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OPINION: For a table of 18, senior aide ranks governors groups

PIERRE -- As Nathan Sanderson, director of policy and operations for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, finished his budget presentation Wednesday morning, a frank question arose.

PIERRE - As Nathan Sanderson, director of policy and operations for Gov. Dennis Daugaard, finished his budget presentation Wednesday morning, a frank question arose.

Sen. Jeff Partridge, a Republican from Rapid City, wanted to know whether governors associations were worthwhile.

The query came from halfway down the long double table of 18 lawmakers. These 15 Republicans and three Democrats comprise the Legislature's appropriations committee.

Every day of legislative session (and in many years, including this one, even the day before session began) they meet in Room 362.

To get there, head down an off-hallway. Then pass through a thick wood door, its top half thick glazed glass with the committee's name black-lettered on it.

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That puts you in a waiting area. From there, two more thick doors await. They lack glass, so better soundproofing.

Wednesday morning, before the meeting officially began, all the doors were closed. But people came and went. Signs said a private briefing was in progress.

The room opened a few minutes before eight. The governor's office topped a long list of state-government offices, bureaus and departments whose budgets appropriators rule.

As Sanderson wound down, Partridge asked about the governors associations.

"Are they worth it?" Partridge wondered. "Would there be other ones you recommend a new governor go to?"

Sanderson listed three Daugaard's been in.

The National Governors Association was "obviously bipartisan," he said.

NGA "provides a lot" on policy and information, he said, such as how to run an office, starting in year one, and each year after.

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There's even advice about governing while seeking re-election, Sanderson said.

Next was the Midwest Governors Association. Daugaard withdrew in 2012, according to Sanderson.

"We didn't see as much value in that organization as we did in others," Sanderson said.

Third came the Western Governors Association. Sanderson called WGA "probably the best regional governors association in the country."

Daugaard currently is chairman. "It's a very federalist-type organization," Sanderson said.

WGA's emphasis on workforce issues was valuable, he said. Just the afternoon before, Daugaard spent a chunk of his State of the State speech talking about that topic.

NGA covers 50 states and five groups of U.S.-governed islands. WGA represents 19 states, basically all of America's west, stretching over land and sea from Alaska to Hawaii.

MGA lists 12 states, ranging from Ohio to Kansas. South Dakota remains one, Daugaard's withdrawal notwithstanding.

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Sanderson recommended staying in NGA, remaining in WGA and thinking over whether to re-join MGA.

Then Sen. Terri Haverly spoke up.

Haverly, a Republican, is vice president of Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. Its 2017 chairman was Rep. David Lust.

She said people whose working lives, whether for three months or all year, are centered on South Dakota's Capitol don't always recognize value in governors associations.

She mentioned a conference recently held in another state. The talk there, she said, often was about workforce needs.

"He's not just attending these meetings," she said. "This is very, very helpful to our state."

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