Funny: we elected another Republican majority to run our state, but nearly every bill in the hopper so far is about making government spend and do more, not less.
The latest liberal activist legislation to appear is Senate Bill 8, a measure brought to us by the interim committee on access to mental health services. This bill, the only concrete legislation to emerge from the interim committee’s labors, would direct the Department of Social Services to work with the counties to create a “statewide centralized resource information system”—that’s the expanded 211 service the committee talked about to help prevent suicide, domestic abuse, and child mistreatment. SB 8 specifies that the resource information system would help people find crisis or disaster resources, “resources for social services, human services, legal assistance, financial assistance, or for other related needs; and assistance for mental health, physical health, or substance abuse.”
Legal assistance? So does that mean when we call the A.G. and SOS with campaign finance questions and they say they can’t give legal advice, we can call 211 and get connected with a lawyer?
In their December 3 conversation, the committee said maintaining an expanded 211 hotline would cost $800,000 a year; SB 8 includes no funding. The interim committee is willing to talk about good ideas but not commit with cash.
The interim committee has also posted Senate Concurrent Resolution 2, which would create five separate task forces to address the following mental health issues:
- increasing community placement of mental illness patients;
- developing alternative community-based short-stay and day treatment alternatives;
- increasing use of telehealth and telemedicine;
- changing Human Service Center nursing home admission criteria and building mental health nursing home capacity for people with organic brain damage;
- increasing transitional housing and residential services and developing “caregiver supports.”
SCR 2 envisions having all five of these new task forces meet at least three times and report by the end of 2019. But since Governor-Elect Noem has declared new task forces verboten, and since Noem has already put her stamp on the Senate leadership, we can expect this government bloat to go nowhere. And since our receipts are in the red, and since Kristi Noem would never ever ever vote for deficit spending, we can expect SB 8 to sink when someone in committee asks the inevitable question about how we’ll pay for more government action.