Legislature approves more construction

Ellen Nelson

Ellen Nelson

The ending of South Dakota’s 85th year of legislative sessions gives citizens and SDSU students a reason to be informed about their state and local government. The 2010 legislature has passed bills that will affect students and staff of SDSU.

With money being short in the past few years, as a symptom of the downturn of the economy, matters of university spending and budget have been a main topic of discussion at the State Capitol.

The Brookings campus can expect to see more construction on campus from House Bill 1025 which approved building and construction for a new motor pool building. Funds approved for this bill have been estimated to be $234,300.

Even more construction will be visible on campus because of House Bill 1026. This bill approved phase two of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building. Total cost appropriated for this project exceeds $4 million.

Though many bills passed this session deal with construction on SDSU’s campus to expand opportunities and better equip the school, House Bill 1116 does the opposite for the president and executive officers of the school.

This bill prohibits outside employment and compensation of these employees. Anything over $10,000 is prohibited to be accepted by any form of outside employment in hopes that these individuals will be solely dedicated to SDSU. This bill prevents any interference with the diligent performance of his or her primary duties, according to the state’s legislative Web site. The bill has been temporarily tabled.

Along with students being able to see visible changes of increased construction around campus, they also may be seeing a possible change in the amount of scholarships they receive.

Lawmakers have approved many changes regarding the $5,000 in-state Opportunity Scholarship. House Bill 1160 has extended the qualifications of the scholarship to all graduates of home-school high school programs who score a 26 or better on the ACT, or a 1280 on the SAT.

In a committee hearing last month, Sen. Ben Nesselhuf, D-Vermillion, said that it’s acceptable to have higher standards for home schooled students, when only judged on the test score versus four years of high school.

“We are making track B substantially a higher threshold, and it should be,” he said.

Allowing home-schooled high school students to be eligible for the Opportunity Scholarships could lower the chance that a traditional high school student has to obtain the scholarship. Along with bill 1160, other changes to the scholarship qualifications have been made by lawmakers to encourage a student’s completion of a bachelor’s degree in four years and to take high school courses that will better prepare them for college coursework.

Only two bills have been vetoed this session, which some can attribute to our state representatives and senators being supportive of making the appropriate changes to improve the future and education in South Dakota.

“I think it’s great that our lawmakers are making changes and approving plans that will overall benefit SDSU in years to come,” said SDSU alumnus Melinda Nelson, from Britton, S.D.

“Our lawmakers were elected for a reason, and we should trust in them to make the best decision for our state,” she said.