We just finished week 3 of the legislature and it looks like we’re off to the races. After a slower than normal start, the bill count more than tripled in the House to 170. The Senate is close behind at 140. In addition, legislators have so many more bills close to being ready that the rules were “suspended” to allow every legislator to turn in up to 6 more next week.
On Wednesday we heard Governor Noem’s budget address. She pledged to continue the conservative fiscal stance that has kept South Dakota strong and earned us a “triple A” credit rating. That rating reduces the interest cost for any bonding done at the state, county, school or municipal level and saves South Dakota taxpayers millions every year. She promised not to spend money we don’t have and to meet our commitments. She also committed more resources for fighting the Meth epidemic through education and enforcement.
On Thursday, in the House Transportation committee there was a fascinating presentation on autonomous vehicles. We had a glimpse into the future from an expert closely connected to what’s coming. On the not-too-distant horizon is a transformation that will have most of us using electric vehicles and fully autonomous (self driving) vehicles. He wouldn’t predict a timeline, but offered one interesting slide comparison to consider. The first slide showed a busy New York street in 1900. It was filled with hundreds of carriages, people and horses – and 1 car in the midst of them. The next photo showed the same New York street in 1913. It was filled with hundreds of cars and people – and 1 horse drawn carriage. I guess we had better get ready!
You may have heard about a lawsuit involving a lobbyist this week. In the legislature, there is a strict code of conduct for legislators. From the clothes we wear, to the way we speak to one another, our conduct within the Capitol building is defined and our compliance is expected. In the House, the Speaker has authority to both encourage and in some cases discipline legislators who fail to meet the standard. I have learned to appreciate the civility and honest sharing of ideas that results from this strong code of conduct. It is a key factor in why our legislature works.
Lobbyists on the other hand have no set guidelines on dress and decorum. While most dress, act and speak appropriately, some do not. The Speaker is trying to raise the bar for lobbyists, so that the entire legislative process has the same civility, decorum and respect. Through private conversations, most lobbyists accepted the Speaker’s encouragement to improve, but unfortunately one did not. When he applied some discipline, (exclusion from access to the House floor), that lobbyist threatened a lawsuit. As of Friday, we heard that there had been further conversation and the lawsuit would not happen. I applaud Speaker Haugaard for his efforts to improve the civility and decorum throughout the Capitol. The example needs to be high in Pierre so that our communities and counties are encouraged to do likewise.
One new legislator commented this week that he was astounded at the pace of the legislature and the challenge of having to shift subject matters so quickly and be ready to make a decision. As a second term legislator, I could only nod in agreement and wish that every citizen had the opportunity to experience how this important 3rd branch of government functions. For a taste, consider spending a day in Pierre this session. Take a tour of the Capitol, attend a committee hearing and watch the daily floor sessions from the gallery. If you do come, be sure to say hello. I enjoy meeting folks and sharing part of the experience with them.
In service to God and you,
John Mills, Representative, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org OR John.Mills@sdlegislature.gov