Governments battle bill to publish benefits in newspapers

2013-02-27T07:30:00Z Governments battle bill to publish benefits in newspapersBob Mercer Legislative correspondent Rapid City Journal
February 27, 2013 7:30 am  • 

PIERRE | Will the Legislature require publishing the full package of benefits for each school, city or county employee?

If so, it might be published on the Internet rather than the local newspaper. Local governments and schools already must publish the salaries annually as part of the minutes in the official local newspaper.

Some of the battle over SB180 is about keeping the extra information out of easy reach for taxpayers. Opponents argue that all of the information can be obtained at the local finance office. But mostly the dispute is over the additional cost of legal advertising in a newspaper.

The Senate voted 28-5 to publish the benefits — Medicare, Social Security, average amount of insurance, retirement and any nonprofessional membership fee — in the newspaper as a second figure next to the salary.

The House Local Government Committee decided Tuesday the local board or commission can publish the information on its website if it has one. The opponents are neutral if that is the approach.

The House of Representatives will see the bill next, possibly Thursday. Its lead sponsor in the House is Rep. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, said Tuesday he understands the points on each side of the Internet vs. newspaper argument.

“What I really care about is getting the information out there,” Brown said.

The South Dakota Newspaper Association wants the bill in its Senate form, which requires newspaper publication. But Dianna Miller, a lobbyist for large school districts, said Tuesday that newspapers are also pushing to halt school districts from reaching exclusive broadcast contracts for school sports. Miller said SDNA also opposed Internet publication of school board minutes as a replacement for newspaper publication.

SDNA’s Dave Bordewyk said putting the information on a local government's website will make it difficult on taxpayers.

“Putting it on the the website is like hiding it in the wide open,” he said.

But Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, said Internet devices are the current direction. “If it’s news, it should be covered as news,” he said.

Various witnesses testified Tuesday that benefits can add perhaps as much as one-third to total compensation. Brown used the example of a $30,000 teaching salary and another $10,000 of benefits.

The other complaint about the bill is that state government employees including university presidents aren’t covered by a similar requirement. There was an attempt to add state employees but that was defeated in the Senate hearing.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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