Opinion

By Rep. Marli Wiese

It was good to meet with constituents in Flandreau, Madison and Howard last weekend, and I am thankful to the groups that arranged these cracker barrels. Many times, there are questions and comments that we haven’t seen yet, and it helps to know what issues residents of our District are interested in.

All school districts are anxious to hear about sales tax revenue numbers for the last quarter of 2019. We may have good estimates by the end of this week. Legislators are working with the appropriations committee to see if we can give teachers, state employees, and community support providers the increase they need.  

There were several questions about the security system installed at the capitol this fall.  This was not an expenditure that legislators were asked to approve. The system was up and running earlier this year and appears now to be fully operational.

House Bill 1083 to adopt the change in name from technical institutes to technical colleges passed out of the Education committee and the full house floor last week. The bill was proposed as a marketing tool as technical schools work to enroll more students. There were concerns that, since enrollment at tech schools was growing while the Board of Regents schools struggled to hold students, that the bill wasn’t needed. Surrounding states also making this change was another reason for the bill’s introduction.

The Judiciary committee heard HB1047 revising provisions regarding human trafficking. Becky Rasmussen with Call To Freedom was instrumental in the drafting of this bill and has been working with trafficking victims in the state. The bill enhances the crime of human trafficking and allows a minor to apply for expungement of their record while they are still a minor instead of waiting until they are 18 years of age to appear in court on their own. The bill also provides better access to victim resources in terms of victim compensation and restitution.

Madison residents, Kim Verhey and Dan Fritz with American Legion Post #25, were in Pierre last week to receive a commemoration recognizing and honoring the Veterans Park to be built in Madison. The commemoration was read in both the House and Senate chambers. It is our hope that this will draw more attention to the project and assist Post #25 as they continue in fundraising.

I can be reached at  marli.wiese@sdlegislature.gov with any questions or comments you may have as the 95th session enters its fifth week.

By Rep. Randy Gross

Thursday, Feb. 6, was the last day for final bill and joint resolution introduction. The next few weeks will be busy as several hundred bills work their way through committees. I encourage anyone having interest in a specific bill to read the bill, study the topic, identify the committee that will hear the bill and come and testify, if you have the opportunity. Bill information and schedules can be obtained at the state website https//sdlegislature.gov. It is important to promote your position at the committee level, as that is the “grass roots” legislative level. If you are unable to get to Pierre, contact legislators serving on the committee that will debate the bill. You can also testify via conference call by making call arrangements, with the committee chair, prior to the meeting.

In Appropriations committee, we hear from state agencies and departments. In addition to hearing their budget requests, we learn a great deal about our state and opportunities available to our citizens. For example, the South Dakota Department of Tourism offers free online hospitality training. While designed for our state’s tourism industry, the free training is a valuable tool for any business wishing to improve its customer service. Aren’t we all ambassadors for South Dakota! Take a look under “industry resources” at SDvisit.com. Did I mention it’s free?

Another opportunity, offered through our state Department of Education, is the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program. JAG is a state-based, national non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dropouts among young people who have serious barriers to graduation and/or employment. In more than three decades of operation, JAG has delivered consistent, compelling results – helping young people stay in school through graduation, pursue postsecondary education and secure quality entry level jobs leading to career advancement opportunities. South Dakota currently has 200+ students in five school districts participating in the program, with a 100 percent graduation rate.  

A tool all citizens should also be aware of is your ability to report suspected fraud, noncompliance or abuse. If you suspect wrongdoing within state government, go to the Auditor General’s website (legislativeaudit.sd.gov) and click on the red flag on the lower left side. The site provides definitions and instructions for reporting.

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting briefly in Pierre with several School Superintendents from the 8th District. These individuals are valuable leaders in our communities, linking generations and dealing with many issues which go far beyond traditional education. In addition, 8th District Legislators had the chance to ask and respond to questions from many of you at Saturday’s Cracker Barrel sessions in Flandreau, Madison and Howard. Thanks to all who took time to attend and discuss issues.

Please remember, this is your government and all citizens are welcome to visit their Capitol and testify on bills or simply observe the process. Information on the content and status of bills is available on the state website https://sdlegislature.gov. I can be contacted at Randy.Gross@sdlegislature.gov.

The legislative pace began to pick up during the second week.  Bills are beginning to work their way through committees. Most bills can be considered as either proactive or reactive. Proactive bills look to the future and propose a new or innovative idea for the benefit of the state. Reactive bills are written to modify or correct an existing situation, again for the betterment of the state. Both types of bills serve useful purposes.

Finding South Dakota’s “Next Big Thing” was a request from Governor Noem in her State of the State address last year. This year, a group of legislators are submitting a bill on behalf of South Dakota State University and the School of Mines for South Dakota’s next big thing. In this example of a proactive bill, the two universities are requesting funds to develop plans for a bioprocessing research and development facility. This collaborative effort would be a public-private partnership designed to bring together faculty from both schools, along with private industry, to develop new uses and new products from crops and timber. The effort would draw on the engineering, biology and agricultural expertise of the schools, combined with the ingenuity of South Dakota students, to work with industry partners to find and develop products that will add value to crops and timber and create jobs for South Dakota. 

If any District 8 resident has any big ideas that will help the future of South Dakota, please share your thoughts.

At the request of the South Dakota Sheriffs Association, initiated by Lake County Sheriff Walburg, I am leading a bill to modify/correct fees charged when a local sheriff serves legal papers. In 2016, the legislature modified most of these service fees. During training, conducted by Sheriff Walburg, it was noted that one fee was missed when the 2016 legislation was approved. My bill corrects the unintended omission and simplifies the sheriff’s legal responsibilities. This is an example of a reactive bill.

Many of the initial bills being heard early in the session are “agency bills” initiated by state departments or agencies (with a House or Senate sponsor) regarding items the agency believes need updating or clarifying. While most of these bills are fairly straight forward, the legislature still takes a close look at each one in committee before sending it on to the House or Senate with a recommendation.  These are additional examples of reactive bills.

Next week, the pace will pick up even more as numerous bills and resolutions will begin making their way to either the House or Senate for action. I will work to stay informed about actions impacting the 8th District while serving on the Appropriations Committee.

I have previously mentioned the wonderful people working and serving in Pierre. On Wednesday of last week, we took time to have a joint memorial service for past legislators who passed away during the last year. This was a very moving event honoring those who have provided service to our great state.

Please remember, this is your government and all citizens are welcome to visit the Capitol and testify on bills or simply observe the process. Information on the content and status of bills is available on the state website https://sdlegislature.gov. I can be contacted at Randy.Gross@sdlegislature.gov.

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