Olson’s Weekly Update

By Sen. Russell Olson, District 8, Senate Majority Leader

Last summer, I chaired the Postsecondary Education Committee, where a bi-partisan group of House and Senate members studied the purpose and funding for Postsecondary Education in South Dakota. As a result of the recommendations of that study, I testified last week as the prime sponsor on a package of bills intended to improve performance and funding for higher education in South Dakota.
Senate Bills 3, 4 and 5 were heard in Senate Education and I am proud to say that all three passed out of committee. The committee was composed of legislators who had knowledge of postsecondary education and who fully understand the state appropriation process. Of the 15 members of the committee, eight are legislators who have served on the appropriations committee. Nine of those members are currently in the Senate, including the chair and vice chair of appropriations and the chair of the Senate Education Committee.
Our committee visited five locations over the summer of postsecondary education including Dakota State University. The committee invited representatives from both the Board of Regents and the technical institutes to testify at multiple meetings. The three bills collectively, will for the first time, define the purpose for public postsecondary education.
The bills establish policy goals for postsecondary education, create a means for on-going policy review and engagement of policymakers, including legislators, in the general goals process. We will now have a comprehensive review of all higher education policy for both our universities and our technical institutes. This package of bills will set up a framework for providing higher education systems with resources that include performance funding related to policy goals, which allows us to focus on state policy level issues and systems rather than individual institutions.
These meetings and the input that we gathered, I believe is the making of good public policy and the reason I feel they will pass both chambers of the legislature and be signed by the Governor.
I will bring you more of my perspective and involvement in the Public Safety Improvement Act, as well as other legislation that I will be carrying during this session in next week’s article.
I  hope to hear from you on issues that are important to you.  I can be reached at sen.russellolson@state.sd.us or at my office in Pierre at 605-773-3828.

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