I believe the best way we can support our community and local economy during these unprecedented times is to encourage less regulation on interstate business and new industry coming to South Dakota. We have seen incredible benefits to our state by making it easier for banks, the ag-industry, and manufacturing to do business here. If we extend some of these benefits to biochemical companies, technology providers, and auto, I think we would continue to be one of the nation's most stable economies.
I believe that we should ensure that teachers get paid what they are worth. Wages paid for educators should be consistent based on cost of living and effectiveness. By doing this, all children will benefit because we will have teachers that are less worried about how they are going to be able to afford their bills, and more motivated to enrich the education of our youth.
As a state legislator, I will work hard to make sure local governments continue to have resources available to know how to appropriate respond to issues. I believe that legislation at the state level should only be done, if there is a majority state-wide issue that needs to be addressed.
At this time, I encourage those with opinions on the initiative and referendum process to let me know of any struggles that they are having with this process. I understand that changes at the state level should have some level of difficulty, but I also believe that nothing should be the equivalent of impossible.
I am the first to admit that I wish I knew everything with regards to how the relationship works between the census data and redistricting. This is an area, that if tasked to assist with, I would take very seriously. I do not approve of gerrymandering in any way. Fair and equitable within the state laws regarding this process is how this should be done.
I support all citizens' rights to vote. I believe that any method that can be proven to be safe, secure, and effective should be eligible in the election and voting process.
For weeks I have had conversations and done media interviews saying that it is irresponsible and frustrating to see the state sit on $900+ million of CARES Act funding, with no plan to spend it, while at the same time the people of SD suffer. We have small businesses closing, schools opening without adequate personal protective equipment, health care systems with falling revenues and rising costs, nonprofit agencies struggling to meet needs, and universities and technical colleges with unreimbursed COVID19 related expenses.
Until the most recent executive board meeting, there was no plan to call the legislature back into action to hear from the public and to create new grant programs. I am deeply grateful to Senator Heinert from Mission who has successfully prodded the e-board into action. We now have a plan for hearings to learn more about specific pressing needs and a plan for action to meet those needs and steward the funds that were entrusted to us through the CARES Act.
Representative democracy requires an educated citizenry. Studies demonstrate a positive correlation between the educational attainment of a state's workforce and its median wages. High-wage states have workforces that are well-educated. South Dakota should strive to become a high-wage state.
We need to do three key things. First, we need a pre-K education council to study and develop a SD solution to meet the needs of families with young children. SD is one of only a handful of states that provides no state assistance for pre-school. At some point, we should stop denying our children access to a full year of school that almost every other state is providing. Second, our universities and technical colleges need to be affordable. SD lacks a substantive needs-based scholarship to help the children of working families attend and succeed in finishing school. Thirdly, we need to ensure K-12 teachers are competitively compensated. We need to do better.
Counties, particularly Minnehaha County have seen an increase in costs related to the judicial process. More money is being spent on prosecutions, providing public defenders, expanding our jail, working with the city to establish a triage center, and spending more on our county sheriff office. At the same time, counties are constrained at raising taxes. Despite opting out, funds remain far too restrained to meet other needs. I have supported a bill that would allow counties to pass a small local option tax on alcohol. So many of our rising costs are related to alcohol, yet we pay for those rising costs of policing, jailing, and treating people by raising property taxes. Alcohol should pay for more of the problems it causes. Most urgently, we should be ensuring that local governments have expeditious access to grant programs, funded by CARES Act funds, to cover all COVID19 related expenses so they can respond to local issues.
I'm a huge advocate of the initiated measure and referendum process in SD! I worked on the 2004 measure to end the sales tax on food and in 2006 to limit the use of the state airplane fleet to state business because of its abuse by then Governor Rounds. We worked together in 2014 to raise the minimum wage, tipped minimum wage, and adjust both annually for inflation. Most importantly, in 2016 we capped the interest rate on payday loans at 36% and ended the debt traps that were harming SD families. That passed with 76% of the vote, although the legislature couldn't get a reform bill out of committee. Recent changes mandating ID badges and requiring extensive information to be given to the SOS office before beginning a petition process have made it harder to put measures on the ballot. The most important change that could be made would be lengthening the time to circulate and moving the signature due date from a year before the election to five or six months later.
I have in the past and will continue to support an independent redistricting commission. Whether redistricting is done by an independent redistricting commission or by a group of legislators, we should at a minimum follow the guidelines suggested by NCSL. Legislative districts should be compact, contiguous, preserve county and other subdivisions, communities of interest should be preserved, as should the core of prior districts. We should avoid pairing incumbents such that they would run against each other.
In addition, I would support a complete prohibition on using partisan voter registration data in the process. People should select their representatives. Legislators should not be selecting who they will be representing based on their party affiliation.
On the final day of session, I had a bill supported by our Secretary of State to make the process for requesting an absentee ballot safer, easier, and secure. My bill would have substituted additional data and a personal identification affidavit to replace the current requirement that voters either submit a photo copy of their driver license or have their request notarized. The bill was killed by Republicans in the Senate. Similarly, the Secretary of State had a bill during session that would have allowed for online voter registration. That bill, too, was killed by Republican Senators in State Affairs.
I would support same day registration and believe that the state should pay for the postage on mail in ballots. It is deeply frustrating when we have $900 million in unspent CARES Act funding in Pierre that voters this election cycle will still need to pay for postage on their return ballots because the Governor and the supermajority Republican legislature has failed to act.