Final 2015 Legislative Crackerbarrel in Rapid City

Crackerbarrel_signThe final legislative crackerbarrel meeting in Rapid City for the 2015 South Dakota legislative session was held at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology today.

Several area legislators were not able to attend due to illness, but present were Rep. Chip Campbell, Rep. Kristin Conzet, Senator Alan Solano, Rep. Lance Russell, Rep. Mike Verchio, Senator Bruce Rampelberg, Rep. Dan Dryden, Rep. Jeff Partridge, Senator Craig Tieszen, and Rep. Jacqueline Sly.

Featured speakers included Senator Rampelberg, Rep. Partridge, and Rep. Dryden.

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After presentations by the featured speakers questions were taken from the audience.

Tonchi Weaver with South Dakota Citizens for Liberty asked about HB 1228 concerning debt collections, She asked if the bill would accomplish what it really states, or whether it would be just another bureaucratic agency, and further be empowered to punish debtors by denying hunting licenses, etc. Dryden said coming up with a way to collect debts owed to the state has been a work in progress, and denial of hunting and fishing licenses (or even driver’s licenses, as a last resort) has been considered to motivate debtors to pay. Conzet said current collection efforts have been ineffective, so the legislature is looking at something new. She said that this is money you, as South Dakotans, are owed toward paying for your government. She said these monies are usually owed from broken laws and bounced checks. Russell said he voted against the bill because he likes the idea of contracting the services out to private agencies rather than having the government do it. He said that he doubts a government agency can do better than a private agency, and that if a private agency isn’t getting the job done, then it’s time to look for another vendor.

A question was asked of Rep. Sly about SB 176 concerning textbook which “provide[s] for the development of online resources and a rubric of textbook analysis for use in school districts, to make an appropriation therefor.” The question was about why we were seeking to hire a private agency to do something that government was prohibited by law from doing. Sly said school administrators came to her and asked her to carry the bill. She said the intent of the rubric was to save time and money when schools look at new textbooks.  Partridge said he doesn’t like this type of bills because they set up a general idea, then ask for a ballpark appropriation without concrete specifics.

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A question was asked about school funding and Article 8 of the South Dakota Constitution, and whether the legislature is doing enough to fund schools.  Dryden said “the right amount of money” is subjective, and you can’t get 10 people together to agree.  Rampelberg said that spending more money on schools means taking away more money from “you” the South Dakota taxpayer. He said the amount of money being spent on teachers is inadequate in his opinion, but he doesn’t know where the money would come from.

Richie Nordstrom from the Rapid City Council asked about SB 2 and how that would benefit Rapid City. Rampelberg said he isn’t fully aware of all that is in the bill, but he doesn’t think it will affect Rapid City at all. It allows areas to develop associations to establish water protocols, and we don’t need anything like that in the Rapid City area. Solano said the bill would create a pilot program, and the problem is mainly to deal with watershed issues that are large and span from county to county.

A question was asked why there isn’t a tie between the increased cost of living regarding the youth minimum wage bill.  Solano said this doesn’t hurt youth, but instead helps them because in other areas where minimum wages have increased, youth unemployment rates go up.  Having a lower minimum wage for youth makes it more attractive for employers to take a chance on hiring and employing them.

A question was asked about proposals for improving roads and bridges.  Verchio said Iowa recently raised their gas tax by 10 cents. He said he wasn’t sure if South Dakota should do something that drastic, but he supported raising gas tax and excise tax, and also getting local municipalities more involved. Verchio said he didn’t support raising the license plate tax again.  Partridge said we need to identify the exact need for road and bridge improvement, and the legislature is working hard to do this. He also said it was critical to involve the counties in this process. Tieszen said the need has been very well established, but the question remains of what we will do about it. He said he would support a “stepped” approach that took place over several years. Russell said instead of forcing counties to impose wheel taxes, the counties need to be given the flexibility to determine how they will raise money for their roads.

A question was asked about the money South Dakota receives from the federal government for education, and the vote on HCR 1003 urging congress to abolish the Department of Education. How do the legislators who supported this bill to make up the funding? Rampelberg said the Department of Education started 25 years ago and now imposes a lot of rules and regulations, with a large portion of our budget coming from the federal government. He said community block grants would replace the money that has been channeled through the Department of Education.

A question was asked about the legislator’s oath of office to support the Constitution of the United States and the South Dakota Constitution. The person said most legislators belong to the American Legislative Exchange Council, and asked if they saw a conflict of interest in their oath versus pursing the agenda of ALEC.  Only one legislator present raised their hand affirming they were a member of ALEC. Conzet said she and other legislators attend conferences held by a variety of groups, and she attends many of them to get a broader perspective and more information. Rampelberg said there are a lot of anecdotal stories going around about ALEC. He said he was a conservative, as are most South Dakotans, and ALEC stands for conservative values. He said this is the reason ALEC gets criticized by the “mainstream” media.  Campbell said the state pays to belong to a number of organizations, but ALEC carries no cost for belonging to the organization.

A question was asked about SB 190 regarding health coverage for applied behavior analysis for children with autism. Solano said the question last year and this year has been about mandating health insurance coverage for this. The details of coverage and other issues are still being hammered out.


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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