With the close of new bill introductions now complete, week 4 gave more clarity to the workload and breadth of topics that this year’s session presents. As I was trying to get a sense of how I was going to schedule and successfully hear 20 more House Bill hearings for 5 more regular scheduled meetings, I did find myself humming a number 1 hit song from 1972: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone.” Yes, I am aware of how that dates me… but I’m okay with that.
Two things stood out for me this week: House Bill 1099 which expands the scope of practice for an Optometrist and Governor Noem’s address to a Joint Session of the South Dakota Legislature regarding the mass illegal immigration that’s happening on our southern border. Regarding HB 1099, Optometrists in our state are asking to perform additional procedures that they are trained to do. HB 1099 would allow optometrists to treat styes by injection, remove skin tags, use light to treat dry eyes, and use two in-office laser procedures to treat glaucoma and after-cataract surgery care. Their testimony attested to the complex nature of this expanded care, but they also demonstrated much confidence because of their education and training. Despite the training they receive in optometry school, this bill would require optometrists that want to practice in this expanded care to complete additional training, pass national exams, pass an expanded procedure course, and demonstrate their competency on human eyes in a setting proctored by an ophthalmologist. Opponents to HB 1099 are numerous: American Medical Association, SD State Medical Association, SD Dermatology Society, and SD Ophthalmologists. They made clear their position that patient safety and quality of care is their main concern and concluded that optometrists performing these procedures would pose a serious threat to the safety of patients in South Dakota. In a rare happening, and because of one member of the committee was on an excused absence, the House Health and Human Services committee were tied in the vote to pass or kill the bill. 6 – 6 was the bill score, which was an unusual outcome. The solution came as the committee voted 8 – 4 to move it to the full House (69 members) without recommendation, where it will be heard and voted on Monday. More to come on this one next week.
Governor Noem delivered an impassioned speech regarding the ongoing crisis at the Texas border and the failed security policy of our federal government. Recognizing that our country was proudly built on the stories of our ancestors who came to this country for opportunity and a new beginning, she pointed out a stark contrast and the realization of our southern border being overwhelmed with mass illegal immigration that is bringing drugs, trafficking, crime, and violence. Even though South Dakota is miles away from the Texas border, we are affected by the cartel presence on our tribal reservations. The drain on resources at the local, state, and federal level alone makes this a crisis in every state. Nearly three years ago and again last summer, South Dakota sent National Guard soldiers to Texas to help with surveillance of drug traffickers and border securing. The Governor’s message shared the full scope of the crisis and how it effects South Dakota. She is consulting with the Adjutant General, Secretary of Public Safety, and others as to what our options are to provide personnel. Her communication to us was valued and much appreciated.
Thank you for your interest in my weekly updates. I always appreciate your comments and questions.