Hau Mitakuyepi, iyuha cante wasteya nape ciuzapelo! Hello, relatives, friends and neighbors, I extend my hand to you from my heart with good feelings as I report on the 98th legislative session. My committee assignments this term are Education, Health and Human Services, Taxation; and State Tribal Relations committee which meets in the interim after the session.
Things are picking up now in the Capitol as legislators are dropping bills of their own as well as entertaining bills and resolutions from the state or organizations across the state. We are hearing reports from various state agencies, and they are requesting support for certain bills we call “agency bills,” or “clean up bills.” These are often just simple changes to the year for example.
However, this week we have to get many of our own bills and resolutions into the Legislative Research Council, or LRC, where they review them before we submit them.
One of the bills we heard last week in committee was Senate Bill 56, introduced by Senator Maher. This was due to efforts in Dewey County to move the county seat from Timber Lake to Eagle Butte. This bill would change the 15% requirement of registered voters from that county—to instead say that to relocate a county seat, a petition signed by 40% of the voters of the county must be filed with the county. This would have raised the threshold almost three times. It was struck down in committee but allowed to be passed through to the Senate floor without most of the language, except an amendment to verify the voters. It could be amended back on the floor and this may create problems in other counties where local voters may want to move the county seat; like in Buffalo County to Fort Thompson from Gann Valley; or Todd County from Winner to Mission. I testified against the bill as statements were made in testimony about trust lands not being able to be used for collateral, or how the BIA takes ten years to approve anything. I felt the committee needed to hear some information relevant to today on these matters and whether trust lands could be used to develop and lease office space for the county seat. This is more proof that most committee members had no idea of these matters and whether they did matter in any of the state dealings.
Another billed aimed at tribal relations passed through State Affairs Friday that would eliminate Democratic Native legislators from the State Tribal Relations committee. Senate Bill 69 was introduced Jan. 17 and passed out of committee with only one vote in opposition, the lone Democratic member of the committee.
Brought forth by Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck; who said it would be better to not have any Native legislators on the committee; he said it would allow legislators a chance to get educated about Native American issues. Maybe he should testify on the Social Studies Standards about the need for Oceti Sakowin Essential Understandings to be taught in our school systems.
This bill would effectively remove half of the Native Democrats, taking the number from four to two members, only one from each chamber. I believe this will make an ineffective committee even more ineffective as they didn’t even meet in over the last two years, except once when session started last year.
I will have to bring my bill again to reignite the South Dakota Indian Commission, which was eliminated for some reason. I propose each tribe select their own member to sit on the commission and come to Pierre to meet with Cabinet members quarterly to tell the state what is needed by the tribes and, finally, an Annual Report be submitted that has minutes and motions by the commission.
We will hear from the people from the Tribal communities themselves on what is important to them. Also, we should move the Office of Indian Education back to the Department of Education, where it belongs. We have not seen anything productive out of this change and we need to change it back for our children’s sake. This is what the Tribal Education Directors have been saying and they are not being listened to by state officials.
I had breakfast with the Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court, along with several other leaders in the legislature. He invited us to visit and break bread as he told us about some of his concerns for the coming session.
I also got to visit with the South Dakota Board of Regents, South Dakota veterans, tourism conference attendees, South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, youth organizations, South Dakota Rural Electric Association members, and students from across the state. I was very pleased to see the folks from the South Dakota Native Tourism Association doing their good work in Pierre.
We also have visitors from across the state feeding us breakfast and lunch as well as evening activities throughout the session. It is truly the one good time to meet and share with people the dreams of each district as people strive to make improvements using the vital resources of the state as they try to develop their communities.
This coming Friday we are having our first cracker barrel meeting in the district at the Lyman County School at 1 p.m.
Thank you all for your time and attention. If you need assistance for anything in Pierre, you can call me at 605-856-8241 or email me at the Shawn.Bordeaux@sdlegislature.gov.
Thanks to the good folks at the West River Eagle for allowing me to report to you all.
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