Gov. Dennis Daugaard
To the Editor: It used to be mosquitoes weren't much cause for concern. It wasn't until 13 years ago when West Nile Virus emerged in South Dakota that the nuisance became a formidable health concern. Just weeks ago, at the end of June, the South Dakota Department of Health reported the state's first West Nile case of the year in Brown County. Though there has only been one human case reported thus far, mosquito pools in two counties have tested positive for the virus.
Recently I had the honor of speaking about South Dakota's criminal justice system at a policy briefing on Capitol Hill. I talked with policymakers about the process we undertook to study our growing prison population and the criminal justice reforms we adopted in 2013. I encouraged those who attended to look to South Dakota as they consider making similar reforms at the federal level. It was an easy pitch, because the reforms we've adopted in South Dakota are already bringing positive results.
South Dakotans all share three goals for our education system. First, we want a quality system of schools focused on student success. Second, we want a workforce of great teachers. Finally, we want an efficient, equitable funding system that supports those goals. Earlier this year, I joined with legislative leaders to create the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students. This task force will seek public input, collect and analyze data, and make recommendations to the 2016 State Legislature for reform. The first step has already begun.
When I was a young boy, I couldn't wait for summer. After nine months of school, June meant a break from studies and long, adventure-filled days outdoors in South Dakota. Oh, sure, I still had work to do, just like most kids who grew up on the farms and in the small towns of South Dakota. I worked in the bean fields, did chores around the farm and helped in any other ways the family needed. But when the work was done, I spent many warm, lazy days canoeing on the Big Sioux River, swimming and exploring the wooded areas along the river bottom.
We are fortunate to live in a relatively safe state. We tend to leave our cars running in the winter; we let our kids play outside; and, in some places, people lock their car doors not worrying about theft, but because they don't want their neighbors leaving them any more zucchini. It's true that less populated places tend to be safer, but our public safety is not owed solely to our rural nature. It is also thanks to our law enforcement. Those who enforce our laws live selfless lives. They're courageous, hard-working and dedicated individuals.
This past week has shown us, yet again, why we can be proud to be South Dakotans. On May 8, our state welcomed President Barack Obama to Watertown. Linda and I were honored to greet the president at the airport and to join his motorcade as he rode to the Civic Arena. Thousands of people lined the entire 4-mile route — waving, cheering and holding American flags.
To the Editor: In South Dakota, agriculture is a tradition and a way of life. As our No. 1 industry, agriculture defines who we are as South Dakotans and the practices that we pass on from generation to generation. One of those practices is conservation. No one understands the importance of being good stewards of the land better than our farmers and ranchers. Their livelihoods depend on it.
As the commander-in-chief of the South Dakota National Guard, I know well the role the National Guard plays in defending our nation and responding to domestic emergencies here in our state. I've witnessed their service firsthand while visiting members in Kuwait and Afghanistan, and I appreciated their service when they were called to respond to emergencies here at home. Not long after I came into office, the Missouri River flooded. Though we received very little notice, the National Guard was ready to respond.
To the Editor: Spring has sprung and summer is around the corner. Now is a good time to plan a summer trip to one of our state parks. If not a week-long vacation, consider at least a weekend or weeknight stay. State parks are great vacation spots for out-of-state tourists, but they are also great destinations for South Dakotans to spend some quality time with family and friends. We're fortunate to live in a state where beautiful outdoor opportunities are never too far away. We have an abundance of choices, too.
To the Editor: Last week, state legislators gave final passage to a comprehensive road and bridge funding bill, which I have signed. Passage of that bill came on the last day of the legislative session, but it also ended a longer effort. For the past seven years, Sen.