Whew! The 90th session of South Dakota’s legislature wrapped up on March 30, and it’s good to be home again.
It was a mixed bag as many sessions are, and access to care and active transportation issues kept us busy. We were excited to support the Daugaard administration’s two bills relating to bicycle and pedestrian safety. HB 1030 sought to give people on bicycles at least a three-foot leeway when being passed by cars, and HB 1032 would have required motorists to actually stop when people walking are crossing in a pedestrian crosswalk.
Unfortunately the pedestrian safety bill failed, but thanks to the support of our You're the Cure network and a coalition of active transportation advocates, the bike safety bill came through both houses and was signed last month by Governor Daugaard. We’re so excited that this will be one of the strongest bike safety laws in the country when it goes into effect July 1.
Overall, the bike and pedestrian safety bills gave us the opportunity to educate lawmakers and the public that the American Heart Association supports policies that make it easier and safer for people to be more active in their daily lives. And more active transportation means healthier hearts and lives for everyone.
It was disappointing that legislators were not willing to support legislation to improve the health of South Dakotans by covering more people in our state through Medicaid. It’s been a long haul for Medicaid expansion in our state as discussions continue on how to cover the state’s share of the expansion costs. It really is a great deal for South Dakota as the federal government has pledged to cover not less than 90 percent of the costs to cover up to about 48,000 more people.
Medicaid coverage means hard-working South Dakotans will get their preventive care, keeping them out of emergency rooms and delaying serious (and expensive) health problems such as heart attacks. If someone can’t pay their medical bills, the costs get passed on to all of us through higher insurance premiums and taxes – we need to cover people and make sure they’ve got their preventive care that keeps them healthier and more productive. In the long run, it's cost-effective and the right thing to do.
So what happens now that session is over? We keep working on our issues and prepare for next year. We are still working to get more students trained in hands-only CPR as we know more education saves lives. We’re making sure our state’s tobacco prevention and control money is getting out to groups all over SD to continue to reduce the burden of tobacco use in our state. And we are working on nutrition education statewide to help people make healthy choices and reduce childhood obesity in South Dakota.