Greetings from Pierre. IM-22 was officially repealed last week. Although the measure is repealed, the fight for ethics reform continues. Appropriations held hearings with the Board of Regents. With revenues lower than expected, we are working to decide the best way to invest in our universities and keep student tuition low.
On Thursday, Governor Daugaard signed HB 1069 and officially repealed IM-22. The governor said during his press conference that the process is not important, only the end result. I disagree. In order to have government work for the people, we must respect the rules and process. When we think we are above the process and rules don’t apply, that is when we have corruption. It has become a political culture in Pierre. We have EB-5 and Gear UP scandals that cost taxpayers millions. We have a group of legislators who think they can make and bend rules to suit their agenda. Whether we are talking about video lottery, the cigarette tax, minimum wage or IM-22, we have a legislature that continues to ignore the people’s vote.
There is still an opportunity to get the reform voters wanted with IM-22. HB 1076 will create a government accountability board. This board will monitor all of state government. HB 1073 will limit gifts from lobbyists. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs has introduced SB 53 & 54 to reform campaign finance. If we can pass all four bills, we could end up with reform that’s better than what IM-22 offered. As voters, it is important that you read these bills, contact legislators and ask for their support. You may read these bills on sdlegislature.gov.
Appropriations met with the Board of Regents this week to discuss their 2018 budget. Over the past five years, tuition increases have remained low. In order for this trend to continue, the legislature will need to invest more in higher education. Achieving more funding is complicated by several outside factors. While graduation rates are at record levels, the number of new students is down. Tuition revenues are down due to duel credits in high school as well as an increase in online courses. The only institution with a real increase of on campus students is the School of Mines.
This reality is forcing the universities to reexamine their missions. DSU has done an excellent job of evolving with technology. DSU is retooling to become a leader in cyber security. Currently, the university is looking to contract with online retail giants and government contractors. The university will also tackle the next wave in communication, 5G technology security. USD has our state’s only law school. In recent years, the number of law school students failing the Bar Exam has increased to the point that the program is at risk for academic probation. USD President Jim Abbott would like to raise the test scores for admittance as well as limit the number of students accepted. This approach would require a 1.2 million dollar appropriation over a three-year period to sustain the law school.
With challenges and financial needs increasing for the Board of Regents, the Appropriations Committee is considering focusing our summer meetings on a review of our university missions, facilities, administrations and educational programs.
Remember, we need your involvement in the process. Please email at email@example.com or call 940-3071 with any questions. I appreciate all your comments. Thank-you for allowing me to serve as your state representative.
- South Dakota
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