Somewhere around this time of year it happens as the bright mid-winter sun moves across the open sky, turning each and every fence post into a sundial as tired, aging snow melts off the prairie. The seasons wrestle for control as spring growth rises toward the surface, stopping to take the temperature of the earth, resting briefly in the warmth before breaking ground and racing diligently toward the sun.
This week is Sunshine Week, a national observance to spotlight the importance of openness and transparency in government at all levels. Open government is fundamental to good government. Openness builds citizen trust and confidence in government.
One week left! Tuesday, the 8th is the last day for bill discussion in each chamber. The rest of the week is spent negotiating amendments and budget. The much-debated Governor’s education bill barely passed the Senate on Tuesday (March 1) and is headed for the Governor’s desk.
Spring forward; fall back. Twice each year we reset the clocks. In the fall, I relish the extra hour of sleep I think I get because 6:00 a.m. is really 7:00 a.m. – or it feels that way for a couple days at least.
The quote atop this editorial is from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road – a cheerful 1856 tribute to freedom and the great outdoors. Hopefully, Mr. Whitman would have approved use of his prose to promote open, well-aired government. It’s unlikely the great poet favored government secrecy and closed-door meetings.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has vetoed the controversial “transgender bathroom bill” (HB 1008 – An Act to restrict access to certain restrooms and locker rooms in public schools.) The Governor’s veto message follows: Dear Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, I respectfully return to you House Bill 1008, with my VETO. House Bill 1008 does not address any pressing issue concerning the school districts of South Dakota. As policymakers in South Dakota, we often recite that the best government is the government closest to the people.
A road trip is a change of scenery, people to visit, places to go. A road trip is just the thing to rejuvenate and reenergize. Leaving Spearfish on a two day road trip, I turn onto the interstate. I-90 stretches ahead of me. The asphalt ribbon will be my home for a couple days as I trek across southern South Dakota.
What kind of education do we want for our South Dakota students? Do we want them to be thinkers and doers, armed with the skills to be productive members of society? Of course we do. We want to equip them with a wide range of knowledge and experience, making them capable of tackling problems, inventing solutions, and facing real-life, beyond-the-classroom challenges.
This week, the legislative session reached its half-way point. Legislators are working hard as they consider bills on a wide range of topics. Education funding is a major topic of discussion this year. At the beginning of session, I offered a plan to increase teacher pay and to reform the school funding formula. My plan is based on proposals made by the Blue Ribbon Task Force, which met throughout the past year.