By Gov. Dennis Daugaard
The 88th South Dakota Legislative Session concluded last week. During our two month legislative process, the demands are great on our legislators. They come to the Capitol early and leave late. They study policy, work with constituents, and gain perspective on the process.
Nearly 500 bills were introduced in the 2013 legislative session. Unlike Congress, our legislature gives a public hearing and an up-or-down vote on every bill. South Dakota's system allows for public input and open discussion of the issues our state faces.
South Dakota's way works. We do not have a full-time legislature with thousands of staffers. South Dakota relies on the neighborly, common sense approach of its citizen legislators.
This session brought great examples of cooperation and productivity from the legislature, even as Washington, D.C. continued to find division and deadlock. In South Dakota, our work this session has been heralded as "one of the most productive in recent memory."
We passed monumental reforms to our prison system by bringing together law enforcement, judges, treatment providers, defense attorneys, and legislators from both political parties. The reforms will make our state safer while holding offenders more accountable and saving taxpayer dollars. These changes will more effectively change the behavior of non-violent offenders. This could have been a controversial bill, but it won broad bipartisan support.
We authorized an extension of the Mickelson Trail to Mount Rushmore, and founded Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, South Dakota's first new state park in forty years.
We enacted several bills for our veterans and military personnel, including a bill I proposed to welcome military spouses to South Dakota by expediting their professional licensure processes.
We created the first scholarship program based on students' financial needs. We passed legislation to make it easier for South Dakotans to become organ donors.
Finally, we passed a bipartisan economic development package that will meet my number one priority of growing our economy and creating jobs in South Dakota.
South Dakota's citizen legislature is 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.
They represent us in the truest sense. The work they do is not always glamorous, but it is important. I thank each and every legislator for their service during this session. They should take pride in a job well done.