After my first hectic week in the state legislature, it's time to report back. First, thank you to the people of Clay and Turner Counties for trusting me to represent you in "the people's House." I am doing my best to deserve that trust.
Gov. Daugaard was quite optimistic in his state of the state address. He is proposing major criminal justice reform focused on integrating prisoners into society through alternative sentencing with inten¬sive probation, addiction counseling and mental health treatment. All of this will require upfront investment of money and people, but lower long-run costs and fewer prisons.
I was assigned to the education and transportation committees. In education, we have heard intro¬ductory presentations from Secretary of Education Melody Schopp and Regents Executive Director Jack Warner. We'll get into specific issues soon enough; that's bound to happen in an area as consequential and controversial as education. Surely there will be more to report in future weeks.
In transportation, we heard the report of the task force on safe teen driving, which met last year. We will be considering a series of task force proposals to tighten up the requirements for attaining a driver's license, add restrictions for teens with restricted permits, and improve driver education courses across the state. All the proposals are backed-up with an impressive array of research, from South Dakota and other states, demonstrating that these changes reduce accident rates and traffic fatalities.
Despite being told that a legislator does a lot more than just attend committee meetings and formal sessions on the House floor, I am amazed at the number of other meetings to which we are invited. It started right after the election with invitations to meet with representatives of several interest groups, and it promises to continue right through the session's final days.
This week I met with several District 17 residents representing entities located in the District. (I won't name specific persons or groups, to save space and the embarrassment of leaving someone out.) Organized groups and their lobbyists provide critical information and answer important questions, and many of them do represent your interests, but I also want and need to hear your personal opinions on the many issues that will come before us, especially when you have strong feelings or special expertise.
The best way to reach me is e-mail Rep.Ring@state.sd.us. You can also call the Legislative Research Council at (605) 773-3251 and leave a short message that will be delivered to my desk on the house floor. My cell phone is (605) 675-9379. I can't promise to respond to every message, but I'll do my best to give priority to my District 17 constituents.