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.
PIERRE -- I sat through a Senate debate on legislative term limits on Monday. As I listened, I thought of the citizens out there who probably were thinking: What part of "no" don't these people understand? South Dakota voters decided in 1992 that legislators should have only eight years in one house. I've always believed people thought they were going to turn out the graybeards in Congress, but the federal courts say we can't do that. So, we turn out our state legislators, and I guess that isn't all bad. I tend to side with people who say voters can get rid of any legislator they wish.
PIERRE -- A bill to make more small schools in South Dakota reorganize is premature, a House committee says. The House Education Committee voted 12-3 on Wednesday to kill HB 1182, a bill that would have required schools with fewer than 195 students to reorganize with other districts. Two years ago legislators passed the current law, which requires reorganization for schools with fewer than 100 students. State legislators should see how the current law works before raising the reorganization bar, opponents of the higher minimum size said. "I like the concept, just not yet," said Rep.
PIERRE -- The movie "Ghostbusters" has a great scene in which one of the gang of zany paranormal chasers warns the others, "Don't cross the streams." Two of the guys have devices that look a lot like World War II flamethrowers strapped to their backs, and they're about to unload on a spook or demon of some sort.
PIERRE -- As a child, I never wondered who paid for school. School was just always there. One of my first assignments as a Capitol reporter involved a committee working on the last, really difficult, pieces of the 1968 school reorganization. A fistfight nearly erupted over the assessed value of a piece of land wedged between two consolidated districts. Red Lyon -- from Meadow, I think -- tried to explain the school-aid formula to me that day. I struggled, and he finally said it didn't matter.
I've covered the South Dakota Legislature for 40 sessions. I don't remember anyone saying the state could be $130 million short of cash, until last Friday when Gov. Mike Rounds did. Surpluses were the talk of the early years, the 1970s. Oh, sure, folks talked about being frugal and getting value for every tax dollar, but they expected budget surplus at the end of the year. The first session I covered, 1970, the general fund was about $100 million. That's the sum of taxes and fees from state sources. The current general fund is nearly $1.3 billion. During one of Gov.