With Week 5 in the books, we have reached the half way point of the 2018 South Dakota legislative session and AARP South Dakota continues to work on the issues important to South Dakota’s 50+ population.

This week AARP South Dakota testified in support of adopting House Bill (HB) 1274.

HB 1274 would have increased the tax on tobacco products in South Dakota by $1 which would have generated $30 million in new revenue for the state.  $20 million of the revenue would have gone towards technical education funding with $5 million dedicated for nursing facilities and $5 million for community support providers.  AARP South Dakota supported this bill because it offered financial support for the programs that serve our low-income elderly population in South Dakota.  Funding shortages for community support providers and nursing facilities has been an issue in the legislature in recent years and this bill addressed that need.  HB 1274 had support from over 10 different organizations during Tuesday’s House State Affairs committee hearing but the committee voted to kill the bill.

As you may know, there is an initiated measure on the November ballot similar to HB 1274 that calls for a $1 increase on the tax of tobacco products in South Dakota.  The difference between this bill and the initiated measure is there is no dedicated funding for healthcare in the initiated measure.

During the 2018 South Dakota legislative session, AARP South Dakota will support House Bill (HB) 1204 which would adopt the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA).

Powers of attorney are legal documents used by an individual (the principal) to delegate authority to someone else (the agent) to make financial decisions and act on the principal’s behalf.  They are essential tools in many situations, including injury or illness that results in the loss of decision-making capacity.

To be useful as an incapacity planning tool, a power of attorney must give broad authority to the agent.  However, state laws are often unclear about the duty owed by the agent to the principal.  This combination of broad consent, unclear duties and lack of oversight make it possible for agents to misuse their authority.

While the UPOAA can’t prevent bad actors from committing theft and other forms of abuse, it does set forth clear agent duties and regulations that will make civil action and criminal prosecution of abusive agents more effective.  It also provides important protections to third parties, which will encourage their acceptance of powers of attorney in appropriate circumstances.

AARP South Dakota believes this bill is an important tool for our members in end of life planning for both themselves and their loved ones.  HB 1204 will be heard by the House Judiciary committee as early as next week and AARP South Dakota will support the bill.

You can become an advocate for these and the other important issues by attending cracker barrel coffees with your local lawmakers each week and asking your legislators to support these positions.  Many communities across South Dakota host free, informal legislative forums to give residents an opportunity to speak with their elected officials about what they would like to see happen in Pierre.  Click here for a list of all upcoming events.