- Member for
- 1 year 9 months
I have to say, I expected Judge Lori Wilbur's reasoning in the lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the distribution formula South Dakota uses for state aid to K-12 schools. Essentially, the judge said in her recent decision that the state could do better, but she didn't accept the plaintiffs' argument that state aid is so low the system is constitutionally underfunded.
Midway through the 1970 legislative session, Democrat Sen. Dick Kneip from Salem gathered the AP and UPI reporters in the spectators' gallery above the Senate and announced that he was running for governor against incumbent Republican Frank Farrar. I don't remember much about that moment. My boss, Jim Wilson, a former sportswriter for The Daily Republic, covered the event. I do remember a couple of folks criticizing Kneip for announcing so early.
It's going to be interesting to see how the people trying to kill a public smoking ban frame their question in a ballot-question campaign. The last Legislature passed a bill banning smoking in bars and gambling halls and video lottery places. Much of the lobbying opposition during session came from the bar businesses and the gambling industry. I have no doubt that opponents to the ban can gather enough signatures -- something under 17,000 -- to successfully refer the issue to the 2010 general election ballot.
Gov. Mike Rounds apparently found little to dislike about the product of the 2009 South Dakota Legislature. He issued just three vetoes. That's the least number of vetoes in his seven sessions as governor, and it is one reason the Legislature's final day Monday was measured in minutes, not hours.
Here's how dominant the Republican Party has been in the South Dakota Legislature: I covered 40 legislative sessions through the one that just ended its main run. During that time, I saw one election in which Democrats won political control of the House of Representatives. That was the 1972 election, and the Democrats won the Senate that year, as well. Democrats held the Senate for two years after the 1992 election, too. That's the most recent time they've controlled either house.
Look for South Dakota highway interests to mount a fairly extensive public education campaign this summer and fall to try to convince citizens that state and local roads need more money. The last Legislature killed several bills that were aimed at raising highway money. A bill to raise the excise tax paid on the purchase of a vehicle was dumped pretty early in the going.
This is the week things fall together in the South Dakota Legislature. This week each year might be the reason a lot of us continue to hang around the place, just to see how the chaos becomes order -- or some semblance of order -- in the last three or four days. Sometimes the Legislature reaches this stage, and it looks like there's no way they can make peace with each other, with the governor and with all the interest groups that refuse to give up the fight as long as the final gavel hasn't dropped.
PIERRE -- A couple of weeks ago, I suggested in this space that the federal stimulus money could become an avoidance mechanism for a lot of people. When a state Senate committee considered bills to raise the gas tax and license-plate fees, Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist outlined possible money for roads that might come from the stimulus.
This is an old story, but I like to retell it as a legislative session draws toward crunch time. On the Monday of the final week of the 1970 Legislature, the co-chairmen of the Joint Appropriations Committee came to The Associated Press bureau late in the morning and outlined for me the highlights of the state budget for the next year. It took about 20 minutes, because they had only a handful of numbers written in pencil on the back of an envelope.
With the state budget in sorry shape and a federal stimulus package promising short-term relief, legislators have talked of different ways to stretch the current session to give them more time to make decisions about spending for the next 18 months. In the session's opening week, Rep. Tom Deadrick, R-Platte, told me the Legislature should set aside four or five days at the end of session and use them late in the spring, when revenue estimates are more certain and details of any federal help are known.