PIERRE — There will be 20 women among the 105 members of the South Dakota Legislature when the 2017 session opens in January. That is a decrease of two from the current total and a decline of four from the peak of 24 women who served in the 2013-2014 term. The 20 still will be more than during the previous decade, when the number of women varied from 15 in the 1999-2000 term to 18 in the 2007-2008 term. There were at least 21 women in the four terms since then. A combination of circumstances led to the latest drop.
PIERRE — Something mysterious is holding back South Dakota's retail economy. People are working like never before, but they don't seem to be spending in the amounts expected, at least not with South Dakota businesses. Consider these two sets of statistics: South Dakota had one of its highest months ever during October with employment of 445,329. Unemployment at 2.4 percent was one of the lowest rates in a long time. Employment conditions have looked strong throughout the past year.
PIERRE — New security barriers are in the works for the state's Capitol building. The commission that oversees the Capitol complex gave approval Tuesday to the concept. A wall with a stone or concrete base would be installed around the north side between the semi-circular parking area and the four triangles of lawn. The new barrier would replace the chest-high hedge now in place. "There's several dead spots. It's definitely coming out," Leah Svendsen said about the hedge.
PIERRE — Some state legislators questioned the growth and size of South Dakota's unemployment trust fund Tuesday. State Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman defended the amount in testimony to the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee. She said the amount in reserve is based on the lowest of three multipliers commonly used across the nation to measure solvency. The state advisory council recommended South Dakota use a multiplier of 1.6 times the high cost average.
PIERRE — Dave Mickelson is about to join the South Dakota Lottery Commission. He is the youngest son of the late Gov. George S. Mickelson, who won office in the same 1986 election when South Dakota voters approved the constitutional amendment allowing a state lottery. Dave Mickelson lives in Sioux Falls where for the past five years he's run Graham Tire Auto Parts. The company has 18 locations in South Dakota and Nebraska. He previously worked in banking for more than 15 years.
PIERRE — Federal election laws provide protections so that people who aren't white have a fair chance to be treated squarely when they cast their votes. But if the people who get the special considerations don't vote, it might not matter. That is what happened in District 27, which covers the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The district had 3,475 Republicans, 7,571 Democrats and 2,566 independents and others registered for the Nov. 8 general election.
PIERRE — Two members have quit the state Transportation Commission after South Dakota voters last week passed Initiated Measure 22, known as the Anti-Corruption Act. The two are Tim Dougherty, a lawyer from Sioux Falls, and Kathy Zander, of Pierre, who manages two agri-business organizations. State Transportation Commission Darin Bergquist announced their resignations at the start of the commission's meeting Friday. Dougherty and Zander work as lobbyists for their clients before the Legislature.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Transportation Commission awarded grants totaling nearly $3.5 million to 17 cities and counties under 5,000 population Friday to help local economic development. The commission was able to provide many more of the community access grants after moving money from two other grant categories. This year there wasn't much demand for highway assistance at agribusiness projects, and there weren't any applications for industrial park grants, according to Laurie Schultz. She oversees the programs in the state Department of Transportation.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Transportation Commission approved on Friday two more rounds of bids on state highway projects that were much lower than expected. The engineer estimates for the six projects totaled about $29 million. The low bids came in about $2.5 million less. "It certainly seems like competition was good at this point on all the bids," Commissioner Ron Rosenboom, of Sturgis, said. Commissioner Rod Fouberg, of Aberdeen, asked about a running total on bids for the year. "It would be interesting to see the whole picture, totally," he said.
PIERRE — Raising the state sales tax appears to have partially solved the problem of low pay for teachers in South Dakota. Gov. Dennis Daugaard's administration released preliminary data Thursday showing the average salary for a teacher in a public school rose to $46,924. This is an increase of 11.9 percent above the $41,940 average last year, but still short of the governor's goal of $48,500. The Legislature last winter agreed with the governor's proposal to increase the sales tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent.