Last week I wrote about the success of Senate Bills 81 and 82, legislation designed to improve Native American education. While it successfully cleared the Senate, it now is on “pause” as we wait for the House to finish their own bills before they take up Senate bills. This work must be done before “cross-over” day. That’s the day when each body must complete deliberations on all legislation which originated in that body.
In this article, I’d like to focus on why the public deserves government with integrity.
At the very least, there’s a perception problem. People are constantly asking us ‘what are you doing to cleanup’ the problems in Pierre. And I think there’s plenty of evidence now to suggest that there have been ethical and management lapses that demand our attention.”
Scandals involving EB-5 investments in Aberdeen, the GEAR-UP contracts at Platte and mismanagement by the previous Secretary of State have convinced many people that reforms are overdue. We’re also seeing some negative national reaction to our problems here. South Dakota received an “F” rating on integrity from the Center for Public Integrity, which ranked us 47th among the 50 states on policies in place to deter corruption.
Democratic legislators are looking for bi-partisan support on a number of reform measures. We believe a lot of our colleagues know there’s a problem. In fact, a few of our Republican friends have some ideas of their own and we’re hoping we can find some common ground on some real solutions.
Democrats have introduced four proposals:
• HB 1155 prohibits members of state boards and commissions from entering into contracts in subject areas governed by the board
* HB 1220 seeks to rescind a scholarship waiver, restoring funds for scholarships that were diverted by the questionable GEAR-UP contracts
* Establish an ethics commission
* Sen. 163 provides a reporting mechanism when a company or individual receives multiple small, no-bid government contracts that exceed the bid threshold
These are four good steps in the right direction. We hope we can find bi-partisan support for these and we hope our Republican lawmakers will bring forth their ideas on how to deal with more transparency that might prevent problems.
I sincerely believe the ethics commission is the most important of the four proposals. We lack the checks and balances that are needed in South Dakota. The same political party has held the governor’s office for 38 years. They control both houses of the legislature and all the constitutional offices including State Treasurer and State Auditor. I think we’re seeing that one-party rule leaves the state without the oversight that is built into a democratic system of government. Hopefully the legislative branch, Republicans and Democrats together, will work this legislative session to provide greater transparency and accountability.
White River will host a cracker barrel on Fri. Feb. 19, 2016 at 6:00 pm at the Museum. Please join us. I work for you and would appreciate any input.
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