Stagnant enrollment at South Dakota's system of state universities, coupled with the continuous demand for new facilities to compete for students, has caused the state Board of Regents to look for a different way to pay for maintenance and repair. The two percent that Gov. Dennis Daugaard and the Legislature want for M-and-R sounds small. But the number is huge applied to hundreds of millions of dollars of buildings at the six traditional campuses and the two university centers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Transportation Commission awarded $8 million for preserving, rehabilitating or replacing 17 county and city bridges Thursday. The bridge improvement grants require a local match of at least 20 percent, but many applicants offered to contribute more. "They're fighting for the money," Laurie Schultz said. She is administration programs manager for the state Department of Transportation. The department has a multi-part scoring system for ranking the projects. Schultz said preservation is a priority over rehabilitation or replacement.
PIERRE — The state Transportation Commission accepted low bids on nine repair projects for South Dakota highways Thursday. "Keep 'em coming in low," said Mike Vehle, of Mitchell. He is a commission member. Complete Concrete Inc. of Rapid City was low bidder at $457,978.95 for pavement work on 9.75 miles in Lawrence, Meade and Pennington counties. The department estimate was $630,215.05. Three companies bid.
PIERRE — Ten speed zones should change on stretches of South Dakota highways, the state Transportation Commission decided Thursday. Five shorten the lengths of slower zones so they match where speed signs are posted, Karla Engle said. She is chief legal counsel for the state Department of Transportation. "We want to correct that now," Engle said.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission decides Tuesday how to spread $400,000 among dozens of producers and businesses as partial compensation for larger amounts a de-licensed grain dealer in Kingsbury County owes to them. Last year the commission suspended the state license for H and I Grain, based at Hetland. The task now is distributing the bond. Fifty-three customers are on the final list of claimants Jim Mehlhaff compiled. He is state Grain Warehouse Division director. He received more than $2.75 million of claims.
The price rises again this fall for students to take courses at the public technical institutes in South Dakota. A student will pay an additional $2 per credit hour. That means a standard package of courses would cost $30 more per semester. The state Board of Technical Education made the decision Tuesday during a meeting in Sioux Falls. The vote was 8-0. The increase takes the total price for one credit hour to $157.
PIERRE — Gov. Dennis Daugaard spoke to lawmakers for a few minutes Monday afternoon to close the Legislature's 2018 session. This is the Republican's eighth and final year as governor. He previously was lieutenant governor eight years and a state senator six. He had roles in 22 regular sessions and seven special sessions. Best memory? "It really was the people, and remains that way," Daugaard said.
PIERRE — State lawmakers discussed Monday the subpoena power the Legislature gave this session specifically to its Government Operations and Audit Committee. Panel members considered a draft version of the report they plan to use but didn't take action. The committee ran into difficulties in the past three years over federal grant money that Mid-Central Educational Cooperative in Platte mismanaged.
PIERRE — Mental health and safety should be the topic for an interim study, the Legislature's Executive Board decided Monday. Assisting county governments could be one focus, Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, said. "The Legislature could be part of the solution to this problem," Haugaard said. "I think we could take this on and do some good." The board also chose spending on special education through the extraordinary costs fund. "The numbers are climbing so fast. It needs to be looked at," Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, said.
PIERRE — Newspapers need to try to figure out the answer to a South Dakota mystery. Why has voter registration shifted so heavily to the independent / no-party category? There's a related question. Why did Democrats lose voters while Republicans gained? One theory is many registrations now occur at driver-licensing stations. Think about it. At age 18, in South Dakota, you get your full license. You'll also get the chance to register to vote. When you have just turned 18, do you know your politics?