Greetings friends, neighbors, fellow tribal members, and especially to the District 26 constituents. The 93rd Legislative Session is underway, and I want to thank you for the privilege of serving as your Senator. I am looking forward to this year's session as every year is another opportunity to make policy that is beneficial to District 26 and its residents. My session committee assignments are State Affairs, Ag, Education, and Retirement Laws. I also serve as the chair of the State/Tribal Relations Committee and the Chair of the Corrections Commission as well as a member of the Healthcare Coalitions workgroup and Tribal Education Consultation workgroup. As you can see it is a full schedule, but these issues are extremely important to our district, and we won't be heard without a seat at the table.
The Governor gave his final State of the State address on Jan. 9, 2018. I am sure it was a bittersweet moment for him as he looks back at the 22 plus years he has been involved in state government. He spent a great amount of time talking about workforce development and education. His idea of a true dual credit education system through apprenticeships and Career and Technical Ed is something I have been saying since before I ever set foot in the Capitol six years ago. I went through a similar program when I was in school, and I feel it is a viable option for our children in the ever-changing educational landscape. I look forward to making this a reality in our state. I will also be very diligent in keeping the state's promise to fully fund education. In recent years, there have been numerous attempts to shift this fiscal responsibility to the local tax payer and out of the state’s responsibility. I do not support this shift and will actively oppose any future attempts to do as such in this year's session.
We were ever so fortunate to hear from District 26’s own Boyd Gourneau, Chairman of the Kul Wicasa Oyate, during the 3rd annual State of the Tribes address. Chairman Gourneau spoke of the cooperation opportunities on a government to government basis between the Tribes and the State but also spoke of how we can better work together as citizens of South Dakota. His comments were well received by the legislative body, and I look forward to joining him and others to address race relations and other opportunities for all citizens of our state. His call to end the meth and opioid crisis needs to be taken seriously as it is killing our communities. I do not believe we can incarcerate our way out of this problem, and we will need to adequately fund treatment/counseling services as well as fund educational and job training services so that meth is NEVER an option for future generations. Please reach out to me with any of your ideas as to how we can approach this difficult topic.
While internalizing the Chairman’s remarks about reconciliation, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that public discourse in the political system has taken a turn for the worse, and we are not immune to it here in South Dakota. On Wednesday Jan. 10, 2018, a group of religious leaders gathered in the Capitol to host an interfaith prayer service. We had the opportunity to visit with these people of faith and receive their blessings for the coming session. After their constitutionally protected right to pray, we gathered for a picture. Two members of the Senate body proceeded to interrupt the gathering and made these religious leaders extremely uncomfortable with their rhetoric and actions. These actions were disappointing and should not reflect on the body as a whole. There have also been disparaging comments made about the Native American Legislators that represent their districts in the Capitol by a fringe candidate for Governor. There is no place for any of this in our public discourse and hopefully we can get back to the issues that we were sent to Pierre to discuss on behalf of you.
Early last week, I sat on a panel discussion in conjunction with the South Dakota Rural Water Conference. We covered a host of topics facing rural water systems. The work of these dedicated individuals is vitally important to our district, and I cannot thank them enough. The amount of people that depend on the access to and the quality of the water that flows through these lines is enormous, not to mention all of the livestock and other industries that depend on this resource to survive. We are extremely fortunate to have such a reliable source of clean water. Some areas in our district struggled with access and quality only a few short years ago. We must do all we can to protect this most important resource for ourselves and future generations.
As I begin to draft the legislation that I will be introducing, I would be happy to work on legislation for you as well. If you have any issues that require legislative action, please reach out to me. I truly enjoy working for you, and I thank you for this responsibility. You may reach me by phone at 605-319-6570 or email at Troy.Heinert@sdlegislature.gov.