Legislative Week 3

The start of the week found legislators south of Interstate 90 struggling to get back to Pierre. Several areas received anywhere from 6 to 14 inches of heavy snow making travel unadvisable. I arrived back in Pierre Monday afternoon in time for session. Other legislators arrived the following day with the exception of some in the far southeast corner of the state.

In 2014 HB1142 passed to allow counties and municipalities to voluntarily contribute money from their general funds, capital outlay funds, or both to any postecondary technical institute. This bill permitted local school boards to appropriate funds from their general fund, …”for the general operating and financial support of technical institution.” The South Dakota Department of Education and the South Dakota Board of Education retained control over the distribution of any such contributions or appropriations, and they would determine how the money was to be used. In 2015 HB1118 was passed in anticipation of Constitutional Amendment R. That law immediately increased the number of Board members from five to nine, further growing the bureacracy.

On November 8, 2016 the voters approved “Constitutional Amendment R.” by a vote of 178,209 in favor to 173,945 against. This paved the way for the legislature to establish a new, unelected and tax funded governing board in SB65.

On January 26, 2017 SB65 was introduced to the Senate Education Committee by Senator Jim Bolin to establish the South Dakota Board of Technical Education and to revise certain provisions regarding career and technical education and postsecondary technical institutes. Among the proponnets were, Representative Mark Mickelson, Will Mortenson (Lobbyist for technical schools), Skilled Workforce Advocacy Council, Avera Health, SD Dept. Of Education, Governor’s Office, SD Chamber of Commerce, SD Home Builders Ass., Associated School Boards of SD, School Administrators of SD, SD Education Association, Associated, General Contractors of South Dakota, SD Society of Human Resouce Managers, SD Association of Cooperatives, Melody Schopp, Dept. Of Education, Sanford Health and SD Telecommunications Association.

On February 14, 2017 I requested a Fiscal Note on SB65. In Section 2 of the proposed legislation the cost would be $16,125 . The break down was, “Per Diem for Board Members $3,375, Board Member Travel Expenses, $11,250 and Supplies and Materials $1,500. In Section 10 of the bill allowed hiring executive director at a total annual cost of $76,502. Total cost analysis, $92,627.

This past week I followed up on the cost budgeted in the FY 2018 and found the cost far exceeded the fiscal analysis done last year. Under the current budget the Board of Technical Education is $29,451, Board of Tech. Administration is $270,322, Travel Expense is $37,669, Contractual Services is $147,335, Supplies & Materials are $9,600, Capital Outlay $2,475 totaling $496,852.

I leave you with this quote,

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!

— Ronald Reagan

As always, you can contact me at the House Chamber number 773-3851. Leave a phone number and I’ll call you back. The fax number is 773-6806. If you send a fax, address it to Rep. Elizabeth May. You can also email me at Elizabeth.May@sdlegislature.gov during session. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/ You can also use this link to find the legislators, see what committees they are on, read all the bills and track the status of each bill, listen to committee hearings, and contact legislators.

Legislative Week 2

The South Dakota Legislature concluded its second week of session on Friday. This week’s session included the annual memorial service and finished up the reports of executive agencies give to legislative committees.

Every year the legislature holds a joint memorial service to honor former legislators who passed away the previous calendar year. This year the service was held on Thursday the 18th. This years memorial service honored eleven former House and Senate legislators.

The Non Meandering Waters issue will likely be coming before us again. The Governor is proposing to extend the sunset by three years, from 2018 to 2021. This week there was an informational meeting about the issue. While the compromise reached this summer could stay in place it is likely that this issue will be debated again during the session. I will resist any attempt to change the sunset date.

On December 14, 2017, the State/Tribal Relations Committee discussed the appointment of Don Kirkegaard as the nominee for the new Secretary of Education replacing Melody Schopp. Senator Lance Russell made a motion to send a letter to urge the Senate Education Committee “NOT” to recommend Mr. Kirkegaard as the Secrertary of Education. The following nine committee members voted in favor of the motion, Representative Shawn Bordeaux, Representative John Lake, Representative Oren Lesmeister, Representative Steve Livermont, Senator Kevin Killer, Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Lance Russell, Senator Stace Nelson and myself. Senator Troy Heinert was the only dissenting vote.

The Department of Education had oversight regarding the GEAR UP grant program. Mr. Kirkegaard had some involvement with the GEAR UP grant and given the current climate in South Dakota regarding “Conflict of Interests”, the committee felt it necessary to communicate its concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Following the Committee’s decision on Mr. Kirkegaard’s nomination the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council followed through with their own resolution “Not” to recommend the nomination of Don Kirkegaard and presented it to the State/Tribal Relations Committee following “The State of Tribes” address by Chairman Boyd Gorneau.

Across South Dakota are literally thousands of active and retired classroom teachers, school superintendents, principals, guidance counselors, school board members and other education advocates and champions who are completely untainted by the GEAR UP tragedy. Surely one of them would, as the next Secretary of Education, start the job with the unalloyed trust of the entire legislature and the people we serve. Unfortunately the Senate Education Committee voted to send his nomination to the full Senate for confirmation, ignoring the fact based evidence that clearly shows Mr. Kirkegaard’s been at “Ground Zero” of a culture characterized by “ridiculous conflicts of interest, opaque transparency, ineffective oversight, almost zero documented , evidence-based results for our state’s Native American children.

I will follow up next week with the complete report presented to the Senate on Mr. Kirkegaad’s nomination.

As always, you can contact me at the House Chamber number 773-3851. Leave a phone number and I’ll call you back. The fax number is 773-6806. If you send a fax, address it to Rep. Elizabeth May. You can also email me at Elizabeth.May@sdlegislature.gov during session. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/ You can also use this link to find the legislators, see what committees they are on, read all the bills and track the status of each bill, listen to committee hearings, and contact legislators.

Legislative Week One

The 2018 legislative session is off and running. So far, 146 bills have been introduced compared to 108 filed this time last year.

Expected state revenues are down mostly due to down turn in farm and ranch markets, low inflation, lower tourism numbers compared to records set in 2015 has resulted in less spending making consumers cautious. Governor Daugaard announced last year that Amazon will voluntarily start collecting sales tax receipts on all sales made by South Dakotans starting February 1, 2017. The amount collected from Amazon has not been shared with the legislature to date. I take every opportunity to remind citizens, South Dakota’s number one industry is agriculture to the tune of $20 billion. When this industry suffers so do the state’s ability to meet basic functions of government.

Our Governor reminded the legislature once again that we have a AAA bond rating from three major credit agencies. To understand the importance of AAA rating I like to use the analogy of credit cards for the average person. The higher rating received the higher limit available to spend. There’s really no different in the states ability to use bonding authority. In the last four years the state of South Dakota has increased it’s bonding authority $202 million with a total of $1.9 billion just under the SD Building Authority. If you would like to review any of the bonding you can do so at: http://sdlegislature.gov/Reference_Materials/RequiredReports.aspx

Governor Daugaard set forth in his State of the State Address to reduce trafficking of methamphetamine before it enters South Dakota. A state wide campaign to educate people to prevent use and help those addicted to stop using meth. Some of the new proposal to address the increase in meth usage is a change to Public Safety Improvement Act to encourage treatment/more directly targeting meth usage. Establish a short mandatory sanction of required jail time for anyone on probation or parole who fails a drug test. Also, incentativizing the effective completion of treatment. Work to propose grants to expand HOPE 24/7 probation to all counties. No matter the geographic’s of our state the number one concern of local, tribal, state governments and citizens is the ongoing crisis facing our communities regarding “The meth epidemic.”

On Thursday, January 11th, Chairman Boyd Gourneau from Lower Brule delivered the State of the Tribes address. He called for continued efforts for unity between local, state and tribal governments to address the challenges facing the reservations by methamphetamine addiction.

I’ll leave you with this thought. South Dakota’s state’s general fund expenditures has grown by more than 35% over the last 10 years (’08-’17)…did your income grow by more than 35% during that same time period?

I’ve been assigned to Transportation and Commerce/Energy committees.