By Governor Dennis Daugaard
The main run of the 87th South Dakota Legislative Session has drawn to a close. The session saw a great deal of hard work done by legislators, staffers, interns, and pages. Our State Capitol played host to many early mornings and long evenings, working through the people's business. Because of the loss of former Gov. Bill Janklow early in the year, this was the shortest legislative session in recent memory, and the Legislature deserves credit for working through every bill in only 32 legislative days. Lawmakers will return for a final day March 19.
Nearly 500 bills and joint resolutions were introduced in the 2012 legislative session. In South Dakota, every bill and joint resolution receives a full hearing. In some states this is not true. Legislative leaders opposed to a measure in other states may disallow a committee hearing, or prevent a bill from being heard in the House or Senate by refusing to schedule it. South Dakota is one of nine states where a full hearing cannot be prevented by a single member or a minority.
South Dakota is also represented by a citizen Legislature. We are not like the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C., or some other states whose legislatures meet year-around. We do not have a full time Legislature with hundreds of staffers. South Dakota relies on the common sense approaches of its citizen legislators. For this reason, we have balanced our state budget for the 123rd year in a row.
This year, our Legislature proved that its process works. The Legislature showed that it can work through controversial issues, even as it deals with hundreds of other bills. I believe it is my role as Governor to recognize challenges or opportunities and to begin a discussion by making a specific proposal. This year, the Legislature began with my education proposal, and took input from hundreds of people to address concerns and make it a better plan. In my 16 years as a legislator, Lieutenant Governor, and now as Governor, I have never seen the Legislature receive and incorporate so much constituent input on a single bill.
Although the education bill was the subject of many of the headlines, it was far from the only bill of the year. The Legislature approved bills that support farmers, veterans, elderly, and low-income South Dakotans. Legislators addressed subjects ranging from banking to budgets, hunting to highways and health care, and from crimes to contracts to courts. The Legislature also approved $48.8 million in additional spending on education and $66 million in state and federal funds for Medicaid providers.
South Dakota's citizen legislators are owed a debt of gratitude for their work this year, as in all years. They are ranchers, teachers, small business owners, and nurses. For two months out of the year, they leave their homes, their jobs, and their families and come to Pierre to debate ideas and share perspectives. And when their work is done, they return to their homes and their jobs, where they remain a part of our communities.
Our South Dakota legislators represent us in the truest sense. The work they do is not always glamorous, but it is important, and I thank each and every legislator for their service during this session. Well done.