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Daugaard builds trust with tribes

Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he supports the concept of a statewide ban on texting while driving.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has been quietly meeting and building relationships with South Dakota's American Indian tribal leaders, and he says the effort has yielded positive results.

In a discussion Thursday with The Daily Republic's editorial board, Daugaard, a Republican, said he has met with each of the state's nine tribes at least once since he took office in 2011 and has dined with some tribal leaders at the Governor's Mansion. Those meetings, Daugaard said, have given him the chance to meet personally with tribal leaders and develop relationships beneficial to the state and the tribes.

As an example, Daugaard said when the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate's tribal police arrested a murder suspect, the extradition process -- in which an accused person is moved out of one jurisdiction and into the jurisdiction where the alleged crime was committed -- was smoothed and expedited because of his relationship with a tribal leader there.

"In the past, it has been a long process because of distrust between the governments," he said. "In this case, though, it was quick because of the relationship we had with the chairman."

In another example, Daugaard said the state helped broker a deal on a road issue between a county and residents of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe's reservation in southwest South Dakota.

Texting and driving

Daugaard said he supports the concept of a statewide ban on texting and driving.

"I think texting and driving is foolish and dangerous," he said. "I also realize enforcing a ban is nearly impossible."

On Monday, the Mitchell City Council passed an ordinance that would make it the sixth city in South Dakota to outlaw texting and driving, joining Sioux Falls, Brookings, Watertown, Huron and Vermillion.

Daugaard said he would need to see the specifics of any proposed statewide ban on texting and driving before supporting it outright, but said the citywide bans already passed benefit the state.

Criminal justice reform

The Legislature's attitude toward crime and punishment has evolved with recent reforms to South Dakota's criminal justice system, Daugaard said.

In the past, legislators have almost always favored tougher sanctions for criminals, which typically meant more prison time, Daugaard said. However, with a plan for criminal justice reform signed into law recently, that attitude is changing. The plan will give more nonviolent offenders the chance to be treated with intensive probation, parole and other programs instead of prison.

"You want to hold offenders accountable," Daugaard said, "but prison is the most expensive and the most ineffective option."

Under the plan, more offenders will be treated and supervised in their own communities where they can learn self-control, Daugaard said.

"You tend to get people starting to self-regulate," he said. "And that's really what you need."

Trade with China

Having recently returned from a trade mission to China, Daugaard said he will not hesitate to have South Dakota continue to trade with the world's most populous country.

Earlier this month, Daugaard and several business representatives from South Dakota traveled to China with the aim of further developing the state's already substantial trading relationship with the country.

China imports about one-third of all the soybeans harvested in South Dakota, Daugaard said.

"I don't think closing China off from trade with the U.S. will help (China's) human rights situations," he said.

Increased trade with the U.S. could even improve the human rights situation in China, Daugaard said.