By Rep. Ray Ring
This was "crossover week" which means all bills had to be defeated or passed out of the "house of origin" by the end of the week. We did that this year without any long nights. I'll summarize a few of the bills that we dealt with this week.
House Bill 1262, which I discussed last week, tries to reconcile conflicting interests of municipal electric systems and rural electric cooperatives. Currently, when a city annexes a land area, it can take over electrical service for that area from the rural cooperative currently providing service. A statutory formula dictates the compensation the coop receives for lost revenue and property. The bill imposes new notice requirements on the annexing municipality and requires that the circuit court determine that it acted properly. Finally, if the cooperative feels the current formula doesn't provide adequate compensation, it can ask the circuit court to decide on proper compensation.
The bill passed the House State Affairs Committee 8 – 4 and the House floor 48 – 20. I voted "nay" because I'm afraid the new requirements will make economic development more difficult for the municipalities, although they can still force a transfer of service when they annex property.
HB 1266 would "prohibit collective bargaining by employees of the Board of Regents." After many years of teaching at USD and benefiting from the structure and protection that the COHE contract provides, I find the prospects of losing that contract concerning. I spoke against the bill, then inadvertently voted for it. After nearly failing in the House Judiciary Committee, it passed the House 47 – 18. I apologize for my blunder.
HB 1218 would have put time restrictions on school district staff who already have difficulty meeting deadlines because of understaffing. It would have also required notifications that might have hurt the reliability of some observations and evaluations of students. Despite losing close votes, the sponsor kept bringing it back for another try, but it finally lost. I opposed it at each vote. I see it as more micro-managing, limiting local control, and another tacit criticism of local schools and teachers.
HB 1104 would have seriously restricted school athletic trainers' ability to communicate with coaches. In committee testimony, one hospital system representative threatened to withdraw the services of trainers they currently provide (often free) to local schools. School superintendents who contacted me were very concerned that they would have to pay for services they currently receive free, if they could even find an athletic trainer willing to risk the liability involved if this bill had passed. After the bill somehow escaped the Education Committee 8 – 6, it met a well-deserved demise in the House, 22 – 46.
I really do tire of the unrelenting attacks on public education.
If you have other concerns, please contact me at email@example.com, Ray.Ring@sdlegislature.gov, or 605-675-9379 (my cell). I can't respond to everyone, but I do give priority to residents of District 17 (Clay and Turner Counties).
Thank you to all who came to the Cracker Barrel on February 29—and especially to those who contributed to the lively discussion.
High school students, here’s your chance to come to the State Capitol, write legislation, meet in committees where you hear public testimony from legislators and volunteers, then take part in a mock legislative session. YELL (Young Elected Legislative Leaders) weekend is April 17 - 18. There is no cost for travel, lodging, or food, and you meet students from across the state. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (605) 271-5405, or go to https://sddp.org/yell/.