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.