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HEINERT: Disappointed in governor's Spearfish Canyon State Park plan

Greetings friends and neighbors and especially to District 26 constituents. This is my third year as your state senator and my third term in the South Dakota Legislature. I am one of only four tribal members serving in the S.D. Legislature where ...

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Greetings friends and neighbors and especially to District 26 constituents. This is my third year as your state senator and my third term in the South Dakota Legislature. I am one of only four tribal members serving in the S.D. Legislature where I am assigned to four committees: Education, State Affairs, Ag and Natural Resources, and Retirement Laws. I was re-elected this fall as assistant minority leader.

District 26 is unique in both its diversity and size. It includes: Brule, Buffalo, Jones, Lyman, Mellette and Todd counties. When I am not serving in Pierre, I work as a rancher and travel the country as a rodeo cowboy. It is an honor to serve my district and South Dakota.

Gov. Daugaard opened the session on Jan. 10 with his "State of the State" speech. His plans include purchasing additional acres in Spearfish Canyon from the federal government to establish Spearfish Canyon State Park. The $2.5 million allocation is putting the cart way before the horse. There is considerable opposition from the residents of Spearfish Canyon and there had been no tribal consultation in this plan. I would expect this authorization to come before one of my committees during this session and I am opposed to this legislation in this lean budget year.

Gov. Daugaard also informed us about the sales tax agreement with Amazon.com. The potential value of this agreement could be another $20 million to $50 million for South Dakota. I would like to see this money be used to fix the declining enrollment portion for the rural school districts that were affected by the amendment from last year. There are also some potential issues with our rural district in the amount of taxes collected and getting them to the right location.

I am deeply disappointed that the governor has taken Medicaid expansion off the table as we have no plans for health coverage for the 55,000 South Dakotans that we failed to provide coverage for. Right now we are in a wait and see mode as Washington decides the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Though the ACA could use some adjustments, an all-out repeal without replacement would cost another 25,000 South Dakotans their health care coverage.

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Some of the things I will be working on this session are to replenish the funds for Build South Dakota, which provides significant economic and educational opportunities for rural South Dakota. This program was a creation of the legislature in 2013 and is providing housing opportunities, economic development, and CTE courses to areas that would otherwise not have these opportunities because of their rural nature. I will also be carrying a Native American mascot and imagery bill that will address the derogatory team names and mascots in our public schools. Though my bill proposals are adding up if there is an area of concern that requires a legislative fix, please reach out to me with your ideas.

Chairman Robert Flying Hawk from the Yankton Sioux Tribe gave the "State of the Tribes" Address on Jan. 12. He reminded all of us that we are both working for the same things: economic prosperity, entrepreneurship, reduced substance abuse, and to leave behind a better state for our children. We need to reach out to each other in times of misunderstanding and to put aside the things that don't move us forward. The better we communicate, the better off both nations will be. There are many opportunities where the tribes and the state can find common ground for the betterment of all people. I was very pleased that we held this address for only the second time in the Legislatures history.

Now that the Agency Reports are finished, we will dive into the bills the Legislature proposes as we try to make South Dakota a better place for its citizens, infrastructure, visitors, and natural resources. I invite you to contact me with your questions and concerns. Please let me hear from you. You may reach me by phone at 605-319-6570 or email at Troy.Heinert@sdlegislature.gov .

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