US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Obamacare’s Five Year Anniversary: More Money, More Problems

Obamacare’s Five Year Anniversary: More Money, More Problems
By Senator Mike Rounds
March 20, 2015

MikeRounds official SenateIt has been five years since the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare, was rushed through Congress on a partisan vote and forced upon the American people. Since becoming law, it has been plagued with lawsuits, website glitches, cancelled policies, unworkable provisions, delays and repeals. Premiums are skyrocketing for many South Dakota families, and small businesses are spending thousands of dollars to comply with new paperwork mandates. And that is just the first five years. As we look ahead, we can foresee more problems and uncertainty.

The ACA subsidies are currently under review in the United State Supreme Court in the case of King v. Burwell. The court will determine whether the law only allows individuals who enroll through state-run exchanges to receive health care tax credits. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiff, residents in 34 states, including South Dakota, are at risk of losing the tax credits they have been receiving through federal exchanges. Without these credits, close to 10 million Americans will be confronted with ACA’s true cost, facing much higher premiums. Despite a ruling expected in June 2015, the Obama Administration has said it has no contingency plans to help these Americans if the provision is overturned. Obamacare is a mess, plain and simple.

Small businesses have also felt the adverse effects of the ACA. A recent report from the National Small Business Association found that on average, small business will have to spend $15,000 annually to comply with all the paperwork issued in Obamacare. Another study of small businesses found that Obamacare has lowered employment by 350,000 and reduced workers’ wages by approximately $1,000 annually. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. This government-imposed obstacle to growth will be felt in every community in America.

As a small business owner working in the insurance industry, my ideas for healthcare reform are very different from Obamacare.  First, I support a market-based, patient-centered approach that is truly affordable for families. I believe this can be achieved by enacting transparent, step-by-step reforms, rather than a 2,700 page bill written behind closed doors.  I support common-sense initiatives, like expanding Health Savings Accounts and creating pools, such as the Multiple Employers Welfare Trust, in which small businesses can unite to secure better rates.

I also believe we must eliminate the employer mandate, the individual mandate, and the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Additionally, we can cut health care costs by reforming medical liability laws.  Our current system encourages frivolous lawsuits which come at a high cost to doctors, taxpayers, and truly injured patients who deserve timely compensation.  We can also protect consumers and hold insurance companies more accountable by increasing transparency, standardizing paperwork, and helping those with pre-existing conditions maintain access to care.

As Obamacare reaches the five-year mark, South Dakota families and business owners have been riddled with confusion, premium increases, lost coverages and fewer choices when it comes to health care. I will continue to work with my colleagues to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-based solution that gives families the power to choose the plan that best fits their needs and budget.

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Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Serving Up Some Commonsense

Serving Up Some Commonsense
By Rep. Kristi Noem
March 20, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Between the 2010-11 and 2012-13 school years, 1.2 million kids dropped out of the federal school lunch program.  It was the first decline we’d seen in over a decade.  According to the Government Accountability Office – a nonpartisan agency that serves as a watchdog over taxpayer-funded programs – the decline was largely due to challenges with the “palatability” of the food being served and the implementation costs of new federal mandates.  Despite falling participation, the federal government wants to go even further.

As is true for any parent, I want nothing more than my kids to be healthy and happy.  I make sure the meals they get at home are nutritious and I expect the same when they go through the lunch line at school.  But what the federal government has done to school lunches doesn’t work.  It pushes every child into a one-size-fits-all mold, tying the hands of those who are closest to our kids and empowering bureaucrats in Washington to dictate what goes on the tray.

These bureaucrats clearly aren’t cooks.  Schools are struggling to get a pasta that holds together under the new whole-grain requirements.  Tortillas and many breads are out of the question too.  The ultra-low sodium levels, which are to be implemented soon, could push items like milk and cheese off the plate, because these foods have naturally occurring sodium.

The federal government has kicked commonsense out the window with these requirements because they think people in D.C. know better than a parent, local nutritionist, or school administrator.   That’s a problem.

What’s worse is that schools are breaking the bank trying to pay for the new requirements.  I’ve heard from many schools that are being forced to pull dollars from the general fund in order to cover school meal costs.  For many districts, that’s money that could have gone toward the school’s instructional programs.  That should not happen.

We need to give our local schools more flexibility on these requirements.  Earlier this month, I introduced the Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act.  This bill takes aim at the overly restrictive whole grain and sodium requirements while also giving administrators more flexibility on the rules that have increased their costs.

I believe everyone in this debate has the same goal: To serve our kids healthy meals at school.  But if schools have to divert scarce education dollars to comply with federal mandates that insist upon serving foods kids won’t eat anyways, we have to reassess the program.  That’s the point we’re at now.

We need to give control back to the people who are closest to the students, because our kids deserve better than a lunch designed by bureaucrats.

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Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Overview of the 2015 Legislative Session

Overview of the 2015 Legislative Session
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEarlier this month, the State Legislature concluded the main run of its nine-week session. The session is a time for debates, and some disagreements, but we can be proud of the work our legislators did and the decisions they made.

This year, the Legislature passed an important bill to reform our juvenile justice system. South Dakota has the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the nation, even though our juvenile violent crime arrest rate is just one-third of the national average. Rather than continuing to place juveniles in expensive state-funded facilities, we will invest in proven intervention and treatment programs that keep youth close to home and connected to their communities. This bill passed with only seven “no” votes and I appreciate the Legislature’s strong support.

I also appreciated the Legislature’s passage of a comprehensive road and bridge funding bill. Especially in a rural state like South Dakota, good quality roads are our lifeline. State highways, county oil, township gravel and hundreds of rural bridges are in need of additional maintenance. Maintaining infrastructure is one of the most fundamental functions of government. The Legislature showed true courage and vision this year by dealing with this problem now, rather than leaving it for future generations. No one likes to raise taxes, but by spending a little more on maintenance now, South Dakota will avoid much higher costs later.

The Legislature passed a state budget this year that is honestly balanced. In South Dakota, we don’t spend money we don’t have. We don’t rely on inflated revenue estimates or accounting gimmicks. We use ongoing revenue to fund ongoing expenses. At least 21 other states are dealing with deficits today, often because of short-sighted budget decisions. Meanwhile, South Dakota is becoming even stronger. This year, we put new limits on borrowing by state authorities, established procedures to more effectively collect debt owed to the state and gained greater insurance protection for our state buildings.

Our state budget is a statement of our priorities. Education is 45 percent of general fund spending, and we increased the K-12 formula by more than the law requires. The Legislature also authorized the first increase in the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship since it was created, and added funding for high school students taking dual credit courses at our universities and technical institutes. I also joined with legislative leaders to create a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students, which will spend the next year studying the teaching workforce and our school funding formula. The state budget also increased reimbursement for Medicaid providers, with extra funds for providers who offer front-line care in our communities.

Legislators made many other important decisions this year. We modernized our laws to deal with contagious disease outbreaks and to offer better screening of infants for inherited or genetic disorders. We improved our insurance laws to offer better coverage for children with autism. We found a way to continue the important work of the Jolene’s Law task force, which is taking on the difficult issue of sexual abuse of children.

We continued our state’s investment in the Sanford Underground Research Facility, which offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a national laboratory in the Black Hills. We increased local control over decisions about livestock development. And we passed a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the voters, will strengthen higher education by recognizing the important role of our technical institutes in workforce development.

South Dakotans can be proud of the work of our state legislators. The vast majority of the big decisions are made on a bipartisan basis. The highway bill, the juvenile justice bill, the state budget and many other bills passed with broad bipartisan support.

No one agrees with every decision or every vote, but our legislators do their work respectfully, with open-minds and a commitment to service. Unlike Washington, D.C., where partisanship leads to gridlock and gamesmanship, our legislators consider every issue on its own merits.

Our part-time legislators come to Pierre for nine weeks in winter, and then return home to live and work among the friends and neighbors they serve. I thank all 105 state legislators for their hard work this year. If you see a state legislator in the coming days, I hope you say “thank you” as well.

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Who writes this dreck? Argus skews against GOP because of disagreement on bill brought… by the GOP

I’m scanning the morning news when I come across the latest incident of Media Malpractice. Stu Whitney’s awful headline, awful tag line, and somewhat slanted story:



The thrust of it was that the big scary “GOP political machine” killed the sales tax plan of cities.

Er, wasn’t the bill proposed by Corey Brown in the Senate, Scott Munsterman in the House, and about 35 other Republicans? About 1/3 to 1/2 of the Republicans in the legislature?

But, it doesn’t promote the agenda of “hate Republicans,” to simply state “Republicans disagree on city sales tax increase.” 

Ugh. 

Eagles tickets are on sale. Good Lord are they expensive.

Are you one of those fellow South Dakotans who are getting tickets for the Eagles when they play the Sanford Center on June 4th?  My wife has wanted to see them in concert for longer than we’ve been married, so you know where this one’s going…

First I went here,

scalper

until I realized it was a scalper or “resale” web site, where the cheapest tickets were $257. Each.

Once that was cleared up, I hit Ticketmaster, where it wasn’t much better. I managed to get a couple of main concourse seats for $173. Each.  And that’s from the venue. Supposedly not-the-scalper.

Really?  Paying that much for concert tickets just grates on me personally, but it’s for the wifey, so sometimes a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.

But it still grates on me.

Thune to DHS, DOL: H-2B Visa Fix Isn’t Good Enough

Thune to DHS, DOL: H-2B Visa Fix Isn’t Good Enough

-Letter calls on DOL, DHS to begin processing premium H-2B visa applications-

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Jeh Johnson and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez calling on the agencies to work together to alleviate the current backlog of H-2B visa applications and immediately reinstate the premium processing service for H-2B petitions. Earlier this month, DOL began halting all H-2B labor visas after a federal judge ruled the agency was stepping outside its statutory authority. Last week Thune called on DOL and DHS to take immediate steps to resume the processing of H-2B visas.

Since then, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida granted a motion permitting DOL to begin issuing temporary labor certificates under the H-2B visa program. While the judge’s ruling is good news for South Dakota employers, the temporary injunction has already caused a backlog in processing that may take some time to resolve. Thune’s letter calls for DOL to resume premium processing of H-2B visas, which should not only help address the backlog, but should also expedite many of the applications, ensuring seasonal positions for the upcoming tourist and construction seasons are filled.

“We’re talking about numerous South Dakota businesses across multiple industries being hamstrung by the Obama administration’s poor planning and lack of foresight—and that’s totally unacceptable,” said Thune. “While I’m pleased H-2B visas are being processed again to ensure South Dakota businesses are able to fill important seasonal positions ahead of the upcoming tourist and construction season, we need to address the backlog as quickly as possible and that means reinstating the premium processing service for H-2B petitions. I’ll continue to stay in close contact with DOL and DHS and remain committed to working with South Dakota businesses to ensure DOL reinitiates premium processing as soon as possible.”

Thune encourages South Dakota employers to stay in contact with his office about the delays they are experiencing.

The text of the senator’s letter is below:

__

March 20, 2015

The Honorable Thomas Perez
Secretary of Labor
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S-2018
Washington, DC 20210

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Secretaries Perez and Johnson:

As you know, on March 18, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, in Perez v. Perez, granted a motion permitting the Department of Labor (DOL) to begin issuing temporary labor certificates under the H-2B visa program.  Although the court’s ruling allows adjudication of H-2B visas to recommence, the temporary injunction has already caused a backlog in processing that may take time to resolve.  Additionally, despite this ruling, the premium processing option for H-2B visas has yet to be reinstated, which means employers who need workers for the upcoming tourist and construction seasons in South Dakota may not be able to fill these positions in time.

For this reason, I request that DOL and the Department of Homeland Security work to alleviate this backlog and immediately resume premium processing for H-2B visas.  Please let me know your respective departments’ projected timelines for recommencing the premium processing option for H-2B visas.

Sincerely,

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One reader’s view on SB 69. Is it about time we had fairness for the GOP?

One of my readers who was in Pierre during session offered his opinion to me today on why the democrats squawking about it’s passage by Republicans & signing today by Governor Daugaard are way off base:

Democrats have abused the law for years by using placeholders so they can recruit past the deadline. This fixes that.

They have also taken advantage of their horrible gubernatorial campaigns to have a much lower signature requirement than Republicans. This changes so both are based on registered voters – which is the universe of voters who can sign. Daugaard got lots of votes from Democrats and Independents – none of those people can sign a petition for a Republican candidate. Why should R candidates need 2x the signatures that D candidates do, when R’s have 45% of the registered voters and D’s have 35%?

The last change is with independents. This puts them on equal footing with the R’s and D’s – collecting signatures from Independents and requiring the same percentage.

What will the anti-69 campaign say? “Let Dems continue to abuse the placeholder law” or “Save easy petitions for Dems” don’t have a great ring to it.

This all happened because Bernie Hunhoff tried to amend SB 69 to make it EVEN EASIER for Dems to name candidates after the deadline. Listen to the Senate State Affairs hearing – both days – and you will see.

So the righteous indignation wears a little thin.

Food for thought.

Gov signs SB 67, 69 & Youth Minimum Wage act

Read it and weep. Governor :Dennis Daugaard has signed several of the remaining bills of the legislative session, including the youth minimum wage act, and SB 69, which prevents people from signing on to the ballot to simply serve as placeholders.

Governor Signs Final Bills Of 2015 Legislative Session

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed the last bills from the 2015 Legislative Session into law today:

SB 2 – An Act to provide for the establishment of river basin natural resource districts.
SB 3 – An Act to provide for mediation of certain drainage disputes.
SB 67 – An Act to revise certain provisions regarding challenges to certain election petition signatures.
SB 69 – An Act to revise certain provisions regarding elections and election petitions.
SB 177 – An Act to establish a youth minimum wage.

For more information about these bills, visit legis.sd.gov.

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So, what’s left on the Governor’s Desk? 8 bills to go.

I was looking at the list of bills the Governor signed yesterday (BTW, Thank you for SB 190 Governor), and I decided to wander in the opposite direction and take a look at the bills that are still remaining on his desk for consideration:

Bill Title
SB 2 provide for the establishment of river basin natural resource districts.
SB 3 provide for mediation of certain drainage disputes.
SB 67 revise certain provisions regarding challenges to certain election petition signatures.
SB 69 revise certain provisions regarding elections and election petitions.
SB 100 create a leased residential property classification.
SB 136 exclude certain municipal taxes from the gross receipts used to determine the tax liability for customers served by electric cooperatives and electric utilities.
SB 159 exempt certain amateur sports coaches from sales and use tax.
SB 177 establish a youth minimum wage.

Senate Bills 2 and 3 rework what has been long-standing law with regards to drainage, not to mention SB  setting up new levels of bureaucracy for many areas in the state that weren’t asking for it.  This one is a stumper. I’m not sure where they’re going to fall out.

SB 67 and 69 are the election reform measures as introduced by the Secretary of State and Board of elections, and amended during their passage between the 2 houses of the legislature.  Some of these reforms are badly needed to comply with military voting requirements. Some are needed to fix ‘Bosworth-ian’ petitioning practices. And most of the rest are just common sense fixes.

Are these measures perfect? No. But I suspect the Governor is leaning towards a thumbs up on these, as there are far more reasons to sign them than there are to kill them.

Generally, bills that mess with taxation tend to be subject to the Governor’s red veto pen. Sometimes the veto is overturned, sometimes not. That places SB 100, SB 136, and SB 159 at risk.

And then there’s SB 177, establishing a youth minimum wage.  There are very good arguments for it, but I think given that the change is so close to the vote taken last November, and lacking hard data in terms of how it has been implemented in South Dakota, he may kill this one too.

At the very least, these have the attention of the Governor’s office, enough that they’re doing further research before they make a decision.

Salon Article: FEMA won’t give money to states who don’t accept ‘climate change’

From Salon:

Rick Scott may have found a way of making climate denial state policy, but the Florida governor is going to have a hard time ignoring this. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) just updated its guidelines for state disaster preparedness plans, and under the new policy, plans will only be approved — and federal funds appropriated —  if they address the threats of climate change.

“The challenges posed by climate change, such as more intense storms, frequent heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, extreme flooding, and higher sea levels, could significantly alter the types and magnitudes of hazards impacting states in the future,” the guidelines explain. They direct states to”assess vulnerability, identify a strategy to guide decisions and investments, and implement actions that will reduce risk, including impacts from a changing climate.”

Read it here.

I’m thinking the next Republican President is going to have a heck of a job cleaning out the US Government.