Education bills move forward

Legislative report

Crossover Day is when all bills must be passed out of the chamber of origin to the other chamber or automatically die. That’s this Thursday. In commemoration of bills going to their final resting place, the tradition is to wear black.

I’ve been grateful many of my bills remain alive. Last week all three of my education bills passed through the House unanimously, 68-0. That’s rare to have so much support, especially for multiple bills. I pray the support continues in the Senate. Sometimes the two chambers can look at bills very differently.

The first education bill allows school districts the flexibility to use tax dollars received from wind towers in either their general obligation fund for ongoing expenses or in their capital outlay fund for one-time expenses like building projects. The origin of this bill came from school districts in District 4.

The second bill extends in-state university tuition rates to active duty U.S. military personnel and their immediate family who are stationed anywhere in the world but would like to come to South Dakota to attend college. I view the bill as a win-win-win for the state, the university, and the military family.

The third bill also pertains to military families, but at the K-12 level. It allows active duty military personnel, upon receiving an order to transfer to South Dakota, to enroll their children in the virtual education system of the school district they will be moving to. Military families move six to nine times during the years of a typical K12 student, and this will allow the student a more seamless transition to the new school.

My “born-alive” bill, requiring a doctor to treat a baby who survives a botched abortion the same way a wanted baby at the same gestational age is treated, has now passed through both chambers of the Legislature and waits for the governor’s signature.

I have one last bill to introduce before Crossover Day. It’s a bill to void no-compete contracts for doctors. The origins of the bill come in part from a cancer patient who developed an infection last fall and upon calling his longtime doctor’s office for an appointment was told his physician no longer worked at the clinic. The receptionist refused to divulge where the doctor had gone.

It was only later that he learned his doctor had been fired and planned to start a practice elsewhere. And, under the terms of the doctor’s contract with his former employer, the doctor was banned for a year from practicing within 20 miles of the clinic, and from recruiting former patients to follow him.

Noncompete clauses – common in many commercial sectors – aim to stop physicians and other health care professionals from taking patients with them if they move to a competing practice nearby or start their own. But what may be good for business can be bad for patient care – and certainly disquieting for patients whose doctors seem to simply disappear.

Continuity of care is important, especially for patients with ongoing medical issues.

In 2018, the Trump administration requested states scrutinize physician non-compete clauses. 

A report issued by the administration described physician non-compete clauses as a barrier to competition, a hindrance to the trend of physician mobility, and an overly burdensome hurdle for patients to access care. The physician restrictive covenants were shown to limit the supply of physicians and medical providers as well as inflating healthcare costs.

Several states have done something about it, passing full or partial bans on no compete agreements for healthcare providers. My bill will attempt to do the same.

Much of my time continues to be consumed with the medical marijuana issue. The measure the voters approved was poorly written with many pitfalls. One example is the bill requires schools to allow children to smoke marijuana. Other pitfalls concern employers, landlords and law enforcement. 

There are others. We’re working to fix everything ASAP so South Dakota can have a safe and effective medical marijuana program.

Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you. My goal continues to be to help make South Dakota an attractive place for families to work, live and play. That means quality education, strong agriculture, and a good measure of freedom. I’ll never forget our debt to the men and women in uniform and those keeping us safe at home. I’d appreciate your feedback and advice throughout the session. Don’t ever hesitate to drop me a line at [email protected]