Two state representatives and a senator representing the area counties came to the Super 8 motel in Hill City on Feb. 10 for a legislative crackerbarrel.
One of the questions was about the division among the Pennington County legislators.
Representative Julie Frye-Mueller addressed this and said there are maybe 13 legislators in the house that are always voting conservatively and with the rights of the constituents in mind.
“People really have different values but they run as an (R) or change to an (R) to get elected,” Frye-Mueller said.
Representative Tim Goodwin said that the crackerbarrels are for everybody to attend. Not everything is a Republican issue because he is to represent everybody in District 30. He ran as a Christian conservative Republican and that that is how he will vote on the house floor.
Among the topics were how not having an internet sales tax is killing brick and mortar stores, management of timber ground and ways to curtail cronyism as well as nepotism.
Senator Lance Russell aid he greatly appreciates working with representatives Tim Goodwin and Julie Frye-Mueller.
“I will tell you they have more of an uphill battle in the house because of the way it is organized,” Russell said.
He said the senate is not talking about an increase in spending or about some government program.
He said it seems like every year he was in Pierre for the last eight years there was some government program being talked about or some type of legacy project was proposed.
For the most part he thinks the legislative session has been positive in that they are not growing the government or how much citizens give to the government. He contributes that mostly to the new leadership on the senate. He said they have been better about how the state’s money is spent.
Russell also spoke about how area school districts have been suffering under the new funding formula. The Hot Springs school district recently held a meeting to discuss the problem and how they had to cut $400,000 out of their budget. Hill City’s own school district budget has had to make cuts due to the school district being unfundable in the near future.
Russell understands that everybody is hurting but as the education reform bills were Governor Daugaard’s “baby” the legislators can’t do anything about it this year. He said the full effects from the change in revenue to the schools is not going to be felt for two to three more years.
He said what’s really going on is the state is trying to force consolidation. Essentially, they would like to have students travel rather than keep the schools the way they are.
Larger school districts, like Rapid City and Sioux Falls, benefited from the legislation passing.
Hill City’s amount that they are supposed to contribute through taxes is going up and the state share is going down. Twenty percent of the local effort is being calculated into the funding formula.
Russell said the performance of students with testing has slid substantially due to the bills.
“We used to be in the top 10 of all of our testing. We are now about the 50th percentile among the states,” Russell said.
Frye-Mueller thinks that in terms of the education committee in the house there are too many democrats involved which is why they have not been able to make many changes. She also believes that a lot of agencies drive a lot of what is happening and it’s not really because it’s the best thing for the citizens.
One of Representative Julie Frye-Mueller’s battles has been to have license plate designs change every five years. The legislation change was approved by the House of Representatives.
According to Frye-Mueller, every five years there is $8.4 million spent for the redesign of license plates. Lobbyists with 3M tried to stop the bill in the house which surprised Frye-Mueller who didn’t think anybody would oppose the change.
“The LRC did some research for me and prolonging them for 10 years would put $6.2 million back into our roads and bridges fund,” Frye-Mueller.
Frye-Mueller said everything else she has tried has failed.
House Bill 1120 has been something that Frye-Mueller has been involved in too. Under the bill, home schoolers would be able to participate in activities sponsored by the South Dakota High School Activities Association or school districts.
The Education Committee was against it and it was defeated on the house floor on Feb. 12.
One of Tim Goodwin’s bills tried to make it so any active duty, reserve or National Guard service member that is 18 to 20 could receive an alcoholic beverage at South Dakota establishments if they show proper military identification cards.
Goodwin’s bill went to the House State Affairs committee and was voted down 13-1.
Another one of his bills he proposed was to provide for mandatory drug testing for members of the Legislature. It would be set up to have a urinalysis the first couple weeks of session and also the last couple weeks of session.
The House State Affairs Committee tabled the bill.
A same type of bill was reintroduced to the senate by senator Neal Tapio. It was approved in the senate Judiciary committee 4-3. According to Goodwin, the senate leadership didn’t like the results of the hearing and it will now go before appropriations committee.
Goodwin is thinking that the tests for the 105 state legislators is too expensive.
“I’m going to go testify before the committee and tell them we have donors that will pay for the drug test,” Goodwin said.
His good news was that HB 1131 passed in the House. This authorizes certain road district trustees and employees to receive compensation under a district contract.
Sometimes an officer of road districts has to work on road districts and in the past they couldn’t get paid.
“I submitted a bill. If those in the road district have 25 or fewer people and they happen to do the work, they get paid,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin also sponsored a house bill that would require each public school district to write and make available its policy regarding transgender students’ access to restrooms and locker rooms.
The bill states that a public policy created by the school districts would have to indicate if a transgender person used the bathrooms and locker rooms. This information would be at the schools that have a multi-person or unisex restroom.
The House Judiciary Committee tabled this proposal on Feb. 12.