I learned a new expression this week: “walking in high cotton.” It’s a pre-civil war term when “high cotton” meant that the crops were good and the prices were too. The term has generalized to mean one is doing well or having a good day. So this week I “walked in high cotton” – my bill to help the Big Stone School passed 6-0 in Senate Education, and 35-0 in the full Senate. It’s now on its way to the Governor for his signature.
It’s especially humbling to have this type of success on my very first bill as a new legislator. The effort would not have been possible without the help of my district-mates Rep. John Wiik and Sen. Jim Peterson. Of course, the best reward is to know we helped a school stay open.
In addition to the high cotton experience, there have been a number of challenging bills.
For the third year in a row, the legislature had quite a go-round with a bill to end South Dakota’s involvement with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The Standards are a list of goals detailing what K-12 students should know in English language arts and math at the end of each grade. It also seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states and ensure students are prepared for college/tech schools or to enter the workforce.
The bill would have ended South Dakota’s participation in CCSS by 2017, but did not have a mechanism for developing replacement standards. That short-sight in the language of the bill would have left our schools and teachers without annual academic goals. The bill failed in committee but through a procedural technique was smoked out to the floor where it ultimately died. I joined in voting to kill the bill.
Common Core isn’t new to me. As a school board member for the past 8 years I have a pretty good grasp of fact versus fiction. Much of the opposition, in my opinion, is not very factual. However, the recurring legislative attacks are very real. They undermine our schools and teachers.
Another bill that generated a good deal of email was HB 1201, an Act to revise provisions in regard to planning and zoning. The measure would allow each county or municipality, if it wanted to, to approve a conditional use permit with a simple majority vote rather than a 2/3 vote. I put more time into studying this bill and talking to people on both sides of the issue than any other this session. After extensive debate, the bill measure passed 52-17 and now heads to the Senate. I supported the measure.
The youth minimum wage bill measure cruised through the Senate and the House Commerce Committee along party lines and will be coming to the full House this week. The measure carves out a $7.50 minimum wage for people under age 18. Under the bill, people under 18 would be exempt from the $8.50 minimum wage voters approved in the November 4 statewide election. The Proponents testified South Dakota now has a minimum wage that ranks in the top ten in the country. The concern is job opportunities for inexperienced teens are in jeopardy. Please let me know how you feel about this.
Over on the Senate side, drainage mediation legislation, SB3, passed with a vote of 32-3. The measure would allow the Department of Agriculture to provide mediation service for landowners who are in drainage disputes. Landowners would pay the cost of the mediation. The bill now heads over to the House for our review.
As we move toward our last weeks of session, one of our two highway funding bills has met its demise. The House felt it would be easier to focus energies on a single bill. It killed the Governor’s legislation, so HB1 is now the only bill left addressing highway and bridge funding. The bill has been assigned to the House State Affairs Committee. As it moves through the process on the House side, I’ll keep you updated.
Last, just about every day we have different events, awards or ceremonies at the capitol. This past week we celebrated South Dakota-Tribal relations day.
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can follow the progress of bills at the South Dakota legislative website, http://legis.state.sd.us/, and of course you can always follow my voting record on my Facebook page. Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon!