Troy Heinert of District 26 Reporting from Pierre
Greetings friends, neighbors, fellow tribal members, and especially to the District 26 constituents. The 93rd Legislative Session has come to an end except for veto day; as of yet the Governor has not vetoed any bills, so veto day may just be a formality. There were over 700 different pieces of legislation filed this year that had to be considered in 37 days. That was the greatest amount I had ever seen during my 6 years in the Legislature. Some of what we considered was good and needed, but quite a bit of it was to try and get a vote on record to be used against someone in a campaign. I have never used this tactic, and I don’t believe in trying to “pigeon hole” a candidate based on a vote they took on a specific bill. There are many things to consider when looking at specific legislation that should be the criteria for any vote taken: the problem they are trying to fix, the proponent and opponent testimony, the language of the bill, other conflicting statutes, the debate on the floor, personal convictions, and what is best for your district. Political party and election scorecards should NOT be a basis for casting an Aye or Nay. Sadly, there is not enough balance in the Legislature, and political party and election scorecards are being used as threats for the votes you take. I believe the Legislature would produce better legislation, in fewer bills, with a better balance of its members.
This year’s $4.69 billion budget was able to provide a small increase to state employees, Medicaid providers, and K-12 education. Though the increases were small, they are a lot better than the 0% increases the Governor had proposed in his budget address last December. Thankfully, we saw an uptick in consumer spending over the last three months to provide for these statutory increases. The budget also contained funding for a new Precision Ag facility at SDSU and a State Veterans Cemetery in Southeast South Dakota. I supported all of these endeavors when they came before our body as well as the general appropriations bill.
The issue of non-meandered water was before us again with many different proposals. After a Supreme Court ruling and a special session, we adopted an open waters compromise which was supposed to expire this year. After analyzing the results, it was decided that the best course of action was to remove the sunset clause and make this law permanent. Thank you to GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler, the land owners, and sportsmen for working on this complicated issue with respect and fairness. I would bet that we may have to revisit certain aspects of the compromise but we have provided some certainty and will be able to attack any specific problem based on its merits without opening the entire debate again.
We were also able to pass bills directly benefiting tribal governments and tribal members. Tribal member students will have the right to wear an eagle feather or plume at graduation ceremonies as this is important milestone in a young persons life, and they should be allowed to be recognized in this culturally appropriate manner. We passed legislation allowing tribal governments to extradite their members back from county jails to enforce their own tribal criminal codes. The Senate also recognized the importance and validity of the Treaty of 1868 - the Fort Laramie Treaty. We also were able to include COSA accreditation for tribal schools to be part of the SDHAA. I was proud to be the prime or co-sponsor of all of these bills.
There was an onslaught of bills aimed at making the Initiated Measure (IM) and Constitutional Amendment (CA) process harder for the voters of South Dakota. Last summer a task force was set up to identify changes to the process and its members discussed many topics. There were a few bills drafted from these discussions, and I thought that was the appropriate route to take, but as soon as session started there was a flood of legislation that appeared in front of us that was never discussed by the task force. Unfortunately, some of these provisions passed and will become law or at least will be voted on by you in the upcoming election. I received countless emails and messages to stop this attack on your rights and absolutely no contact supporting these measures, but we did not have the numbers to stop them all. This goes back to the balance I was talking about earlier. Sometimes its not about what we get passed, it’s more about what we can get stopped.
Some issues like banning the practice of lunch shaming, setting up a pre-k advisory council, open government and record retention, and funding the needs-based scholarships were left on the table during this year’s session. I truly believe that these bills would help all of South Dakota and should not be forgotten.
We were truly blessed to recognize and hear from native South Dakotan and Oglala Sioux Tribal Member, the 1964 Olympic Gold Medalist, Billy Mills. This was the first time the State of South Dakota has honored this champion, and it has been a long time coming. A group of us were fortunate enough to have supper with him and his family that evening and to hear the inspirational stories, not only of his Olympic triumph, but also of his life before and after. Some scoffed at his belief in himself when he arrived in Tokyo, but he never wavered and the rest is history. I encourage you to watch his race again as it is such a good reminder of work ethic, perseverance, fortitude, and how belief in one’s self will take you to an unimaginable level. His story of combating racism and heartache to obtain his dream is something all our children should see and hear.
As this year’s session came to a close, we recognized some individuals that will not be representing us in their current capacity any longer. First off, I would like to thank Governor and First Lady Daugaard. They have given 22 years of service to our state, and I’m sure the remainder of 2018 will be a bittersweet time for them. The Governor has always treated me with respect and included me in important conversations that would have huge impacts in District 26 like healthcare and Native issues. We may have not always been in agreement on every issue, but I appreciate his willingness to hear the other side. Thank you Governor and First Lady, I wish you well in the future.
Lt. Governor Matt Michels has been a true friend and done an outstanding job of presiding over the Senate. Upon my first election to the Senate, I asked him if it was alright if I addressed him in Lakota. Not only did he allow me to address him in this manner, he asked how he should address me back. From that day on, he has recognized Senator Kevin Killer from Pine Ridge and I in Lakota every time we have spoken on the floor. To some that may seem small, but I have heard from many elderly people from our Reservation that they never thought they would hear their native language spoken on the floor of the South Dakota Senate. I have learned so much about procedure and patience by being part of the Senate while he has presided. Thank you Lt. and Karen Michels for your friendship and service!
We are also losing a couple giants on the Democratic side of the Senate. Sen. Jason Frerichs from Wilmot is termed out and will stay home with his wife and new baby girl on the farm. Sen. Frerichs has an absolute wealth of knowledge on any ag related issue and the institutional knowledge of the statutes we all live under. The other is Sen. Billie Sutton from Burke. You will not find a more fair and thoughtful person in the SD Senate than Sen. Sutton. He has earned a reputation for being able to work across the isle and many other attributes to get good things accomplished for South Dakota. You will have a chance to learn more about Sen. Sutton in his race to be the next Governor of South Dakota. Both of these gentlemen are great friends of mine, and I appreciate all of the support they have given me as I bring the issues of District 26 forward. They will be missed!
I would also like to thank Rep. Jim Schaffer for his service to District 26B. Rep. Schaffer is termed out, and I have enjoyed attending Cracker Barrels with him and talking about issues important to our district. Thank you for your service Rep. Schaffer!
I have truly appreciated the opportunity to represent you all in Pierre over the last 6 years. After conversations with my family and many of you, I have made the decision to run for re-election as your Senator. My leadership position in the Senate has given our district a seat at the table on any discussion, and I want to keep our district in the forefront. Our district is made up of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and non-voters, and I am proud to represent you all to the best of my ability. Please reach out to me with any questions that you may have. I can be reached at Troy.firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-319-6570.