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OPINION: Important work still to come in Legislature

The final day for legislation to pass out of the house of origin was Feb. 24. That's known as "crossover day," and was the deadline for the Senate to consider any bills which originated in that body.

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The final day for legislation to pass out of the house of origin was Feb. 24. That's known as "crossover day," and was the deadline for the Senate to consider any bills which originated in that body.

Similarly, the House needed to finish its bills, and if they pass, it must send them to the Senate for consideration. There are still important issues to deal with, like school funding and Medicaid expansion in these last two critical weeks.

I was pleased to co-sponsor HB 1220, along with Rep. Julie Bartling from Gregory. This legislation attempts to specify reforms to the Gear Up program administered by Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. HB 1220 would ensure funding goes to its intended target - students. It was defeated by House Republicans on the floor. HB 1220 would have rescinded a waiver that allowed the South Dakota Department of Education to move money to Mid-Central Educational Cooperative instead of funding matching grants for scholarships for low-income Native American students.

After two delays, a "nay" vote and lastly, the final "yes" vote on Monday in the House, HB 1182, the teacher pay increase bill, moves to the Senate for debate and consideration. HB 1182 is not a perfect solution to the teacher pay problem. I have concerns the program doesn't put enough money toward teacher pay to make a substantial difference in recruitment and retention. And the Senate is working to ensure the policy isn't disproportionately balanced on the backs of rural school districts.

However, it represented the only practical approach to increasing teacher pay this session. A minority of House Republicans were committed to obstructing any and all discussion to make meaningful progress on the teacher pay issue. The Senate will now take up HB 1182, and it will take a two-thirds vote to pass.

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Senate Bill 9, an appropriations request to fund a new Native American achievement schools grant program and paraprofessional tuition scholarship, passed the Senate 34-1 this week. This bill provides funding to previously passed SB 81 and SB 82, which establish these two programs. Both are critical to improving Native American educational achievement, and will provide a foundation on which to build upon to preserve culture and increase awareness. This is a good bill that directly addresses an area where we need to improve in South Dakota, and I was proud to be its prime sponsor and testify on these bills.

There are now only two weeks left in the session, but the important work is yet to come on the primary issues of education funding and Medicaid expansion. Please keep in contact as I continue to fight for our schools and health care in this great state we call home.

You can always contact me with your questions and concerns. Please let me hear from you. You may reach me by phone at (605) 319-6570 or email at Sen.Heinert@state.sd.us .

Related Topics: TROY HEINERT
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