The last week of legislative session was somewhat disjointed with session convening in the mornings before immediately recessing for budget-related meetings and negotiations.
Medical marijuana legislation was also top of mind this week. While Constitutional Amendment A is on hold until the Supreme Court makes it ruling, IM-26 (medical marijuana) is not. Legislators made various attempts at finding modifications that would be acceptable to both the House and Senate, but no agreement was found. The original wording of IM-26 will prevail, meaning the Department of Health and the Municipal League will be challenged to quickly develop guidance for our communities and State. It seems oversight from the legislature and other stakeholders would have been helpful.
It was a “hurry up and wait” kind of week, so in my free time I reflected on my first legislative experience. I found the following to be true:
· Professionalism of the Departments is top notch.
· Efficiency, innovation, and cost controls are the topics of much discussion.
· Our government officials desire to move the perspective of government forward.
· When considering legislation, the benefits of local controls versus government statues is ever present and debated.
· Communication, respect, and the willingness to constructively compromise are key factors in everything (which, of course, can always be improved).
I can’t help but try to compare my private business career experience with my (limited) legislative experience, but I acknowledge it is like comparing apples to oranges. So, in the legislator’s seat, I learned to lean on my principles when discussing, influencing, and voting on legislation. The biggest differences between government and business that I could see are government’s lack of “competition” and absence of the “fear of failing financially.” Private business owners experience this constantly, and it is quite a motivator. Another considerable difference is government’s appropriations (money spending) process. Structurally it seems correct, but it is clunky, too. I am not on the appropriations committee, so I am merely a bystander observing the process. I am struck by the cadre of people involved with everything from revenue forecasting, funding requests, and spending decisions. There are many cooks in the kitchen, including the Bureau of Finance and Management, Legislative Research Council, eighteen representatives and senators comprising the joint appropriations committee, all the state departments and agencies, and the Executive Branch. Considering it is the People’s money that is being spent, I am guessing the process is “clunky” by design.
Be rest assured that the abundance of one-time revenue was invested in projects that will be of great benefit to our State, our citizens, and our Country in the years to come. Whether or not you are comfortable with the federal government sending us funds that paid for some of our ongoing expenses in the name of COVID relief (and increased the size of our federal debt), it did free up dollars we had already budgeted. This meant we could invest them in worthy one-time projects. The following investments are notable for me: needs base scholarship funding, new bioproducts facility (at Brookings research park) that combines private business and university research, paying off debt already incurred, rehabilitating rail line from Fort Pierre to Rapid City, mineral industry building on the campus of South Dakota Mines (our country needs more rare earth minerals for technological advancements), and the Ellsworth Air Force Base Liberty Center to support the new B-21 Raider deployment in western South Dakota.
Even though the 2022 legislative session begins next January, preparation for it already begins this Monday. Your District 24 legislators (Mary, Will, and myself) will be touring, researching, asking questions, analyzing, and proposing what moves our district and state forward. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. I has been a high honor.