Sen. Art Rusch

This week was the fourth week of the 2020 legislative session. Next week will be the midpoint week. This week was also the final week to introduce bills with some exceptions. There have been a total of 427 bills introduced, 268 in the House and 169 in the Senate. The next critical date is February 27th which is cross-over day, the day that bills have to have moved from their original house to the other house or they die.

There have also been four bills introduced in the legislature to change our Constitution. None of them have passed yet. There are also proposals to change our Constitution which were initiated by filing petitions with sufficient signatures.

This week I saw the current voter registration figures from the Secretary of State's office. His office reports that there are now registered in South Dakota: 258,628 Republicans, 154,196 Democrats, 129,557 Independents, 1904 Libertarians, and 1332, Other.

This was a big week in Pierre for USD. On Tuesday I had the opportunity to introduce 68 first year medical students to the Senate. Every year the medical students have a "legislative day," to introduce the students to health policy and advocacy and to give them an opportunity to experience the accessibility of South Dakota state government and to appreciate the role that the state legislature has in regulating medical practice. They were accompanied by Dean Mary Nettleman and Dr. Roy Mortinsen, the Director of the Clinical Foundations Course.

Friday was USD Day at the legislature complete with Dome Dogs served in the rotunda. There was a great attendance of Vermillion residents here in addition to faculty and administrators from USD. I also had the opportunity to introduce the Senate to 18 administrators and academic leaders from USD who are part of the President Gestring's Executive Leadership Institute.

Last year, industrial hemp was a big issue before the legislature and Governor Noem vetoed the hemp bill which passed the legislature. This year she has reached an agreement with supporters on an industrial hemp bill. HB 1008, a bill to allow industrial hemp, has now passed the House Agriculture Committee and is on the House floor for debate.

The provisions which the Governor wanted included in HB 1008 are: 1) reliable law enforcement, 2)responsible regulation, 3) safe transportation and 4) adequate funding. The funding which has been projected as necessary, includes about $1 million every year for inspection and enforcement, $350 thousand to the Department of Agriculture every year for hemp program management and about $200 thousand every year for lab chemists to do the necessary testing.

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