District 17 legislators inform residents of session happenings at cracker barrel
3 mins read

District 17 legislators inform residents of session happenings at cracker barrel

House Bill 1030 hits home for District 17 Rep. Nancy Rasmussen, R-S.D.

The bill would require operators of motor vehicles to give bicyclists three feet of space on town roads and six feet of space on highway roads.

Her son nearly crashed because of an incident on a highway between a semi-truck and bike rider in the last year, she said.

Now, Rasmussen is on the state legislature’s transportation committee and has a companion bill with HB 1030 that would also require bicycle riders wear colored clothing.

“I’m surprised at the pushback I’m getting from the people who have a list of reasons why they don’t want to have a mandate,” she said.

HB 1030 has been pushed back to its third day of reading and deliberation. Rasmussen said this is because not all roads in South Dakota are shareable. The pending decision was something Rasmussen wanted to inform District 17 residents about at a cracker barrel Jan. 31 at Vermillion City Hall.

Rasmussen and other District 17 legislators — Rep. Ray Ring, D-S.D., and Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-S.D. — met with 35 Vermillion-area residents to answer their questions directly and to bring up their own agendas. This was the first of two cracker barrel meetings.

“Most of the bills we have had have not been particularly controversial so far,” Rusch said. “The most controversial bills we have had in my committees so far have been on breast-feeding and branding — no connection.”

A first-time state senator, Rusch said few issues have created party-line voting early in the session.

Most talking points of the morning revolved around the state’s fiscal year 2016 budget.

Ring sits on the Appropriations Committee, which meets five days per week and goes through all budgetary matters. He acknowledged that he does not support a balanced federal budget amendment proposal and how Gov. Dennis Daugaard, R-S.D., did not mention Medicaid or teacher pay in his State of the State address.

“When you’re on the Appropriations Committee, you really begin to question how interested the executive branch really is in transparency,” Ring said.

The legislators were asked which has greater priority this legislative session — roads and bridges or education. All three followed each other’s leads, saying the executive branch has a definite priority to fix infrastructure across the state while legislators each have their own personal interests.

“South Dakota is forbidden from having a deficit, contrary to the way the federal government runs,” Rusch said. “You have a pie, but nobody knows how big the pie is.”

How much of that pie goes to legislators was discussed, as well. The legislators agreed in principle to a raise in legislator salary. Community members who spoke out about legislator salary also agreed a raise is needed.

The current salary for legislators is $6,000 for the entire session and has been the same since 1992. Ring said the spending power of $6,000 today is equivalent to $4,000 in 1992. The Appropriations Committee would like to account for cost of living adjustments to limit problems year to year, they said.

A senate bill was shot down in 2014 that would raise legislator salaries after their terms.

“There’s concern that there hasn’t been a raise for legislators for many, many years,” Rasmussen said. “We would like to engage and encourage people that are younger than us to be able to plug in and do what we’re doing.”

The next District 17 cracker barrel meeting will take place Feb. 28 in City Hall at 10 a.m.

(Photo: South Dakota legislators from District 17 convened Jan. 26. The 2015 legislative session continues through March 30. Miranda Letcher / The Volante)