Legislative Week 8

Legislative Week 8

We’ve finally reached the home stretch! I think everyone will be glad this session is behind us.
This coming week the focus will be on the General Bill. The Governors proposed budget for FY 2019 is $4,655,323,547.
Following is the break down:
$1,615,672,243 is General Funds
$1,681,171,355 in Federal funds
$1,358,479,949 Other Funds.
In 2015 the actual budget was $3,851,634,982 and in 2018 its $4,600,525,575 increase in General, Federal and Other Funds of $748,890,593. General Funds saw an increase of $253,630,496 and Other Funds saw and increase of $202,990,054.
Some of the increases reflect SB 1 (Roads & Bridge Fund) estimated at the time increasing revenue $202 million and the more recent ½ cent sales tax increase. I think the actuals came in below the estimated increase of $110 million.
Also, interesting to note is the increase of FTE’s from 2015-2019. In 2015 the state had 13,259.3 employees and FY 2019 shows FTE’S at 13,905.9 an increase of 646.3 in four years.
Most of the budget has been dealt with, but on Monday the Appropriations will continue with the DOE and DSS budgets.
If you’re familiar with the story of “Chicken Little” you can about imagine all the acorns falling in Pierre.
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 7

Crossover week went very well and I attribute the success to the chairs and members of all the committees. Every year the stress leading up to crossover can become overwhelming. This year the stress was minimized by the ability to conduct the committee process efficiently.

On Friday Rep. Dan Kaiser and myself jointly moved to establish a Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion to investigate the conduct of Rep. Johnson. Rep. Lesmeister seconded the motion.
We’re all passionate about our issues and we work hard to represent those passions on bills during the debate. The incident I’m referring to “Did NOT” happen during the debate on the floor as Rep. Johnson refers to in his apology to the body on Friday. This incident happened well after session had concluded.
This wasn’t a debate; this was behavior that cannot be tolerated. I stand by my decision, this incident warrants a full investigation. 45 of my fellow legislators agreed. 13 legislators resisted the motion.
It now will be up to the select committee to decide the appropriate coarse of action. Following is the link to the motion:
http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Committees/Default.aspx?Committee=396&Session=2018&tab=Minutes&document=2232018130PM
I need to give everyone a review of the bills I sponsored this session. Following are two I’ll concentrate on for this column.

I’ll start with HB 1172 an act revise certain provisions regarding meetings of certain public bodies. This will ensure time will be set aside for public comment. The amount of time will be at the discretion of the chair. It’s important in a democracy that citizens are able to bring their concerns before their elected officials. State Affairs committee heard this bill and passed with only one nay vote. It moved to the floor and passed with only eight nay votes. HB 1172 will now move to the Senate for their consideration.

HB 1221 expands the partners in education tax credit program to include tribally controlled schools on a federally recognized Indian reservation. In 2016 SB 159 created the partners in education tax credit program allowing insurance companies tax incentive for tuition fees to private schools. HB 1221 will allow this incentive for private schools on our reservations. It passed House Education committee unanimously and the full house with only five nay votes. It will now be heard on the Senate side.

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 6

Legislative Week 6

Someone asked me, “How’s everything going this session?” My response, “I feel like I’m in a blender!” We’re all running from room to room testifying on bills that someone’s bringing or the ones we’re sponsoring. I have to say, “It’s refreshing to have Rep. Livermont on my team.” He’s done an excellent job informing me on bills that are coming in front of the Ag. Committee. Steve’s help answering the overwhelming amount of calls and emails from constituents concerning specific pending legislation has made the process run more smoothly.

I currently serve on the House Commerce/Energy Committee. This year we have twenty-one different bills related to alcohol.

Last year the legislature enacted a law that created a new license allowing off-sale liquor licensees to deliver alcohol purchases. The law stipulates that the deliveries can only be made to locations within the boundaries of the municipality that issued the license, the customer must place the order in person and show proof of age, the person receiving the order must show proof of age, and the minimum order is $150.00 of alcohol. HB 1125 would have amended that statute to provide that the $150.00 minimum purchase could be made up of a combination of alcohol and other items. So, for example, if the off-sale liquor licensee sells items such as ice, pop, water, corkscrews, snacks, paper products or other non-alcohol items, the order for those items could have made up part of the $150 minimum purchase. I believed this was a reasonable change to the law. The bill passed the committee by a vote of 8 to 5, but was rejected by the full House on a vote of 26 to 41.

I’ve had several calls regarding the “Tobacco Tax Increase, HB 1274. This bill would allow raising the tax on tobacco products by a dollar a pack. Currently, revenue generated from the tobacco tax is deposited as follows. The first $30 million goes to the general fund; the next $5 million goes to tobacco prevention and anything over $35 million goes to the general fund. HB 1274 would revise the allocation of dollars as follows. The first $5 million to tobacco prevention, the next $20 million would be allocated to postsecondary technical education for tuition lowering, scholarships, the next $10 million to nursing facility reimbursement fund and anything over $90 million would go to the State General fund. HB 1274 was heard in House State Affairs and defeated by a 9 to 4 vote.

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 5

The South Dakota Legislature concluded its 5th week of session on Thursday with one of the heaviest legislative loads that any of us have ever experienced. Currently there are over 500 bills, which is among the largest number of bills in over a decade.

I continue this week working on sales and use tax expenditures. My bill to address the expenditures will be heard in House Taxation on Tuesday morning. I continue to be concerned with the “Special Carve Outs on exemptions” when we’ve seen the largest tax increases to the citizen of South Dakota over the last 5 years

Two years ago we raised the state sales tax by a ½% increasing the revenue by $110 million for teacher pay. In 2015 we passed SB 1 to fund roads and bridges at an annual cost of $202 million to taxpayers. According to relatively conservative notions the growth of state government has grown by 35% in the last ten years.

Following is an update to Healthcare exemption for sales and use tax. I’ve accounted for Medicare spending because there wouldn’t be any sales and use tax from Medicare spending. The table shows the estimated net revenue from HB1309.
HB1309 Revenue / (Expenses) from Sales & Use Tax Exemptions
Health Services & Other Health Related Items (10-45-14,etc..) $ 282,664,992
Sales & Use Tax Exemption on Food $ (97,441,344)
Electricity on Irrigation Pumps (10-45-19.1, 10-46-17.2) $ 3,426,728
Advertising Services (10-45-12.1) $ 21,641,418
Membership fees to membership organizations (10-45-13.1) $ 8,033,805
Motion picture rentals for theaters (10-45-12.1) $ 622,034
Net Revenue from HB1309 $ 218,947,633

I’m unsure what the final language will look like, but at the very least a sunset clause on all exemptions need to be reviewed by the legislature before considering any new taxes.

This past week, Senator Killer, Rep. Livermont and myself were honored to have Kadoka and Bennett Co. Senior government classes visit the capital. Thank you to Mandi Smokov and Dave Ohrtman for engaging their students in the process.

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 4

The week was busy with deadline of bill drafting. Currently there are over 800 draft requests for bills, resolutions, and commemorations.

I’ve spent the better part of this session reviewing “Sales and Use Tax Exemptions” and “Annual Est. General Fund Revenue Loss” under statute. My main focus this week has been under the healthcare group exemptions.

Sanford Health is the largest, not-for-profit rural health system in the nation as confirmed by the Health Care Advisory Board, based on gross revenues, patient beds, and number of full time employees serving a significant patient volume outside of major metropolitan areas. Estimates for general fund revenue loss under all “Healthcare Group” is $139,539,330. This estimate hasn’t been recalculate since 2013 and under this category the estimates according to the growth could actually far exceed the calculation.

I believe the $139.5M is too low. Dept. of Revenue estimated the $139.5M as follows, “In order to reach the estimate, they looked at a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which showed that an average of $3631 was spent per person on healthcare in 2013 (based on national average).  South Dakota’s population was about 854,000 at that time.  Taking the average expenditure times the population time the sales tax rate gave us the estimated $139.5 million.”

However, I believe using an outdated 2013 number produces an estimate far below actual. The new estimate can be based on US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data on healthcare costs for the state of South Dakota. In 2016, the US BEA figured $7B was spent in South Dakota on health care, taking that number times the sales tax rate produces a sales and use tax exemption of $280.3M

Some economic statistics for South Dakota from November 2016 through October 2017 (excluding agriculture) outlook had education and health services growing by 1.40%. It wasn’t the largest with government at 1.95% but it does show the growth of the industry.

It’s important to note “Healthcare Exemptions” are only one of many sales and use tax exemptions under South Dakota law. Another on that stuck out to me was, “Motion picture rentals to a commercially operated theater primarily engaged in the exhibition of motion pictures.” The estimated exemption is  $622,034 almost exactly what is needed to fund the Veterans Cemetery in eastern South Dakota. The grand total for all exemptions under South Dakota law,  $1,113,065,623.

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 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.

Legislative Week 8

March 3, 2017

 

Well we’re on the home stretch for 2017. The session has been like none I’ve experienced in the last 5 years. Most of the session was consumed with replacing IM22.  The legislation dealing with the SD Dept. of Education and “Conflicts of Interest” did not specifically get addressed in legislation, but I’m hoping HB1076 establishing a “State Accountability” board will have some impact with concerns going forward.

HCR 1010 was brought in front the House Education Committee this week. The resolution addressed certain concerns about  SD Dept. of Education belonging to outside organizations. Concerned citizens want disclosure statements on any outside entities that the department is associated with.  Following are examples of concerns brought forward by www.sdcitizensforliberty.com a nonprofit organization.

The officials of the SD DOE and other state education organizations who testify on education issues are not unbiased. They have conflicting interests because they populate the boards of various organizations that benefit directly from South Dakota keeping the Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The DOE should or at least required full disclosure of their conflicts of interest.  Consider the following:

-SD Secretary of Education, Dr. Melody Schopp, formerly served on the Executive Board of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which holds a multi-million dollar contract with the state to develop and administer formative, interim, and summative tests to all children in South Dakota public schools. Dr. Schopp is currently the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), an organization that is co-owner, along with the National Governor’s Association, of the copyright for the Common Core State Standards.  It was in the best interest of the CCSSO to keep South Dakota married to these standards.

– Sarah Lutz testified as a teacher who loves Common Core.  She was South Dakota’s ‘Teacher of the Year’.  This is a CCSSO program that gives a cash award to teachers who exemplify the ideals of Common Core.  She was rewarded $12,300 in cash and prizes.

–  Paul Turman testified as a representative of the SD Board of Regents.  He dramatically “dropped his BOR badge” and went on to testify as a member of the Pierre School Board.  He forgot to mention that he also serves on the Smarter Balanced Consortium governing committee as the Higher Education Lead.

Other SD Department of Education officials who often testify before the Education Committees who serve other entities:

– Abby Javurek-Humig, Director of the SD DOE Division of Assessment and Accountability, is also the Chair-elect of the Executive Board of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.

– Jan Martin, SD DOE Administrator of Assessment, also serves on the Smarter Balanced Consortium governing committee with Paul Turman on K-12.

After little to no discussion the resolution was sent to the 41st day (meaning it died in committee process). To date the State of South Dakota has paid about $858,000 in membership dues just to belong to Smarter Balance Consortium and CCSSO.

SB 125 will come before the House this week. The bill would revise the list of organizations that would be approved through the accreditation process for nonpublic school to participate in interscholastic activities. Currently nonpublic schools that are approved by the Secretary of Education are North Central Association Commission, Association of Christian Schools International, Association of Classical Christian Schools, National Lutheran School Accreditation and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod School. Oceti Sakowin or COSA is seeking approval to be added to the accreditation list. Concerns surrounding Gear-Up and the $16.5 million in grant money that went through Mid Central in the last decade have some committee members concerned.

Oceti Sakowin Education Consortium was in charge for six years and handled nearly $6 million in grant money. The American Institute for Indian Innovation took over five years ago handling  $10.7 million in grant money. It turns out both nonprofit foundations were started by Scott Westerhuis (Mid-Central) who accepted millions in GEAR UP money. The concerns surrounding grant money distributed by Mid Central going to OSEC or Oceti Sakowin Educational Consortium overlapped during the same time grant money was going to American Indian Institute for Innovation or AIII.

Absent the Auditor General’s long audit process to determine where the $62 million went under the shell corporations formed by Scott Westerhuis I doubt this legislation will move forward.

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.

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Legislative Week 7 February 24,2017

There is an old saying that “’Close counts’ in horseshoes, dancing, and grenades.” It also counts—for a lot of money—in the world of public education in South Dakota.

This week I brought legislation (HB1192) to the Judiciary Committee for consideration to address the ongoing “Conflicts Of Interest.” Unfortunately this legislation was killed due to other legislation related to establishing “State Accountability Board.” I want to share the information that I brought forward during the committee process to show the problem associated with “Close Relationships” within government.

During Spring Semester 2016, students at the University of South Dakota created a giant wall-sized map depicting the GEAR UP grant in South Dakota. The administration of the GEAR UP grant has been characterized from its 2005 beginning by especially close relationships. Some people believe these close relationships are not only beneficial but also necessary in a small state like South Dakota. Other people believe that some of these relationships are conflicts of interest that are illegal, unethical, or both.

Gear Up Pin Map (Click to view)

Since last spring, the USD students have shown their map and given a related factual presentation to 29 different visitors, including both the prosecution and defense in criminal cases and the plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases. The students derived all the information on their map from public sources. Their map reveals the following close relationships:

Kelly Duncan was appointed to the SD Board of Education in 1996. Her term expired on December 31, 2017. Her picture is no longer on the web site of the SD Board of Education, so we do not know if she is still a member of the Board. During 2006-2015, Duncan held various positions within the School of Education at the University of South Dakota. During part of that time, (2008-2012) the Dean of the USD School of Education was Rick Melmer. In June of 2012, Duncan started Dakota Plains Consulting in Vermillion. Mid-Central Educational Cooperative (MCEC) in Platte, SD, paid Duncan to manage the federally funded College Access Challenge Grant, the purpose of which is to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. The federal government awarded the grant to the SD Office of Indian Education in 2008 and renewed the grant in 2010. In November of 2015, Angela Kennecke of KELOland News reported that during the past three years, Duncan had received $124,000 in contracts from the SD Department of Education. All of those contracts were below the state’s limit for required competitive bidding. In June of 2015, Duncan became the Dean of the School of Education at Northern State University in Aberdeen, and she moved her Dakota Plains Consulting from Vermillion to Aberdeen. Even though she accepted money from MCEC to manage the College Access Challenge Grant, she also accepted money from the Government Research Bureau at the University of South Dakota to be an “independent evaluator” of the GEAR UP grant at MCEC—all while serving on the SD Board of Education.

Julie Mathiesen was appointed to the SD Board of Education in 2011. She resigned from the Board in June of 2016. During the time Mathiesen was a member of the Board, she was also a Director at Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) in Rapid City, SD. During the time Mathiesen was a member of the Board, she was, according to the SD Department of Education, also the Superintendent of Three Rivers Special Services Cooperative in Philip, SD. A Schoenfish & Company audit of Three Rivers for the year ended June 20, 2015, reported, “A material weakness in internal controls was noted due to a lack of proper segregation of duties for revenues. This finding was first noted in 1992.” In January of 2016, Angela Kennecke of KELOland News reported that during 2014 and 2015, in her leadership roles with TIE and Three Rivers, Mathiesen signed nearly $2 million of contracts with the SD Department of Education.

Stacy Phelps was appointed to the SD Board of Education in 2008. He resigned from the Board in October of 2015. While Phelps was a member of the Board, he simultaneously held several positions associated with the GEAR UP grant from the SD Department of Education. He was the Program Director of the GEAR UP grant for Mid-Central Educational Cooperative. He was also the CEO of the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII), which received hundreds of thousands of dollars in GEAR UP funding from MCEC, which received the funding from the SD Department of Education. AIII was one of seven corporations created by Scott Westerhuis, who was simultaneously the Business Manager of MCEC and the Chief Financial Officer of AIII. Scott Westerhuis also created Oceti Sakowin Education Consortium, which a 2015 Eide Bailly audit showed was the recipient of at least $171,000 of GEAR UP funds. The Registered Agent of Oceti Sakowin was Scott Westerhuis, and the Business Manager was Nicole Westerhuis, who was also the Assistant Business Manager of MCEC. A Dana Ferguson story in the January 13, 2016, Argus Leader reported that on a recent South Dakota Public Radio “Dakota Midday” program, Governor Dennis Daugaard had said in reference to the interlocking memberships in MCEC and Oceti Sakowin, “That’s ridiculous. That’s a conflict of interest.” Phelps was also the President of Blackrock Consulting, another Scott Westerhuis corporation, in which Scott Westerhuis was the Vice-President and Nicole Westerhuis was the Secretary. Phelps was also the Director of the GEAR UP summer camp in Rapid City. On February 10, 2016, Angela Kennecke of KELOland News reported that as Camp Director, Phelps had hired 10 of his family members. An MCEC-commissioned audit revealed that during a two-year period, the 10 Phelps family members received $386,000 in salaries, benefits, and expenses. An 11th Phelps family member has been on AIII’s payroll for $90,000 per year as the Principal of a school run by AIII, for which she is also an Administrative Coordinator. In March of 2016, Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that he had charged Stacy Phelps with two felony counts of falsifying evidence and two felony counts of conspiracy to offer forged or fraudulent evidence.

Rick Melmer was the Secretary of the SD Department of Education from 2003 to 2008. In 2005, he helped secure the original GEAR UP grant for SD. (The grant was renewed in 2011 and extended through 2017.) He was the Dean of the University of South Dakota College of Education from 2008 to 2013. He became a consultant for the US Bureau of Indian Education in 2010, when he was Dean of the School of Education at USD. He organized Dakota Education Consulting in 2013; the business’s web site listed Melmer’s address as Delzell Hall at USD. He became a consultant for the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in 2013. He started RVM Consulting in Sioux Falls in 2015. He founded Leadership South Dakota in 2015. Melmer started receiving $1,000 monthly payments from MCEC in 2012, a year when Melmer was on MCEC’s Advisory Board, on the SD Department of Education’s Oversight Board for Native American Education, and was the Dean of the School of Education at USD. A Bob Mercer story in the May 19, 2015, Pierre Capital Journal reported that the SD Department of Legislative Audit’s audit of the administration of the GEAR UP grant for FY2014 found that Melmer and former SD Office of Indian Education Director Keith Moore had been paid $32,000 by MCEC for several months, even though neither had submitted effort logs showing what they had been working on. In July of 2013, MCEC contracted to pay Melmer $185,000 to be a Senior Advisor over the next 12 months. On April 23, 2014, MCEC contracted to pay Melmer $223,250 in 12 monthly payments of $18,604.17 each to be a Senior Advisor. The contract also gave Melmer 12 days of vacation leave, 15 days of sick leave, two days of personal leave, state rates for mileage, and full single health and dental insurance. (In a September 28, 2015, interview with KELOland’s Angela Kennecke, Melmer said that only a third of his salary was paid for with GEAR UP money.) On July 10, 2014, the MCEC Board of Directors approved a contract with the SD Board of Regents for “Rick Melmer Services” for $49,500, which was $500 below the limit for competitive bidding.

Keith Moore was Director of the SD Office of Indian Education within the SD Department of Education from 2005 to 2009. He was Chief Diversity Officer for the University of SD from 2009 to 2010. From May 2010 to June 2012, he was the Director of the Bureau of Indian Education for the US Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington DC. He became the State Director of the SD Fellowship of Christian Athletes in July of 2012. He also served briefly as the Interim Director of the SD Office of Indian Education beginning in June of 2013. The August 24, 2015 Rapid City Journal reported, “Moore became chief diversity officer at USD in 2009 and was appointed as the director for the federal Bureau of Indian Education in 2010. He left the agency in 2012 amid an investigation into a contract matter that also involved Melmer and Moore’s chief of staff at the federal agency, Brian Drapeaux. Moore and Drapeaux tried a steer a contract to review the bureau to a Pierre business, Personal Group. Drapeaux had worked for the business immediately prior to joining Moore at the federal agency. The contract was initially blocked because of a federal requirement for a one-year break of service between a federal employee and a potential contractor. The contract eventually went to a business subsidiary for the Winnebago Tribe in Nebraska. That company, All-Native, Inc., then sub-contracted with Personal Group and Melmer. The inspector general’s 15-page report concluded Moore and Drapeaux ‘appear to have acted in violation of Federal ethics regulations governing impartiality…and the use of public office for private gain.’” A 2015 Eide Bailly forensic audit of MCEC revealed that from October of 2013 through August of 2015, MCEC paid Moore $99,767.97 while Moore was leading the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Tom Oster served as Secretary of the SD Department of Education from 2008 to 2011. He served as Superintendent of the Sioux Valley School District in Volga, SD, from 2011 to 2016. He is Co-Director of Dakota Education Consulting with former SD Education Secretary Rick Melmer and a Co-Director of Leadership South Dakota with Melmer. In 2011, he started Oster Consulting in Volga, which in 2016 moved to Sioux Falls. In 2016, the Sioux Valley School District hired Oster Consulting to conduct the search to replace Oster.

Don Kirkegaard is currently the President of the SD Board of Education. He was appointed to the Board in December 2006. Kirkegaard previously served as Superintendent of the Britton-Hecla School District. He currently serves as the Superintendent of the Meade County School District. At the time he was a partner in Sioux Falls-based Dakota Education Consulting (with former Secretaries of the SD Department of Education Rick Melmer and Tom Oster), Dakota Education Consulting, on its web site, listed its clients as the Britton-Hecla School District, the Meade County School District, and the SD Department of Education.
The officials of the SD DOE and other state education organizations who testify on education issues are not unbiased. They have conflicting interests because they populate the boards of various organizations that benefit directly from South Dakota keeping Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Consider the following: – SD Secretary of Education, Dr. Melody Schopp, formerly served on the Executive Board of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), which holds a multi-million dollar contract with the state to develop and administer formative, interim, and summative tests to all children in South Dakota public schools. Dr. Schopp is currently the president of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), an organization which is co-owner, along with the National Governor’s Association, of the copyright for the CCSS. It was in the best interest of the CCSSO to keep South Dakota married to these standards.
– Sarah Lutz was South Dakota’s ‘Teacher of the Year’. This is a CCSSO program that gives a cash award to teachers who exemplify the ideals of Common Core.
– Paul Turman is a representative of the SD Board of Regents and also serves on the Smarter Balanced Consortium governing committee as the Higher Education.

Other SD Department of Education officials who often testify before the Education Committees who serve other entities:
– Abby Javurek-Humig, Director of the SD DOE Division of Assessment and Accountability, is the Chair-elect of the Executive Board of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.
Jan Martin, SD DOE Administrator of Assessment, also serves on the Smarter Balanced Consortium governing committee with Paul Turman for K-12.

Conclusion: Since 2005, the State of South Dakota has spent almost $62 million in state and federal money and resources in an attempt to help Native American children go to college, and no one anywhere has come forward with credible evidence of how many young people went to college because of our expenditure of that $62 million.

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 6 Feb. 16, 2017

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States said, “Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government; the history of government is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is the history of the limitation of government, not the increase of it.” As we approach the conclusion of session, I think it’s important for legislators to keep this in mind.

Rep. Livermont, Senator Killer and I were honored to have the US Government Classes from Bennett Co. and Kadoka Schools at the Capitol this week. It’s refreshing to have young people come and see first hand the importance of learning and understanding our form of government. The students were prepared with questions of pending legislation for us. I applaud their teachers, Mandi Smokov and Dave Ohrtman, for bringing the students prepared. I also want to note how impressed I was with the attention given to their attire and manners. With all the negative news regarding our young people, I can say Bennett Co. and Kadoka citizens can be proud of these kids.

In 2014, the “Extraordinary Litigation Fund” was established. Under this section, the State Treasury created a sub fund. The fund is maintained separately and administered by the Bureau of Administration. The fund may be used for plaintiff attorney fees, retention of outside counsel, settlement costs, or other litigation expenses. This past week, the legislators approved $7,994,202 on settled or closed cases. The cases range from March of 2006 to August of 2016. Currently there are six open cases.

Tobacco #1- Challenging the MSA requirements and the escrow account requirements applicable to non-participating tobacco product manufacturers.
Tobacco #4- Challenging the 2004 Tobacco Diligent Enforcement Proceeding, which places the State’s annual tobacco payments from the Participating Manufactures under the “Master Settlement Agreement.” They expect an evidentiary hearing sometime in 2017.
Planned Parenthood-Challenging the 2011-abortion legislation. A number of depositions have been scheduled and a trial date may be possible in 2017.
EECO/Goodman- filed a discrimination charge on November of 2011. He alleges that he was not hired for an Employment Specialist Position.
Oglala/Rosebud Tribes- are challenging the State’s procedures in emergency removal hearings, claiming violations of constitutional rights and of the Indian Child Welfare Act.
LP6, LLC-The plaintiff brings this action to redress the alleged fraud by defendants by which members were unlawfully solicited to invest in providing financing for a project undertaken by Northern Beef Packers Limited Partnership to build, develop and operate a beef processing plant in South Dakota (The PROJECT). This is in regards to the EB-5 Program which facilitates foreign investment in certain communities in the US for projects that will benefit those communities by creating jobs. Under the program, in exchange for making approved investments, the foreign investors and their immediate families are granted conditional lawful permanent resident status, which can become unconditional after 2 years. LP6 claims $18 million aggregated loss in investments.

I’ll leave you with this quote, “Where there is a rift in the lute, the business of the lawyer is to widen the rift and gather the loot.”

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 5

Legislative Report Feb. 9, 2017

As of 2/9/2017 388 bills have been introduced. 177 bills introduced in the Senate and 211 in the House. At the point in 2016, 418 were filled and in 2015, 429 bills were filed.

SB 172 authorizing the South Dakota Building Authority to provide for the construction of and improvements to the State Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic laboratory and infrastructure at the South Dakota State University and declare and emergency. SB 172 was referred to the Joint Committee on Appropriations on 2/2/17. I have a real problem with this legislation. The Governor wants to appropriate $5 million from general funds and use the bonding authority to further the project. The total cost projects are some where in the neighborhood off $56 million. The language makes reference to increasing and establishing certain agricultural fees and to transfer certain funds to pay for the project. South Dakota Building Authority has increased the bonding authority by $202 million in four years. I’m very concerned about the fee put on agriculture and would like to see the pharmaceutical companies get some skin in the game. As the bill stands now I can’t support this legislation.

On Monday I will introduce HB 1192 to increase the period of time certain persons may contract with the state after termination of service. This legislation is trying to address the problems that arose following Gear-Up. Following is example of “Conflict of Interest.” Don Kirkegaard is currently the President of the SD Board of Education. He was appointed to the Board in December of 2006. Mr. Kirkegaard previously served as Superintendent of the Britton-Hecla School District. He currently serves as the Superintendent of the Meade County School District. At the time he was a partner in Sioux Falls-based Dakota Education Consulting (with former Secretaries of the SD Department of Education Rick Melmer and Tom Oster) Dakota Education Consulting, on its web site, listed its clients as the Britton-Hecla School District, Meade County School District and the SD Department of Education. $62 million came through the Gear-Up grant. The intent of the grant was to increase graduation rates among Native American students. To date there’s no data to tell us if there was an increase in graduation rates.

HB 1079 is An Act to clarify certain provisions regarding municipal assessments and the collection of delinquent fees by the county. This is another unfunded mandate on our county treasurer. In essences this bill would require treasurer office to access delinquent utility bills to tax bills. If this is treated the same way that the tax certificates are then we will be selling peoples properties for unpaid utility bills. These bills are not improvements to the land and should not be treated as such. A new sewer line would already be an improvement and the City would be able to collect this on the property taxes because it is indeed a true special assessment for infrastructure improvements. If the county takes tax deed to the property for nonpayment of taxes all outstanding amounts due would be cancelled except for the special assessment, which are true infrastructure improvements. Adding these bills to the taxes could prevent the county from selling the property at a tax auction, which in turn stops the property from being sold and added back onto the tax rolls. If we allow this legislation collection on utilities for the city it will only be a matter of time before the electric companies and the gas companies will want to put in legislation for their collection too.

Finally some “Food for thought” Last year an independent overview on the state budget was brought to light. Between 2000 and 2014 school funding increased by 28% while state government increased by 95% (almost double.) The state budget grew 3.4 times faster than school funding and exceeded inflation by 42%. Three things to keep in mind: 1.) The state budget nearly doubled despite a 10% across the board cut to the budget in 2011; 2.) $100 million in tax and fee increases during 2015 are not included in the numbers; 3.) The ½ cent sales tax passed in 2016 over $100 million for teacher pay is also not included in the numbers.

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 4 2017

Legislative Week 4 Feb. 2, 2017

Week four was somewhat busier than the weeks before, but still nothing like it has been in the past.

HB 1069 was heard in the Senate this week. After a lengthy debate, it passed off the floor and was signed into law by the Governor. HB1069 was a complete repeal of IM22. At last count, there were 27 bills introduced to replace concerns to IM22. Due to threats made on legislators and family members, countless law enforcement agencies along with canine units covered every floor of the capital. I turned my focus on the young pages serving during session. Part of their duty is to answer incoming phone calls. Because of inappropriate language and threats to legislators, the Page Staff had to suspend the practice. I understand citizen’s compassion on particular issues, but what I don’t understand is utter disregard for civility. We’re Citizen Legislators, meaning we campaign on our own time and our own money. Our yearly salary is $6000.00 and we’re paid 5 cents a mile. We’re not subsidized by the State with funds that would cripple our State economy. Taking 8% from the State Budget to create “Democracy Credits” will do nothing but take away from other important matters such as Education, Law Enforcement, and Infrastructure; not mention it’s unconstitutional. This session has been burdened with the task of taking out and fixing IM22 which could be better served spending time looking at ways to invest our State’s time and money. I encourage everyone to contact me with concerns regarding IM22, but I encourage you, base the conversation on “Facts” not “Emotions.”
Following is a list of bills you can review dealing with Elections/Public Officials/Ethics Reform and Transparency.
HB 1034, HB1035, HB1036, HB1073, HB1074, HB1076, HB1089, HB1128, HB1130, SB27, SB53, SB54, SB59, SB67, SB77, SB116, SJR2.
http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/default.aspx?Session=2017

Due to the time spent on IM22, not much else moved forward. I do want to bring attention to SB135. COOL or “Country of Origin Labeling” is back again this year. SB135 would repeal South Dakota’s existing law that says anyone who knowingly sells meat from a foreign country must post a SIGN indicating the country of origin. It would be replaced with a provision requiring retailers who sell beef and ground beef to LABEL IT with the country of origin. If the origin can’t be determined, the product would have to be labeled as “unknown” or “Country of origin unknown.” The measure includes an exemption for prepared foods for immediate sale or ready to eat. If you support “Country of Origin Labeling” I strongly encourage you to contact the committee members on State Affairs to encourage them to support the legislation. Following is the link for members on State Affairs. http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Committees/CommitteeMembers.aspx?Committee=356&Session=2017

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 3

Legislative Week 3 January 26, 2017

It was my honor this week to carry SCR 5 in the House endorsing the induction of Howard Hunter Sr. into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. I encourage everyone to read the full Resolution. The last paragraph of the resolution sums up Howard’s life.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, due to his talent, superb skill, and integrity, the induction of Howard Hunter Sr. into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame would honor a South Dakota Plains ranch lifestyle, a set of solid values, and a life well lived that are as relevant today as at any time in the history of our nation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that through the nomination of Howard Hunter, Sr., the Selection Committee of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame has the opportunity to honor one of the most talented and deserving bronc riders that ever measured a bronc rein or nodded for a gate.

http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Bills/Bill.aspx?File=SCR5P.htm&Session=2017

SCR2 (Senate Concurrent Resolution) supporting the Electoral College system was brought to the floor for consideration the Electoral College is a process not a place. The Electoral College was established as an essential part of the United States Constitution in 1787 Most of us have a basic understanding of how and why the Electoral College was set up, but I found it interesting to actually see the numbers. Electoral votes are allocated among the states based on the US Census. Because South Dakota is small in population are votes are twice as influential as those in larger states such as California, Texas, New York and Florida. Following is a list from greatest to least impact of single voter influence toward electoral vote. VPEV stands for, VOTERS PER ELECTORAL VOTE

SOUTH DAKOTA: 370,047 TOTAL VOTERS/3 ELECTORAL VOTES=123,349.0 VPEV
TEXAS: 8,969,226 TOTAL VOTERS/38 ELECTORAL VOTES= 236,032.3 VPEV
CALIFORNIA: 14,181,595 TOTAL VOTERS/55 ELECTORAL VOTES=257,847.2 VPEV
NEW YORK: 7,707,363 TOTAL VOTERS/29 ELECTORAL VOTES=265,771.1VPEV
FLORIDA: 9,420,039 TOTAL VOTERS/29 ELECTORAL VOTES= 324,828.9 VPEV

As you can see, South Dakota had a greater impact per single vote than did the other four largest states. So when you’re told, “Every vote counts” this is something to keep in mind. There have been efforts made to eliminate the Electoral College in recent years by seeking to persuade states to mandate that electors may only vote for the winner of the popular vote nationally. South Dakota and other states with small populations would be at disadvantage to have our voices heard.

I have more information available to report on IM22. It was brought to our attention that an on July 29, 2015 the South Dakota Research Council informed the drafters of IM22 there were two unconstitutional provisions. Following are the Sections of IM 22 that are in question regarding the constitutionality of the initiated measure passed by the voters.

Sections 39 and 40 on page 35 provide an appropriation to the “Democracy Credit Fund.” SD Constitution. Art. XII, 2 states that appropriations shall be made by separate bills, each embracing one object, and requires a two-thirds vote of all the members of each branch of the Legislature. The proposed annual appropriation may be unconstitutional.

Section 68 of Initiated Measure 22: There is hereby appropriated from the general fund on July 1, 2017, and every July first of each year thereafter, the sum of nine dollars, to be adjusted every year for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index for the Midwest Region. All items, as determined by the United States Department of Labor, per South Dakota registered voter as most recently determined by the Secretary of State, to the democracy credit fund for the identified purposes of that fund.

Despite the constitutional defect(s), the drafters chose to include the unconstitutional provision in the final version of IM22 that was filed with the Secretary Of State. The supporters of IM22 claim voters knew what they were voting for. How many voters took the time to read 14,000-word ballot measure?

Following is the link to read the Pros and Cons given to you at the ballot box.
https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/2016%20BQ%20PamphletCover.pdf

The next link will take you to the IM22 complete 34-page ballot measure.

https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/2016_IM_CampFinLobbyingLaws.pdf

The Senate invoked Rule 517 on Thursday to allow more time to discuss HB1069 to repeal IM22. Rule 517 can be used twice on the same bill and I suspect they will inevitability use it again next week to allow for even more time. This piece of legislation will be delayed at least through next week, which will allow both sides to find the language necessary that will satisfy both sides.

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 January 20, 2017

Well the legislature has completed the second week of session. The weather conditions cooperated better making the trip back and forth more enjoyable.

So far, 124 Bills have been introduced for the 2017 session, 64 in the Senate and 60 in the House.

Most of the session so far has focused on addressing the unconstitutionality of IM 22.  Well over $5 million would be appropriated every year to pay for political campaigns. Also, the law could potentially prohibit teachers, nurses, business owners and others from serving in the legislature due to conflict of interests.  Over $1 million was used from out of state group to promote IM 22. The Secretary of State has introduced SB53 and SB54. SB53 would create a Campaign Finance Ethics Commission and SB54 would revise certain provisions regarding campaign finance requirements.  May concerns are not “Campaign Finance Ethics” but concerns over the lack of over sight on state agencies. Millions and millions of dollars come into the State of South Dakota every year with no Agency Ethics Commission. EB-5 and Gear Up could have been avoided if an Ethics Commission would have been in place assuring no conflicts of interest.  We have GOAC (Government Operations and Audit Committee) made up of legislators. I would like to see this expanded to include an ethics commission. We seem to have a bigger problem with Governor appointments using the experience and knowledge obtained while in government to enrich themselves off the backs of the taxpayers once they leave their position. Four years I sat on the Education Committee and not once was the committee informed on Gear Up. I look back now and guess there might have been a reason for that. I personally think South Dakotans voted for IM 22 thinking this would correct the wrongs of EB 5 and Gear Up and I haven’t seen any bill yet that addresses that concern.

SB25 has passed out of Senate Judiciary and the complete Senate. It now will make its way to House Judiciary this week. This bill would allow for “Mug Shots” to be made available to the publishing industry that is emerging across the country. The industry consists of private companies that publish mug shots and booking details of individuals arrested by law enforcement agencies. There has been over 60 new mug shot websites created in the last two years. The “Reputation Management Industry” profit when individuals pay a fee to have their mug shot removed from one or more websites.  On occasion the same company resulting in a combination “Business Model” sometimes operates the two types of businesses. It might be legal, but is close to extortion in my mind.  I still believe you’re “Innocent until proven guilty” and will work this week against SB25. I’m including a link to the House Judiciary committee members if anyone would like to weigh in on SB25. http://sdlegislature.gov/Legislative_Session/Committees/CommitteeMembers.aspx?Committee=359&Session=2017

There has not been much legislation reaching the floor this week. I expect starting next week we’ll see more bills coming out of committee and to the floor for our debate. The longest debate on floor this week was to allow hair braiding without having cosmetology license. It turns out that we still have some common sense left and passed if off the floor with only a few NO votes.

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.

January 13, 2017 Week One

The 2017 legislative session is off and running. So far, 110 bills have been introduced with 108 filled by different State Agencies.

Expected state revenues are down $31.9 million just since the Budget Address in December. 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 that Amazon will voluntarily start collecting sales tax receipts on all sales made by South Dakotans starting February 1, 2017. No projection were given to the legislature on the amount they expect to take in, but it will fall short of the loss endured this past year. 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

Three goals Governor Daugaard set forth in his State of the State Address to reduce trafficking of methamphetamine before it enters South Dakoa. 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. I’ll be actively involved in supporting legislation to require “Random” drug testing for anyone receiving state assistance. 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 12th, Chairman Robert Flying Hawk 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 and also the rise in heroin use.

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

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.

 

 

Feb. 17-21, 2014

Every time I cross the Capitol’s threshold, it’s with the knowledge that I report to the people, not Pierre.

That’s why I brought forth two bills: HB 1234 and HB 1214. The first supplants the Common Core standards, because there’s nothing standard or common about our children – nor should there be about their education. The second would require an analysis of the financial impacts incurred by Common Core’s implementation.

In 2010, before I ran for office, a drastic overhaul of South Dakota’s educational system happened without a vote from the legislature or a voice from the people. Shrouded in secrecy, Common Core remains an issue propped up by special interests that reward a blind eye over a clear vision. I attempted to shine a spotlight into the depths with a bill that would determine the potential costs local school districts faced.

Friday, eight members of the Legislature opposed that measure, preferring the shadows that spawned an irresponsible program with the potential to squander millions as opposed to a sunshine law that would protect the people we all purport to represent.

Their refusal to even consider the costs of Common Core has laid a heavy burden on the backs of taxpayers.

Following are some other bills that were voted on this week.

One of the major topics of discussion this week in the Senate was SB169- An Act to provide for access to and use of public waters on public and private property and to protect private property rights for the citizens of South Dakota. The bill is also known as the non-meandered lakes bill. The bill passed the House and Senate State Affairs Committee, however it was tabled on the Senate floor with a 31-3 vote after sportsmen and landown-ers were unable to find enough common ground to compromise. This is the third attempt over the past 8 years to pass legislation about this issue and it will likely return next year for a fourth attempt.

The Senate passed SB 90 stating the South Dakota High School Activities Association should be subject to the same open government laws as the school boards that authorized it. The bill passed 29-5 and will now go to the House for further consideration.

The Senate also passed SB 180 to authorize the increase in the number of video lottery machines that may be placed in a licensed establishment under certain conditions. It would increase the limit from 10 to 15 per licensed establishment. The bill passed with a 22-12 vote and will now go to the House.

Highlights from the House

The House Health and Human Services Committee passed HB 1244 with an 8-4 vote. The bill would provide health insurance for some South Dakotans below the poverty line by taxing the property of currently tax-exempt hospitals. It would apply to people earning less than 100 percent of the federal poverty line — $11,670 for an individual or $23,850 for a family of four. To receive the health care coverage, individuals would have to not be eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or the Indian Health Service, and would have to work 40 hours per week. This bill has already generated a lot of press attention.

House Taxation Committee defeated HB 1227 with a 9-4 vote. The bill was intended to wean the state off of video lottery revenue. The House also voted 70-0 to require all public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
Three smokeouts were attempted in the House this week . A “smokeout” is a procedural move to attempt to force a bill that was defeated in committee to the floor. In the House, 24 votes are needed to “smokeout” a bill.
-The smokeout for HB 1215 was successful and necessary to fix a procedural error. The bill would provide for the issuance of free fishing licenses to residents aged eighty-five and older. I brought this bill on behalf of senior citizens.

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 rep.may@state.sd.us 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 the legislators.

 

 

Legislative Week Feb.10-14

As I addressed in previous columns, the adoption of Common Core State Standards by our SD Dept of Education continues to be a hot topic. On Wednesday I will bring two bills addressing the concerns echoed by parents,teachers and taxpayers from across the state.

HB 1214 wil require a study and analysis of the financial, fiscal, and economic impacts of implementation of the Common Core State Standards.

Nationally, CCSS was rolled out to the 45 states and adopted in 2010, with no analysis as to the cost to implement such changes. Two years later, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released their analysis in March of 2012, entitled, “Putting a Price Tag on the Common Core,” and estimated it would cost the states approximately $12.1 B. Later that year, December 2012, the Pioneer Institute released their analysis entitled, “National Cost of Aligning States & Localities to the Common Core Standards” with a national estimate of $15.8 B. Taking into account the $4 B given to states via the Race to the Top (RTTT) grant from American Recovery Act ; Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the states were estimated to bear the cost of $8.1 (Fordham) to $11.8 B (Pioneer) for the implementation of these new standards.

Currently, States across the country are beginning to implement the CCSS and are spending billions to do it. California announced its one-time allocation of $1.25 B to help schools districts begin the implementation process. Florida has asked for $441.8 million for subsidies to local school districts just for the required technology upgrades. These two states alone are spending approximately $1.7 B, accounting for 14% of the national cost projected by the Fordham study & 11% of the national cost projected by the Pioneer Institute, even though these two states only account for 4% of all the states nationally that have adopted CCSS. Thus, indicating these preliminary estimates are lower than the actual costs being incurred today.

There are numerous evaluations of studies, reports, budgets, and other financial information from the various states, districts, and independent groups across our country to evaluate what the impending costs are to our state. The research shows, I believe the state of South Dakota is likely facing a $51,765,424.27 cost for the implementation of CCSS. However, as many states have recognized the majority, on average 61% of the costs, are borne by the local school districts.  A letter received from the South Dakota Department of Education dated July 31, 2013, individual school districts are responsible for the “purchase [of] additional computers” and for any additional “textbooks” or supplies required for the transition. Notably, the Rapid City Area School District’s RTTT grant application allocated 45% of its funding requests for “Supplies, Technology, & Curricular Materials.” The local school districts statewide are faced with impending costs for this transition of approximately $83,130,344.66. Thus, bringing the estimated cost statewide at approximately $134 M. Of course, this does not include on going costs, such as the SBAC testing assessments at approximately $5 M per year or other ongoing costs for the districts for the maintenance, insurance, & upgrades of the technology needed to take the SBAC assessments.

HB 1243 is to  An Act to supplant the Common Core Standards.

The Roman philosopher Cicero, who said:  “We are all drawn to the pursuit of knowledge.  We desire to see, to hear, and to learn; we consider the knowledge of what is hidden or wonderful, a condition of our happiness.”

Cicero speaks of happiness as a goal of education; so did Benjamin Franklin.  Both men knew that education is itself the application of a standard.

Common Core Standards were presented as education reform, but “reform” is not the same thing as “improvement”.  I’m troubled by the fact that the Federal government used third-party trade unions like the NGA and the CCSSO to facilitate the writing of these standards, and then promoted them to the states with stimulus money as an incentive.  No Congressman or Legislator ever voted to accept them.  The NGA and the CCSSO still hold the copyright to the Common Core Standards.  How can it be good for South Dakota to adopt standards they didn’t write and don’t even own?  Where is the local control in that arrangement?

There is a growing trend to halt and reverse the Common Core Standards and for good reason.  I would rather put money in teachers’ pockets and allow them to teach children in ways that form them academically than pour it down the black hole of ever-changing technology obsolescence.

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 rep.may@state.sd.us 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 the legislators.

 

 

Legislative Week Feb. 3-7 2014

The 4th week of session ended and the final day to submit bills was Tuesday February 4th. The final tally on bills and resolutions filed is 511. In 2013 we saw 402 bills and resolutions. I expect the next few weeks will be very busy.

House Bill 1006 was up for a hearing in the House Agriculture and Natural Resouces Committee on Tuesday, February 4, but was tabled. A companion bill, Senate 8, was tabled by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee. Both bills came out of the Agricultural Land Assessment Implementation and Oversight Advisory Task Force during interim meetings this summer. Currently, South Dakota agricultural land is taxed based on soil type and productivity. These are aimed at basing ag land property taxes on actual use. This bill will be back to committee in the next couple of week.’s I would like to hear from my constituents regarding this issue.

Governor Daugaard announced that he will ask federal officials to let South Dakota expand its Medicaid program in a way that would provide medical services to those most in need. He said he will support expanding eligibility only up to 100 percent of the poverty level because those above that mark can buy subidized private insurance throgh the new health care law. People earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level- about $16,000 for a single person or $33,000 for a family of four-would be covered by a full expansion. The federal government would fully cover those added to Medicaid rolls through 2016, and the state’s contribution would rise in stages to 10 percent of the costs by 2020. An expansion to 100 percent of the poverty level would cover a single person earning up to about $11,700 and a family of four earning $23,850.

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 rep.may@state.sd.us 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 the legislators.