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COLUMN: Ag, Education committees busy during week 3

Things have started to heat up here in the state capitol. Several hot topics have been discussed on the floor and in committee, and while debate has been vigorous, it has remained civil, which is always appreciated.

The Ag Committee heard six bills on Jan. 27, most were red tape and obsolete statute repeal bills. The Public Utilities Commission brought a bill to update and revise certain provisions related to the regulation of grain buyers and grain warehouses, which were some of the fixes to the Anderson feed problem from a few years ago.

The Ag Committee did not have any bills assigned to it on Jan. 29 to be able to hold hearings on, so the committee viewed the 2014 documentary "Farmland." This is a very good film that clearly shows what farming in America is really like from the perspective of six young farmers and ranchers from across the country. I would encourage everyone to watch it and then show it to family and friends who may not live in rural America to help spread the true story of agriculture in our country.

On Jan. 30 in Education Committee, HB 1117 was before the committee. I am the prime sponsor of this bill, and it is the only bill I will carry this year. It's a simple clarification bill dealing with high school students enrolling in college courses. The current statute only mentions public school students are able to enroll in these courses but the current policy of the department is that any high school student, whether public, private or alternatively educated, is able to take college courses as a junior or senior.

There was some question about freshman and sophomores being able to take part, because the statute does state anyone in grades nine through 12 is able to participate; however, the Regental system is currently limiting it to juniors and seniors.

I did have a conversation with Dr. Jack Warner, executive director for the Board of Regents, and he said the board would take a look at what provisions would need to be figured out to assure the school that someone of that age would be ready to take the more challenging college courses. My bill passed out of House education unanimously and will most likely be heard on the House floor this week.

On the House floor, we had a few of what are referred to as "talkers" when everyone can look at the daily calendar of what will be discussed that day and just instinctively know that the debate on that topic will extend for an hour or more. Of those "talkers," we had a 40-page resolution that asks the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade. That passed the house 60 to 10. Also, we heard arguments dealing with making a formal application to Congress to call an Article 5 convention of the states for the sole purpose of proposing a federal balanced budget amendment. This was debated extensively for over an hour, and in the end passed the House 39 to 30.

The upcoming week will hold one more new thing for me when I will chair the House Ag and Natural Resources committee. This will be the first time I have done this, and I'm excited to have the opportunity. In that meeting, we will hear a controversial bill dealing with perpetual land easements and limiting them to 100 years. This issue has been debated every year that I have been on the Ag Committee as its secretary, so I'm quite familiar with both sides of the argument.

You can always reach me at my email address or at (605) 773-3851 and leave a message for me with the page.