Pierre Report: Education cut eased to 6.6 percent

Week nine began with an education committee meeting Monday morning on Native American education; its potential, opportunities, and obstacles.  Stacy Phelps gave us an excellent overview of issues concerning education on our nine reservations in South Dakota.

Later Monday morning, our commerce and energy committee listened to an overview on gas and oil exploration in South Dakota.  Derrick Iles, a state geologist, wowed us with the amount of drilling exploration and the potential we have primarily in western South Dakota.  A couple of noteworthy items he mentioned about our neighbor to the north (North Dakota) are: 1. Production outdoes transportation.  The infrastructure of shipping their oil is lagging. 2. By 2017, North Dakota will out-produce Alaska in oil.

HB 1044, which I have been tracking since its inception, passed the Senate with a �friendly� amendment 35-0.  It returned to the House for concurrence since it had an amendment from the Senate and passed 70-0.

One of the most important bills that caused many, many e-mails was SB 152.  This bill revised the per student allocation for state aid to the general education formula.  The new base is now $4389, reduced from last year�s base of $4805.  With the vote going almost entirely down party lines, it passed 47-21.  This is the education cut or �shift� that all of you were concerned with.  This means that the state aid to education is $416 LESS per student for 2012.  It is obvious that our schools will have to OPT OUT (raise property taxes) or CUT TEACHERS, STAFF, and/or PROGRAMS.

SB 99 required a two-thirds vote to pass.  It revised the provisions that determine the amount of the motor vehicle registration fees that shall be applied based on the age of the vehicles.  The vote was 41-29. It needed 47 votes.

SB 65 allowed nonpublic schools that were not accredited by the North Central Accreditation to become members of the South Dakota High School Activities Association.  It passed 62-8.

SB 124 was brought up again for reconsideration.  This bill would authorize the Bureau of Administration to construct a maintenance shop in Pierre.  This would be a 4,000 square foot building with a cost of $500,000.  Once again this required a two-thirds affirmative vote to pass.  It failed 31-39.

SB 194 creates a Wind Energy Advisory Task Force and to provide for the appointment of the task force members.  It passed 57-13.

SB 156 was brought up again to reconsider.  This bill dealt with illegal aliens. Upon the vote to reconsider, it failed 22-45.

SB 149 concerned education and awareness of concussions. This passed 52-16.

SB 178 revised provisions relating to the rights and duties of joint legal custodians with children.  It passed the House 59-8.

As we finalize the Governor�s budget with 10 percent cuts across the board, all of a sudden some unspent and undesignated monies have been found.  For this year, a little over $12,000,000 was found to help ease the education cut and freezing the property taxes reduced our cut to a mere 6.6 percent cut.  Please realize the word �mere� is said with tongue in cheek.  We also �found� $22,000,000 for Medicaid that was additional stimulus money that had not been appropriated.  It is truly amazing that these large sums of money were found in the last week of Legislature.

To all of you that took time and cared what happens in Pierre, I thank you.  I worked hard to be elected as one of your representatives.  During the campaign prior to the November election, did we hear anyone campaigning to lose 1,500 teachers, raise college tuition 8 percent, or to close nursing homes?  We were back-doored on these.

As a former coach, I know that any team is only as strong as its weakest link.  State government is South Dakota�s weakest link.  This needs to change and you can continue to voice your opinion through your votes and e-mails.  If you are happy with the direction our state is going, continue to vote and elect your legislators as you have previously done.  This mess is NOT going away.  We will have these same problems next year and following years until we realize that somehow we must increase our revenue sources as well as continually watching for unnecessary expenses.

On a positive closing remark, our state�s investment council that invests our state�s monies earned over $17,000,000 in the month of January.  Nice job; they do a great job for us.

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