The Legislature approved a budget which does not raise taxes. They finished dealing with over 400 proposals to change South Dakota law on Friday, March 14 at about 7:30 pm.

The budget which goes into effect July 1st gives more money to K-12 and technical education. Some Medicaid providers will have reimbursement rates go up, although the expansion of Medicaid to cover more citizens didn't make it.

Money to repair the rail bridge at Chamberlain and to upgrade track from the bridge west to Presho was included. Funding to build a visitor center at the new Good Earth State Park, south and east of Sioux Falls was approved. Also, money for a new visitor center and theater at Custer State Park was allocated.

Outside of the budget, legislators agreed to make intentional animal cruelty a felony, place a weak statewide ban on texting, continuing to allow cities and counties to approve their own bans. All public school children will have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day starting next school year.

What didn't pass is possibly more interesting.

The legislature turned back attempts to discriminate against gays under the "Freedom of Religion" perspective.

A bill to provide medicaid funding to pregnant immigrant woman did not pass. An irony which I don't understand is the desire of many in the legislature to protect a fetus, but refuse to fund medicaid to the working poor who may become pregnant.

Part of the irony is the reality the child will become an American citizen the moment it sucks in it's first breath. Prenatal care is equally, if not more important to a healthy baby than post natal.

Once again the legislature talked the talk, but refused to walk the walk.

A proposal to allow legislators to carry firearms in the Capitol and County Courthouses failed.

A requirement on private insurance companies to cover a certain type of autism treatment for children, did not get enough votes.

Repeal of the death penalty died.

Regulation of payday/title loan companies also was killed in committee.

Two sticky issues, the sale of raw milk and the issue of control and access to non-meandering waters affecting primarily Northeast South Dakota, received much discussion with heated input from all sides. Neither issue was resolved.

While all interested and affected parties are not happy, the good news is the budget was approved with increases in a few areas. Some rights were protected. Guns are still banned in Courthouses and the Capitol.

At times I get very frustrated with the continual rush to mediocrity in our state. We seem to be content with doing just enough to get by. Striving for excellence does not seem to be within the communal legislative psyche.

We complain about our status/ranking with other states on a wide variety of issues. Maybe we should pay more attention to not just what these people say when they are running for office, but what they say and how they vote in Pierre.

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