Greetings friends, neighbors, fellow tribal members, and especially to the District 26 constituents. The 95th Legislative Session is halfway finished and there is a ton of work yet to do. We will be debating the IM 22 replacement legislation in the coming days and I will stay vocal and active on insisting that the voters’ intent and will is honored. I will not support any watered down legislation on the issues of an Ethics Commission, Campaign Finance Reform, or Lobbyist Gift Limits just to say we passed something. I have heard from many of you that are upset with the fact that the Legislature can overturn the vote of the people in such a dramatic and quick fashion. I agree with you and I ask that you stay involved and in contact with your legislators on this and all topics. Now is not the time to give up on democracy, it is more important than ever to stay active! I believe in South Dakota’s motto of “Under God the People Rule,” though HB1069 did the opposite, we cannot become disengaged. I have to answer for every vote I take and so should my peers. The newest edition in District 26 and South Dakota’s only state owned landmark is the Dignity Statue near Chamberlain. I was fortunate enough to be present the day of her unveiling and have stopped numerous times since. Her beauty and craftsmanship are astounding and she is such a welcome addition to our area. Her message of inclusion and understanding as well as honoring the rich Native American history in our State is even more impressive. On Monday, Feb. 6th, I had a bill establishing an optional Dignity license plate before the Senate Transportation Committee. With expert testimony from the artist and creator of Dignity, Mr. Dale Lamphere, we were able to pass the bill 7-0 out of committee. Thankfully, the full Senate agreed with me and we passed it with a 35-0 vote count. SB118 will now move onto the House side and go through the entire process again. Hopefully we will have the same results through this part of the process and onto the Governor’s desk. I am extremely excited to share her gifts all across South Dakota and anywhere a South Dakota vehicle is traveling. The Senate Education Committee, of which I am a member, heard some very good bills about establishing an Early Learning Advisory Council and establishing an Early Childhood Education Pilot Program. SB155 and SB156 were good bills that addressed a specific need in our State for early learning opportunities, especially in our rural areas and for the most vulnerable children. Sadly both of these bills were defeated. I took offense to some of the comments by my fellow committee members that these services are already available and that if parents want their child in a program they can pay for it. Many working families cannot afford to send their kids to Pre-K, and these are the kids that need the most help. The facts are 61% of three and four year olds have no access to early childhood education services and 95 of 150 school districts do not provide pre-K education. Studies have shown that Pre-K education gives rural and poor children the best opportunity for successful education outcomes. This is a serious issue that we need to address for the future of South Dakota.
The next few weeks will be extremely busy as the bill deadlines and crossover day are fast approaching. We have been clearing the daily calendar in the Senate but there are numerous House bills making their way to us. The revenue projections for FY 2017 and FY 2018 are quite disappointing at this time, so the budget process will drive many outcomes of all proposed legislation. South Dakota’s budget is driven by its sales tax revenues and with a down Ag economy, it has a ripple effect across all sectors. When 2/3rd of the budget is sales tax driven we set ourselves up for serious economic consequences.
Thank you to the attendees at the recent Cracker Barrels, I appreciate your questions and concerns. Some communities in our state do not allow access to their representatives in as open of manner as we do in District 26. I enjoy the interaction and the opportunity to explain my position and listen to your suggestions. Please join me at any of the upcoming Cracker Barrels in your community. I truly enjoy working for you and I thank you for this responsibility. I look forward to hearing from you. I can be reached by phone at 605-319-6570 or email at Troy.Heinert@sdlegislature. gov.