PIERRE — One of the arguments used back on March 29 to sustain the governor's veto of the buffer strips tax break for farmers and ranchers during the 2016 legislative session was its unknown cost. Now five-plus months later, Gov. Dennis Daugaard is throwing the full weight of his administration — four different departments and one of his top aides—behind his own buffer strips plan. And, surprisingly, the estimated cost still remains unknown.
PIERRE — South Dakota's new school-funding system doesn't provide enough money to small-enrollment school systems, state legislators elected from rural areas said Monday. They said schools aren't receiving enough funding to cover one teacher per grade. The comments came from two Democrats and two Republicans during a presentation on the new formula by Tami Darnall, finance director for the state Department of Education. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved Gov. Dennis Daugaard's request to raise the state sales tax to 4.5 percent from 4 percent.
PIERRE — The buffer strips proposal coming from Gov. Dennis Daugaard began with Sen. Jim Peterson of Revillo in the 2016 legislative session. The Republican governor vetoed the bill the Democratic lawmaker had passed. Now with a variety of technical and legal revisions the governor too wants to reward helping our environment. It offers a property tax reduction for landowners who plant strips of grass 50 to 120 feet wide between private farm ground and public water bodies. The grass strip reduces soil erosion and slows run-off that contains agricultural pollution.
PIERRE — A state board approved a smaller budget Friday for Deadwood historic preservation in 2017. The budget is funded by an estimated $6.95 million from Deadwood gambling tax revenues and taking about $1.975 million from reserves for capital improvement projects. The amounts spent from reserves last year and being spent this year are significantly larger than the reserves used in the 2017 plan, according to the data presented by Kevin Kuchenbecker, the city's historic preservation officer, to the State Historical Society board of trustees.
ABERDEEN — The shoreline restoration project at Cottonwood Lake near Redfield will receive a second grant of $50,000 and replacement of an impoundment structure at Sand Lake in northern Brown County will get $50,000 of assistance, the board of directors for the James River Water Development District decided Thursday. The board also gave the green light for its staff to assist on projects to reduce agricultural runoff in the Vermillion Basin Water Development District covering Clay and Turner counties.
PIERRE — Trustee elections are going to change for the South Dakota Retirement System. The SDRS board of trustees agreed Wednesday to let a contractor run the elections starting in 2017 and to permit electronic ballots. "What is before us next year is the largest election we've ever had," SDRS executive director Rob Wylie told the board. "It has just become too large to handle internally," he added. Traditionally the SDRS staff has conducted the elections. They mail ballots to thousands of SDRS members and count the ballots that members send back.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame adds five new members this weekend including Bernie Christenson, of Pierre. Christenson, now a self-described "young 78," moved to Pierre in 1973 and started flying part-time for Cecil Ice. In the 43 years since, Christensen became a co-owner of the air carrier, was the FAA licensing examiner for 1,700 pilots and flew governors for decades. The others selected for the hall this year include: The late Grove Rathbun, of Rapid City, a past president of the South Dakota Pilots Association;
PIERRE — A major change could be coming to South Dakota elections. Businesses, farms, ranches, labor unions and other organizations might be allowed to contribute directly to candidates seeking state offices and seats in the Legislature under a proposal discussed Tuesday. There seemed to be solid support among members of a special bipartisan panel assembled by Secretary of State Shantel Krebs to review South Dakota's campaign-finance laws. Her office oversees state-level elections.
HURON — Twenty years ago or so, South Dakota stood at the edge of losing our State Fair. Through the determination of a lot of people, the fair continues today. The 2016 fair opened a five-day run Thursday. Many of the people reading this won't go. No matter how good your car or truck is, a long drive to Huron is a long drive to Huron. And I happen to like Huron. Like so many places in South Dakota, if you nose around a little there are good things to enjoy. For the people who do go this weekend, the State Fair is an important event.
PIERRE — Trust companies headquartered in South Dakota surpassed $226 billion in assets during 2015, according to the state Division of Banking. Director Bret Afdahl described the five-fold increase in five years as "sustained and dramatic growth" during a meeting Thursday with the state Banking Commission. There were 223 employees of trust companies in South Dakota last year. They included 120 people working for 51 public trust companies, 93 people working in the trust departments of banks and 10 people working for 33 private trusts.