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OPINION: 'Twas a year for progress and for scandals in Pierre

PIERRE -- Here are just some of the folks who had noteworthy roles in state government during 2015. Marty Guindon--The state's auditor general and staff at the Department of Legislative Audit conducted the first review of the GEAR UP program and ...

1359515+Bob Mercer.jpg

PIERRE - Here are just some of the folks who had noteworthy roles in state government during 2015.

Marty Guindon-The state's auditor general and staff at the Department of Legislative Audit conducted the first review of the GEAR UP program and found trouble.

Sen. Mike Vehle-Refusing to give up, his work led to the Legislature finally approving and the governor signing the first highway-tax package in two decades.

Rep. Brian Gosch-The House Republican leader showed his legislative savvy once again when he had the 80 mph speed limit for interstates 90 29 added to the highways and bridges package.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard-The Republican zigged into new territory for him with acceptance of funding hikes for roads and with studies on teacher pay, Medicaid expansion and child abuse.

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Sen. Deb Soholt-With the governor's support she kept alive the Jolene's Law task force on child sexual abuse and there's now funding recommended by the governor for a state center to study the problem.

Rep. Jacqueline Sly-She and Sen. Deb Soholt co-chaired the governor's Blue Ribbon task force on teachers and students, helping the group find a target of $85 million more for teachers.

Rep. Jim Bolin-He took the Legislature to the edge of voiding the transgender-acceptance policy for high school athletics.

Sen. Gary Cammack-The third-year legislator and first-year senator prevailed within a split Senate Republican caucus to become president pro tem after a series of unexpected resignations.

Sen. Corey Brown-The seventh-year senator stepped from president pro tem to Senate Republican leader after Sen. Tim Rave became second in row to resign post mid-term.

Rep. Kristin Conzet-The Legislature's Executive Board chose the sixth-year lawmaker to chair the interim study on county government finances, where some big funding ideas emerged for 2016.

Pat Costello-The governor's commissioner of economic development found his office under scrutiny as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notified South Dakota its status in the federal EB-5 foreign investors program would be terminated.

Joop Bollen-The president of SDRC Inc. found himself back in the EB-5 boil with the USCIS notice of termination and the Daugaard administration suing him for money that had been promised in his company's 2009 state contracts.

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Melody Schopp-After years of shifting South Dakota's state Indian education program to Mid-Central Education Cooperative, the governor's secretary of education made the phone call to Mid-Central administrator Dan Guericke terminating the GEAR UP contract.

Scott Westerhuis-The Mid-Central business manager stands accused by investigators as the killer of his wife, their four children and himself at their house south of Platte within hours of Schopp's phone call.

Angela Kennecke-The KELO television veteran chased the GEAR UP saga hard into a statewide news story.

Shantel Krebs-The new secretary of state put the office back in order.

Rep. George Mark Mickelson and Attorney General Marty Jackley-Running hard already for statewide office, presumably Republican nomination for governor, in 2018.

James Nord-The sometimes-bushy guy proved a promising successor to venerable (and now retired) Chet Brokaw as The Associated Press reporter in Pierre.

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