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State Senator District 34

Description: The South Dakota State Legislature is the legislative branch of the government of South Dakota. It is a bicameral legislative body, consisting of the Senate which has 35 members, and the House of Representatives, which has 70 members. The two houses are similar in most respects; the Senate alone holds the right to confirm gubernatorial appointments to certain offices. The Legislature meets at the South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre. It begins its annual session of the second Tuesday of January each year. The legislative session lasts 40 working days in odd-numbered years, and 35 days working days in even numbered years. Term: 4 consecutive 2 year termsSalary: $6,000 + $142 per legislative dayRequirements for Office: 21 years old; 2 years residency; qualified voter; may not have been convicted of bribery, perjury or other infamous crime; may not have illegally taken "public moneys".Petition Requirements: Depends on party and legislative district. See SD Secretary of State's website for details.

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  • Candidate picture

    Michael G Diedrich
    (REP)

  • Candidate picture

    George Nelson
    (DEM)

Biographical Information

What will you do to support the economy throughout our state in the face of international trade conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic?

What should our state government do to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children?

What would you do for our local governments, such as counties, cities and school boards, so that they can be flexible in responding to local issues?

How do you view the initiative and referendum process in South Dakota? Are there any changes to this system that you would support?

With the redistricting process happening after the 2020 Census, how do you view the legislature’s role in this process and would you support an independent citizen redistricting commission?

What are your plans to protect voter rights such as online or same-day voter registration as well as absentee voting/voting by mail?

The international trade conflicts and pandemic affect our commercial supply chain and the agriculture exports. I am confident that South Dakota can maintain our status as one of the best places to do business by thoughtfully implementing the following strategy. First, the state must appropriately disburse the federal $1.25B recovery grant dollars to education, business, and local governments to get the dollars in our economy. Second, maintain a low tax environment, eliminate unnecessary regulations, and make it easier to start and grow a business. We must identify growth industries and aggressively recruit job creating business and industry. Third, Our education system, K-12 and post secondary, needs the resources to expand collaboration with employers to teach our youth the skills necessary to choose productive careers in all fields from skilled labor to technical and professional.This can be done through shared learning, technology and proactive workforce development planning.
My vision is that South Dakota schools will efficiently use resources and allocate the savings to enhance programs and experiences that directly benefit our children. This can be done by creating supplies savings leveraging the state group purchasing power; optimizing technology by providing the administrators, teachers and students with the skills to maximize edu-tech learning efficiency and opportunities; and, collaboration among business, school districts, and all institutions of learning. Regardless of geographic location or socioeconomic conditions, all children must have access to quality teachers with appropriate resources and technology. I also support local option pre-K education. Whether home, public, or private schooled, all students should have equal access to scholarships and admission to tech schools and universities. Tuition to public tech schools and universities must be affordable and costs lowered by reducing maintenance costs and investing in innovative technology
Cities, counties and school boards can make better local decisions that the state or federal government. They have the best knowledge of local issues and are accountable in the areas they serve and in which they are elected. I support local control. I continue to seek to eliminate unnecessary regulation or restrictions on state support funds. I also continue to advocate for the flexibility and resources for these government bodies to use existing and develop new resources. I advocate that the state develop the communication, broad band, and technology infrastructures as the foundation for local government, education and commerce to be innovative and enhance our state for future generations. We are blessed by the thoughtful and forward thinking of previous generations of South Dakotans. Our values and principles demand the same from us for generations yet to come.
I support the South Dakota initiative and referendum process. I also support changes that improve transparency, accountability, and the public education and debate on initiated and referred measures. South Dakota is a populist state and was the first to implement the imitative and referendum process. The process must continuously be evaluated for appropriate improvement.
The legislature's role in the redistricting process is to ensure that Census data is utilized and that districts must have nearly equal populations and not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity. By law the legislature determines the district lines subject to the Governor's veto. Redistricting must not be used for political gain. Most state legislatures have the primary responsibility for redistricting by state constitution or law. Less than a third of the states have independent commissions. Some states have advisory commissions that work with the legislatures. South Dakota has not had significant dialogue on whether or not there is a need to change the existing process. The issue will be discussed in the 2021 legislative session and i will make a thoughtful and reasoned decision based on constituent input and facts.

Voting is a fundamental inalienable right under our U.S. and State Constitutions. We must protect our citizens from voter fraud, suppression, and other election interference. long before the pandemic, South Dakota implemented and experienced significant early voting by mail without evidence of fraud. It is important to continue to conduct properly supervised, documented and fraud-free early voting whether by mail or in person. I advocate providing the election officials with the resources to ensure each vote is legitimate and counted.
I am a strong advocate for completing the Heartland Express thoroughfare through SD and for the state participating in Medicaid expansion. If both occur, the economic benefit to just District 34 would be significant, let alone the state as a whole. The Heartland Express would provide a north-south transportation route from Denver to the Canadian border with Rapid City smack in the middle of that transit. Tourism, the healthcare industry and our retail sector would all benefit tremendously were we to be at the hub of an east-west and north-south transportation system. Medicaid expansion would provide needed healthcare to a significant a number of District 34 households. It would also be financially beneficial to the medical providers in Rapid City, increasing the incomes of healthcare workers in District 34.
South Dakota is one of just 6 states that do not offer any funding for preschool. A significant body of research shows that high-quality preschools produce long-term academic and social benefits for children. SD is home to voters and politicians who strongly believe in family autonomy and minimal government intervention. However, those philosophies bump up hard against the reality that a majority of our children under age six live with parents who work elsewhere during the day. Those children have to go somewhere while their parents work. Most parents can no longer afford to stay home with their young children. With no pre-K education opportunities, our children's early development is jeopardized. Consequently, I'm for offering our residents pre-K educational options. State government can best make those ed. opportunities uniform for all, whether you live in Butte County or Minnehaha.
The State has been allocated to receive $1.25 billion for the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the money received so far, the two main uses has been for unemployment benefits and paying the State's law enforcement (i.e., Highway Patrol). I believe more of that money should go to the state's school districts, which operations have been tremendously disrupted and costs soared. The Governor's use of the monies so far have resulted in a $19 million surplus for the State government. The State's surplus has not, and will not, trickle down to the counties, cities, and school boards. I believe there are better uses for these monies that would more directly benefit our local governments.
The initiated measure process gives all South Dakotans an equal ability to propose laws. I'm against restricting this process and contend that our state legislature has circumvented the voters' right to make laws with the passage for recent restrictions. The state's history has had a number of strong populism movements. Unless the legislature's restrictions are removed, future populism movements will be few and far in between. When voters passed the anti-corruption measure, IM 22, in 2016 and the Legislature repealed it months later during its 2017 session, we learned how tenuous our democracy can be in this state. We need to elect legislators who trust and respect the people. The people's right to pass laws that override what the Legislature does is a check-and-balance that needs to protected and strengthened, not attacked and taken away.
Most states still let their state legislators draw their own legislative districts, including SD. Increasingly, states are involving bipartisan commissions in their redistricting processes, as they seek to reduce the potential for state legislatures to abuse their power to draw districts. I believe SD should involve a bipartisan commission for the drawing of legislative districts. I would promote legislation and a constitutional amendment making such a change.
I'm for preserving in-person voting options, including by providing at least two weeks of early voting and designating voting locations on tribal lands; expand opportunities to register to vote online and implement same-day voter registration; establish ballot-tracking programs and nondiscriminatory signature verification standards; eliminate overly burdensome requirements for absentee ballots; and launch robust voter education initiatives on new voting policies.