GOOD: The Badlands is the source of good news for the area and the state. On Sunday, the Journal reported that more than 1 million people visited Badlands National Park in 2017, which made it the busiest year since 2000 with a 5.8 percent increase in attendance from the previous year. It also is safe to say the unique park attracts an international audience. On Friday, a Journal photographer ran into a visitor from Sweden who was enjoying the vast vistas and spectacular scenery east of Rapid City. The park, a photographer's and hiker's delight, is home to bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, bobcats, black-footed ferrets and prairie dogs. Its geology is like none other in the country. "When you put that all together and swirl it around in a pretty big chunk of landscape, it does make for a world-class national park,” Park Superintendent Mike Pflaum said.
BAD: While blue- and red-state legislatures have different priorities, they do have something in common: a lust for more revenue. As a result, a new set of values have emerged that includes states promoting and encouraging their citizens to gamble. We no longer have to go to Sin City to satisfy a desire that becomes compulsive for too many. On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted 7-1 to defeat a proposal that would have gradually removed the state from the casino business. In doing so, lawmakers made it clear the state is hooked on video lottery, which cost gamblers around $200 million in 2017, with the state's take being $105 million. The measure was introduced by Rep. John Mills, who said the annual criminal costs of video lottery are $42 million and the social costs $62 million. Opponents emphasized personal freedom before rejecting the measure. For lawmakers who are seemingly doing all they can to nullify the initiative-and-referendum process, it’s an argument that’s hard to buy.
UGLY: Speaking of personal freedom, lawmakers recently considered a bill that would have taken a right away from workers. Senate Bill 145 would have denied them the ability to sue insurance companies that denied them medical benefits if they were injured on the job. Rather than having the freedom to assert their rights in the courts, they could only appeal their case to the South Dakota Department of Labor, which has little incentive to do anything that might upset lawmakers. Settlements, meanwhile, would have been capped at $30,000, which doesn’t go far when it comes to medical expenses. Sen. Ryan Maher, who is in the insurance business, was the bill's prime sponsor. According to published reports, Maher of Isabel said the legislation was targeted at trial lawyers who handle workers’ comp cases. “The lawyers are going to hate this because this is their gravy train,” he said. Personal animus should not be the motivation to change public policy. The legislation, however, was defeated in committee.