Home > 2015 SD Legislative Session > Roads and juvenile incarceration reform Daugaard’s top priorities for 2015 SD legislative session

Roads and juvenile incarceration reform Daugaard’s top priorities for 2015 SD legislative session

January 14, 2015
Governor Daugaard speaking with a constituent at the 2014 SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/29/14

Governor Daugaard speaking with a constituent at the 2014 SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/29/14

Yesterday the 2015 South Dakota legislative session opened with the State of the State address from Governor Daugaard. There weren’t any huge surprises from what Daugaard had to say. Actually, if anything there might have been some surprised about what he didn’t say. The bulk of the State of the State address was spent talking about infrastructure (roads and bridges) and juvenile justice reform.

Last year there was a summer study conducted by the Highway Needs and Financing Interim Committee. This committee was spearheaded by Senator Vehle (R-20). Last summer I attended the SD Ag Summit where Senator Vehle and two other panelists spent their time trying to push for higher taxes. Shortly after that I attended a public hearing before the committee in Aberdeen. Vehle seemed much more open-minded in this hearing, and didn’t seem to push for taxes near as much. Coming out of that study came the first Senate bill of the 2015 legislative session: SB1. The reason I bring up Vehle’s bill is that Daugaard specifically said during his State of the State address that he would NOT be supporting SB1 and instead would be proposing his own set of tax increases he feels would better suit the state going forward.

I’ll wait until actually reading the legislation before going into depth about the governor’s proposal. But there is one part of his proposal I think is worth looking at. Daugaard proposes that the state replace the federal government in funding of some local infrastructure projects at the County and township level. That would allow the counties and townships to complete infrastructure projects without the extra requirements that the federal government often puts on such projects. Here is an excerpt of what I reported from the Aberdeen transportation meeting, and why I feel this proposal from Daugaard is so important:

Brown County  highway superintendent Dirk Rogers testified later in the hearing. He had a lot to say, and it was all well worth listening to. A big point he made was that oftentimes receiving federal dollars on a transportation project would actually hurt the county. The requirements placed on such projects by the federal government often raise the cost of doing the project to a large extent. He said often the money received from the federal government only covers the additional costs to the project that were caused by the federal requirements. If the county does the project without the federal government involved it would be done much cheaper; and often much better quality because it is local experts used.

If the counties can truly save money and increase quality it would only make sense for the state to make that work. I do realize this approach means the state will need more money in transportation funding. The only part I don’t necessarily agree with Vehle and Daugaard on is that massive tax increases will be needed to make such a change. Tax increases may be necessary, but there are also other parts of the budgets which can potentially be cut and placed into infrastructure. Personally I don’t think the legislature will try offsets, but it is possible to do so. Beyond that I will wait to read the Governor’s proposed legislation before actually commenting on the difference between Vehle’s massive tax increases in SB1 and those proposed by Daugaard.

Juvenile justice reform was another big area for Daugaards speech. Most notably he wants to reform the juvenile justice system similar to what Public Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) has been doing for adult criminals, which was passed in 2013 as  SB 70. Personally I feel the PSIA was the wrong way to go because it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of people in South Dakota being called criminals. Rather the PSIA changes how people are charged, sentenced and handled. There are still massive amount of South Dakota citizens convicted of crimes that have no actual victim; this is especially true for drug-related offenses. The Governor and AG currently appear to believe PSIA was the right direction for justice in South Dakota, and therefore feel making similar changes for juvenile offenders would also be good. I will do a series of its blog posts on this proposed legislation, and I will likely testify about the bill when it hits committee. Right now I can foresee the proposed changes to juvenile justice passing the legislature with little resistance.

Other than those two items Daugaard really didn’t have much to say. It was obvious however that he specifically avoided any mention of K-12 public education (except for briefly talking about dual-credit courses). During the 2014 election season the Democrats made funding public education and teacher wages a top issue. Now that the election is done it is clear that such conversations had little or no impact upon the Governor. The Democrat super-minority in the legislature will likely try to proposes legislation to increase school funding or teacher pay; but any such legislation will probably die in committee. Personally I think the Democrat Gubernatorial candidate, Susan Wismer, can take part of the blame for this conversation ending. There were some Republicans who were willing to look at increased funding for public education last year, but they also wanted to look at ensuring school boards and school superintendents were spending the money properly. Any mention of that would cause Wismer to go on the attack and basically say all teacher pay problems were caused by the legislature and that the school districts were only victims. This approach caused some Republican legislators to remove themselves from the conversation, and close a potential means for Wismer to actually make some headway in what she stated was a top priority.

As the session goes on I expect to do a good number of posts about infrastructure funding the juvenile justice reform proposed. At this time I don’t see any reason that the governors two proposals won’t go through. The executive branch in South Dakota in reality holds the greater amount of power, and the current Republican super-majority legislature seems quite content following the Governors marching orders.

  1. Merlyn Schutterle
    January 14, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Why doesn’t someone ask him about the abuse of power in his administration? He refuses to answer any of MY questions. I have the evidence, but he knows he can ignore me. Anybody really interested now what is going on would follow up on that, but they refuse to look at those issues. So, go ahead and talk about taxes and roads and ignore everything else.

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