The gentleman I seek to replace in the Legislature, Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), is noted for “taking the lead” on a 2015 elder abuse task force that created elder abuse legislation passed this Session. That liberal bill, expanding the power of government to protect citizens, must have taken the winds out of Senator Novstrup’s sails: not only has he opted not to fight for reëlection against a formidable Democratic challenger, but he has also indicated that he does not want to serve on either of two interim panels that will study elder-related issues.
The Legislature’s Executive Board surveyed members on interest in three interim committees that will met this summer. Senator David Novstrup marked “not interested” in all three, including panels on the regulation of nursing and assisted living beds and payment methods for Medicaid providers of long-term care. So did David’s dad, Rep. Al Novstrup, who is running for David’s seat.
The Novstrups at least took time to respond to the survey. The E-Board’s report shows responses from 21 Senators and 32 Representatives. That’s 60% of the Senate and 46% of the House.
The Novstrups’ lack of interest in further study of two important elder care issues seems odd, especially given the U.S. Department of Justice’s May 2 warning that South Dakota is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by putting too many South Dakotans in nursing homes and implementing policies that limit the availability of home-based and community-based care. One would think that such a major complaint from the DOJ would have put legislators on red alert. However, incredibly, many legislators appear oblivious to this well-publicized letter:
House Republican leader Brian Gosch, of Rapid City, asked that a copy of the U.S. Department of Justice letter to Gov. Dennis Daugaard be sent to legislators, regarding South Dakota’s reliance on nursing homes and assisted living centers.
The federal department conducted an investigation and an analysis, concluding that South Dakota was engaging in segregation of senior citizens and people with disabilities.
One of the USDOJ suggestions was South Dakota could reduce its Medicaid spending by making older citizens more aware of other housing possibilities and by expanding home-care services.
Several lawmakers on the Executive Board seemed unfamiliar with the letter.
“I can push that out to all 105,” Jason Hancock, director for the Legislative Research Council, replied to Gosch [Bob Mercer, “Legislature’s Leadership Board Picks Interim Study Committees,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2016.05.16].
What? South Dakota’s improper confinement of thousands of disabled South Dakotans in nursing homes makes our largest newspapers and public radio, draws responses from Governor Daugaard and Senator Thune, lands us in the New York Times (twice!), and legislative leaders, who ought to be among the biggest news nerds in the state, need LRC to mail them a copy of the DOJ letter? (Jeepers creepers, save the stamps: it’s right here on the DOJ’s website!)
Legislators shouldn’t need to be fed information by LRC, especially not information that says the policies and budget they pass in Pierre have put the state in violation of federal law. They should be scouring the newspapers and the blogs for new and useful information pertinent to their policymaking. They should be keenly interested in serving on interim committees, especially those within their purported fields of focus. If Senator Novstrup learned anything about elder care issues during last summer’s study of elder abuse, he should want to apply that knowledge to this summer’s studies of elder care issues. But apparently too many legislators can’t even be bothered to keep up to date on such issues, let alone do something about them.