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OPINION: Trying to build a trust in government

We're finishing up the first month of the legislative session, and it has been a productive one. So far over 530 pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House and Senate. Based on these numbers it will be a very busy remainder of this legislative session.

As a piece of my Integrity in Government plan, I proposed legislation this week that would require certain government documents to be open records for the public to see.

This bill, SB 192, changes current law that exempts certain state agency documents from becoming public record. When enacted, it would make available state agency employees' correspondence, memoranda, calendars and appointment logs, working papers, telephone records, and other internal agency documents for public view.

This, along with my legislation requiring state departments to retain financial records for at least ten years, would make our government more transparent and accountable. It is clear that there is a lack of trust in government, and it is on the legislature to work to bring that trust back to our institutions. It is time that we give government back to the people.

One of my other bills involves funding workforce development and educational opportunities out of the South Dakota Future Fund.

I'm proposing to use future fund dollars to invest in our economic and housing development and the true future of South Dakota: our students. In a bipartisan effort in 2013, the legislature created the Building South Dakota Fund to finance and invest in the Housing Opportunity Fund; Workforce Education; Local Infrastructure Improvement Grant; and Economic Development Partnership Funds.

Consistent, ongoing funding has run out for Building South Dakota. It is critical that the legislature takes action to focus on workforce, housing, and economic development. We cannot stand still if we want to grow our economy and build a stronger South Dakota.

If you have more ideas on how we can support our students, build our workforce, create more accountability and trust in our state government, or any other issue you feel passionately about, please don't hesitate to contact me. All of these concepts stem from conversations with engaged folks like you. I always say, South Dakota's best resource is our people, and my favorite part of public service is the chance to listen not only to concerns, but also the solutions industrious citizens invent all around the state. It is a great honor to serve you, and I will continue working hard for everyone who calls South Dakota home.

State Senate Minority Leader

Billie H. Sutton, District 21