandered lakes, insurance unfair claims practice, child custody reform compromise and EB-5 program oversight.

As chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, I am holding a series of meetings on our roads and bridges, both state and local (county, township and municipal) roads.

The goal is to determine if we have problems, where those problems are, what the fixes are or if they will get better under current funding, and determine what types of solutions are available. Then the goal is to determine if some type of consensus can be reached on a solution and to introduce it next year.

Next week we will start hearing bills in most committees. Remember there is a cracker barrel at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mitchell Technical Institute. See you there.

— Mike Vehle represents District 20 — Davison, Aurora and Jerauld counties — in the state Senate.