PIERRE | Voters in South Dakota may get the chance to decide if state lawmakers will get a significant raise.
The Legislature's Executive Board unanimously on Monday to advance a plan that would link legislator's pay to the state's median household income.
The lawmakers currently receive $6,000 a year plus a per diem allowance, but under this plan, the pay would instead become an amount equal to 20 percent of state household income.
That would be more than $10,000 if it currently was in effect, Jason Hancock, executive director for the Legislative Research Council, told the lawmakers. That equates to a raise of more than 70 percent.
To accomplish the change, voters must amend the South Dakota Constitution. Voters in 1946 changed the constitution and put legislators in charge of their salaries. Seventy-two years later, legislators now want to give away that power.
The roll call Monday unanimously supported introducing a resolution in the 2018 session for a constitutional amendment. The next steps are the House of Representatives and the Senate approving the proposal. Then the decision would be up to South Dakota’s voters next November.
Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, brought the issue to the board Monday. As speaker of the House, he presides over the 70-member chamber.
Mickelson is the chairman of the board. He contended Monday that self-employed people and retirees dominate the Legislature. Mickelson asked each member of the board to comment.
Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said he's tried to increase legislator pay in the past because "we increasingly lock out people that could well serve but simply can't afford to serve."
Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, called for the board’s recommendation of Mickelson’s proposal.
Greenfield is the board vice chairman. As Senate president pro tem, Greenfield is the No. 2 officer in the 35-member chamber, below the lieutenant governor. Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, seconded Greenfield’s motion.
The board represents the two chambers on administrative matters and policy decisions.
Senators voting for the proposal were Republicans Kris Langer of Dell Rapids, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Jim Bolin of Canton, Partridge and Greenfield.
Representatives voting for it were House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings and Republicans Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls, Craig Tieszen of Rapid City, Mike Stevens of Yankton, Tim Reed of Brookings, Spencer Gosch of Glenham and Mickelson.
Missing from the roll call were Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton, Senate Republican leader Blake Curd and House Republican leader Lee Qualm.
“It’s a runaway. It’s a runaway,” Mickelson proclaimed.
Winters in the Black Hills are hard enough with a place to go home to at night and a warm meal to eat. But for so many in this area, there is no place to go, and there is no food to eat.
On Monday afternoon, community leaders including Mayor Steve Allender, Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris and Pennington County Commissioner Lloyd LaCroix attempted to shed light on the challenges and local initiatives associated with hunger, homelessness and runaway youth when they met in the Hope Center at 615 Kansas City Street.
The result was two proclamations declaring the month of November as National Runaway Prevention Month and the week of Nov. 11 to 19 as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.
“Stop looking away when confronted by something to do with the homeless situation,” Allender said after reading the proclamations to a group of attendees in the Hope Center’s lobby. “Stop plugging our ears and covering our eyes because this is a real life community issue that all communities across America have to deal with. There are many of our brothers and sisters out there on the street that are in need of some basic essentials, something that would be easy for us to pick up while we’re out doing our (holiday) shopping.”
In conjunction with the kick-off at the Hope Center Monday, several events are scheduled throughout the week to help bring this issue to light. There is a shared meal between area leaders, decision makers and the homeless/impoverished from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Old Boys Club Thrift Store, 313 Third St. Also, a Glow Walk begins at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 at Main Street Square and will be followed by a memorial and candlelight vigil for the homeless who have died on Rapid City’s streets from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Main Street Square.
Coinciding with the proclamations is the resumption of the city initiative to allow winter clothing and apparel to be placed on the downtown presidential statues. This is the third consecutive year the city has allowed items like gloves, scarves and earmuffs to be placed on the statues. Winter clothing can be put on the statues until March 15.
Problems at the Indian Health Service hospital in Winnebago, Neb., have led the Winnebago Tribe to begin the process of taking over the management of the hospital from the federal government.
The Winnebago IHS facility is one of several in the Great Plains region that has been beset by problems in recent years, including failed inspections that led to the termination of the Winnebago hospital’s participation in Medicare and Medicaid.
The Winnebago Tribe said in a news release Monday morning that its tribal council voted Nov. 9 to initiate a process under federal law to take over the operation of the hospital by July 1, 2018.
“We believe the Tribe can improve the quality and access to care at the Hospital, and stabilize the management of the health system,” said a written statement from Tribal Chairman Frank White.
Under the new arrangement, some level of federal funding of the hospital would continue, although day-to-day management of the hospital would shift from IHS to the tribe. The federal government, through the IHS, serves the health-care needs of 2.2 million Native Americans across the nation, pursuant to longstanding treaties, laws and court decisions.
Elsewhere in the IHS Great Plains area, the hospital in Pine Ridge is scheduled to lose its Medicare and Medicaid payments Saturday due to multiple failed inspections.
The IHS hospital in Rosebud has apparently come back from the brink of losing its Medicare and Medicaid certification. But tribal leaders there are threatening to ban some IHS officials from the reservation over an alleged lack of consultation about the awarding of a contract to a private company for staffing of the Rosebud hospital’s emergency department.
Those and other problems led U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., to introduce a bill seeking a wide-ranging audit of the IHS. Last week, he said during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee meeting that Native Americans are suffering “unimaginable horrors” at IHS facilities.
As he sees it, some of Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender’s recommendations for the 2018 budget year were sabotaged by emotional appeals.
In response, he wants to build a shield of data to protect against future attacks.
While saying "emotion makes terrible public policy,” Allender unveiled a public survey Monday at the City/School Administration Center. The survey will be available online at rcgov.org and will also be mailed to 3,000 randomly selected Rapid City residents, with an equal number of surveys going to each of the city’s five wards. The deadline to respond to the survey is Dec. 22.
Allender hopes the survey results will equip and embolden city council members to make difficult budget cuts. Some of Allender’s proposed cuts for the 2018 budget — including eliminations or reductions in subsidies for various community organizations — were rebuked after the council heard testimony from members of the affected groups.
That complicated Allender’s effort to phase-in a priority-based budgeting system, which he plans to fully implement in 2019.
“There is some expectation that city funds will be made available to organizations for eternity,” Allender said Monday, “and that really runs afoul of the priority process.”
The anonymous survey was written by Allender’s budget analyst, Sean Kurbanov. The survey consists of 14 questions and takes an estimated 10-15 minutes to complete.
Although city officials do not anticipate many online responses from people outside of the city, the city's communications coordinator, Darrell Shoemaker, said the city’s information technology staff is prepared to weed out any of those responses, as well as duplicate responses.
Among other things, the survey will ask voters to divvy up a hypothetical $1,000 of tax revenue among various city services; to rank the seven goals in the city's comprehensive plan from most to least important; and to say whether the city council should maintain services with increased fees and taxes, or consider reducing services or privatizing them.
The responses will be tabulated and presented to the council for use during the formulation of the 2019 city budget.
"I feel that when the council members get pressured to fund a particular item, I feel like they may have a lack of information to fall back on," Allender said, adding that he hopes the survey will help fill that void.
The council members have already been given the survey, and their responses will be included in the data.
For more information on the survey, contact the Rapid City Mayor's Office by phone at 721-2457 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.