Notes from Pierre

Notes from Pierre
The 81st Legislative session has begun. Everyone is rushing around getting signatures for their respective bills and resolutions. We have heard from Governor Rounds and Chief Justice Gilbertson. We have listened to some of the state agency secretaries give us an overview of their work and the agencys' need for increased appropriations. It has been an interesting time and we have learned a lot.

Here are a few items from the Governor's State of the State address. He proposes $2 million in one-time monies to help schools with heating costs. The governor's recently unveiled 2010E initiative has more than 50 components. Some of them are access to preschool screening, development of an assessment tool to measure student progress in the primary grades, teacher recruitment and retention and educational outcomes for Native American students.

He would like to have the law changed to make kindergarten mandatory, but not necessarily at age five. He would also have parents who do not want their child to go to kindergarten apply to home school their child for that year and then send them to school for first grade. He would also like to change the legal age for mandatory attendance from 16 years of age to 18 years of age.

Ethanol production in South Dakota has been expanding. We had three new plants last year and there are two more in the process, which will make South Dakota ranked fourth in ethanol production. The governor is asking the legislators to extend the tax refund for agricultural processing facilities to include expansions.

Getting tougher on meth makers and sexual offenders is high on his list. There are some bills addressing these particular issues.

Did you know that we had 6,200 more jobs in November '05, over November '04, that 82 percent of our students are proficient or advanced in reading, that 74 percent of our students are proficient or advanced in math, that there have been 65 letters of interest from scientists to use a lab at Homestake, and that there were 4,000 phone calls made by the state to our citizens during the blizzard?

Chief Justice Gilbertson told us that drug and alcohol addiction are a major factor in South Dakota's judicial system. From 1995 to 2002 methamphetamine use in South Dakota climbed 33 percent. The rate of use of meth in our state is six times higher than Dallas, Atlanta and a handful of other large cities in the U.S. "Keeping mothers off methamphetamines is imperative", he said.

He also told us of the pilot program in the 4th Circuit in northern Black Hills to help stem the tide of increasing drug cases which is being implemented by the Unified Judicial System.

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