Lawmakers to mull child abuse, disease outbreaks and roads



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PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Lawmakers this week will consider measures to join states calling for a constitutional convention to require a balanced federal budget, make child abuse allegations clearer and strengthen the state's ability to react to deadly disease outbreaks. This is the third week in South Dakota's 39-day legislative session. Here are a few of the key issues to watch:

JOLENE'S LAW

The Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday is expected to hear proposals from Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, to make changes to South Dakota's mandatory reporting laws that would help make child abuse allegations clearer. The measure came out of the pre-session Jolene's Law Task Force, which studied child sexual abuse in South Dakota.

Soholt said that the person who first hears an abuse allegation needs to be involved when it is reported so the account doesn't become jumbled as it is passed between people and on to authorities.

The same Senate panel will also consider a proposal to fund the task force to continue its work in 2015.

TRANSPORTATION

Senate Majority Leader Tim Rave, R-Baltic, said there will be an open forum on Wednesday after the Senate session about the state's transportation needs identified by an interim legislative panel studying the matter. That panel spawned a bill that would raise more than $100 million in its first year for transportation projects, while Gov. Dennis Daugaard put forward a plan that would raise roughly $50 million.

Rave said the purpose is informational, not to push either proposal. Funding for roads and bridges is perhaps the most significant debate facing lawmakers this session.

DISEASE RESPONSE

The South Dakota Department of Health is reworking a legislative proposal that would more easily allow the state to react to deadly disease outbreaks after some lawmakers raised concerns about the potential for government overreach.

The proposal that would modernize the state's authority to respond to serious communicable diseases is scheduled to make it to the House floor Tuesday. Health officials said the state's laws are antiquated and need to be updated to protect South Dakotans from modern diseases that are easily spread, like the Ebola virus.

"At the end of the day, it's about public health and really putting into play a good system that will help protect the people," said Republican Rep. Scott Munsterman, who supports the plan.

BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT

Lawmakers are expected to mount a push on Monday to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention to require a balanced federal budget. The House State Affairs committee will hear two proposals on Monday: the resolution calling for the convention and a bill to limit what could be debated at the convention. The bill's author, Rep. Jim Stalzer, said the goal is to quash fears that the convention could be used to drastically re-write many parts of the U.S. Constitution.

Right now, 24 states — 10 short of the 34 necessary for a constitutional convention — have passed resolutions supporting a balanced budget amendment, according to the nonprofit advocacy group Balanced Budget Forever. Thirty-eight states would then have to approve the change for the amendment to become effective.

"Federal government spending is out of control," Stalzer said. "I really fear for the debt we're leaving for my grandchildren and children."

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

James Nord

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