Health plans for government employees by Senator Mary Duvall of District 24.
In recent years, lawmakers have had to allocate additional funds to address cost overruns in the health plan for government employees. Last year the amount was $ 11 million.
When lawmakers sought ways to improve the budget for this portion of the state's employee benefit plan, questions arose about reinsurance coverage, restricting coverage options, or changing other plans to address these concerns.
It is for this reason that the Bureau of Human Resources (BHR) worked over the past year to develop a health plan that is suitable for government employees and taxpayers. The office set up a working group that included government officials, private sector employers, and health insurance professionals to review our current plan, examine market factors and make recommendations to achieve more affordable and sustainable benefits.
Savings made by moving the state's direct contracts with health care providers to Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield will be reinvested into Governor Noem's proposed budget in two ways. Most of the savings would be reinvested directly in the pension plans. In addition to the proposed 2.4% increase for government servants, savings of $ 12 million from this move would be used to bring workers closer to market prices.
The proposal includes four different options, giving civil servants greater choice to better suit their individual needs. One of these options will be a zero-premium plan where the state pays the premium for the employee.
The SB 57, recently passed by the Senate, gives employees the opportunity to take full advantage of the changes proposed in the plans. Changes in the bill include the ability for spouses who are both government employees to meet the same plan. Another change removes the requirement that no other coverage may be available for a dependent child. Like some of my colleagues, I was uncomfortable with the bill when it was first introduced. After researching the suggestion and asking lots of questions, I was able to support the bill.
One aspect of concern is the proposal to remove the option of health insurance for retirees 65 and over and their dependents. The number of retirees 65 years ago has steadily declined since the 2015 fiscal year when the industry-standard premiums were increased from 18% to 48%. Since the state abolished the premium subsidy, enrollment in this category has fallen by almost 80%.
Overall, the changes made possible by SB57 offer more service options, free up US $ 12 million to help our employees not adapt optimally to market wages, and to build sustainability into the service package over the long term. The vast majority of government employees will see pay increases, along with more health insurance options and lower costs when medical services are provided.
Because individual situations are so unique, I would encourage every employee to contact BHR with questions.
On the way to the week 4 legislative session by Mary Duvall, Senator for the 24th District.
As a newcomer to the Committee on Health and Human Services, there are a number of areas where I have additional homework to do. It seems a little daunting for someone who has worked on transportation and tax issues for the past eight years.
In the first part of the session, we heard from three government agencies that have a combined budget of $ 1.7 billion, about one-third of all current government spending.
The Department of Human Services is responsible for helping South Dakotans who have developmental disabilities, are blind or partially sighted, or in need of rehabilitation services. This agency is also responsible for the SD Developmental Center (SDDC) in Redfield, which provides comprehensive services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities when the required services are not available in a community setting.
The SDDC was founded in 1899 by the state parliament and opened in February 1902 as the northern hospital for the mentally ill. In 1913 the name was changed to State School and Home for the Feeble Minded. In 1951 it became known as the Redfield State Hospital and School. The facility had a total population of 1,199 people in 1963 when the campus had 11 large buildings. Today the SDDC looks after around 100 people. This year's one-time expense requests include a generic grant of $ 794,645 to demolish an empty building on the SDCC campus.
The Department of Social Services deals with Medicaid, child protection services, economic assistance, and behavioral health, including suicide prevention and substance abuse prevention.
The Department of Health is responsible for public health, food and shelter safety, family and child development, licensing of healthcare, vital health records and statistics. For almost a year, the Ministry of Health has been a leader in providing information on the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor has proposed a one-time investment of $ 50 million in the South Dakota Health Care Trust Fund. This was established through a constitutional amendment approved by voters for health programs in 2001. At the end of fiscal 2020, the fund had nearly $ 143 million in balance.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact [email protected].
Legislative Session Week 3, by Mary Duvall, District 24 Senator.
Lawmakers are beginning to delve into the proposals listed in the governor's budget address for expected one-time dollar spending. In addition to the ideas presented on December 8th, we are beginning to see ideas from individual legislators on the use of one-off funds. The main theme I hear in our discussions is that we need to be careful about using one-time dollars on one-time projects and not using this as an opportunity to create new programs with ongoing costs.
One of the largest requests is for $ 100 million to expand access to broadband Internet services. The next largest request is to add $ 50 million to the Health Care Trust Fund to help raise future revenue from the General Fund to Support Health Programs. Another $ 21.7 million would be used to prepay two technical college bonds.
The governor recommends $ 12 million in state funds, combined with insurance funds and private donations, to build the Dakota Events Complex at the State Fair Grounds in Huron. The new facility would replace the beef complex that was destroyed by fire last October and the sheep barn. The aim of the new complex would be to attract regional and national rodeos and other events. An added benefit would be that 4-H cattle fairs could take place in the same location as the open cattle shows.
There are requests worth $ 5 million each to repair old state-owned dams that are gradually failing and create a grant program for small meat processors to upgrade their equipment and facilities. The governor is calling for $ 4.1 million for expenses related to conducting the sale and use of commercial marijuana within the state. The Treasury Department has hired an advisor who has worked with other states in enforcing their marijuana laws to help South Dakota implement voter-approved medical and recreational marijuana regulations.
I would like additional one-time dollars to be invested to improve our state's infrastructure and drive economic growth for South Dakota. To see a list of the December 8th budget proposals or offer ideas on how to use one-off funds, please email [email protected].
On her way to the Week 2 Legislative Session from Mary Duvall, District 24 Senator.
One of the bills I've been working on all summer deals with cleaning up Chapters 10-6, the chapter of state law that deals with property tax assessments. Most of the work has been done by Legislative Research Council staff in consultation with the Treasury Department and several county appraisers, so I can't do much credit with the finished product.
While the state largely relies on sales and use taxes for its general fund, local schools and political subdivisions are supported by property taxes.
In the past, South Dakota levied taxes on a variety of personal property, from jewelry to livestock. The taxable personal property was self-reporting, which some suggested that the tax was immoral because it encouraged people to lie. Personal property was revoked in 1978. Today local governments and schools rely on real estate tax. This area of code has been changed many times as policy makers tried to create a "perfect" tax system.
The SB 70 bill that I introduced is an attempt to clean up the current law without making changes to the guidelines. Looking at today's chapter, more than 70 sections of law have been repealed and a handful of others have been carried over to another part of the Code. However, the number of these sections is still spread across the chapter. Some sections repeat the same idea, some sections dealing with the same concept are in completely different parts of the chapter, and some are no longer needed as they reflect fragments of the old self-reported laws on personal property taxation.
SB 70 is an attempt to reorganize the chapter so that, while it may not be more pleasant to read, it is at least easier to follow. The sections will be reorganized and numbered from 10/6/01 to make them easier for taxpayers and County Directors of Equalization to refer to.
If you are interested in more information on property taxes in the state, the LRC has a memorandum published in 2016 entitled "Property Tax – A Modern History". You can find it on the LRC website sdlegislature.gov under the References tab.
On her way to the Week 1 Legislative Session of Mary Duvall, District 24 Senator.
While a new legislative session begins on the second Tuesday in January, residents of District 24 will have a new team to represent them in Pierre. After eight years in the house, I'll be moving to the Senate, and Mike Weisgram and Will Mortenson will join the house.
At the start of every legislative session, I think about how best to represent the people who live in Hughes, Hyde, Stanley and Sully counties. I learned that the legislature doesn't have to be an expert on every subject. However, you have to be diligent to get good information from the experts.
We are fortunate to have a media presence in Pierre dedicated to reporting on legislative activity. In addition, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) website provides comprehensive information on bills and amendments, committee work and measures. On the website www.sdlegislature.gov you can find the legal texts and see when they are due for the hearing of the committee. You can see what changes were offered. You can listen to the committee discussion and floor debate and see how lawmakers voted on a bill.
The best way to contact me during the session is to send an email to [email protected]. An important point in communicating with lawmakers is that we are elected to represent the people who live in our district. Emails, phone calls, and letters from people in my district get more attention than messages from outside the district. Anonymous emails or emails from groups outside of the state generally receive limited attention.
Emails don't have to be long. It is enough to identify the problem – use the invoice number if you know it – and briefly explain how it affects you. Bulk emails or copy and paste emails are ineffective. It is far better to explain in your own words an important point or two as to why you support or disapprove of an action. If you can point out unintended effects, have constructive suggestions or workable alternatives, please let us know.
It is a privilege to represent this district where many voters are government officials who have a deep understanding of various aspects of state government. Others in this district have areas of expertise that can help the state government function well. I encourage you to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions about the legislative issues we will be addressing over the next nine weeks.