With a new year comes a new legislative session in South Dakota.
According to Sen. Orville Smidt, District 7, the legislators will tackle several tough issues during the 82nd legislative session. He says implementing a few of the changes recommended by the State Aid Study Task Force Executive Report, which was released in 2006, will have “far-reaching implications” for K-12 education in the state. Smidt also thinks it will be interesting to see how the legislature changes the way technical schools are governed.
Issues that are priorities for Smidt are the continuing initiatives for research and commercialization, like the authorization to fund the 2010 Research Center of Excellence for Drought Tolerance Biotechnology.
He says these issues are “near and dear” to him and that they have far-reaching effects on growing quality jobs and keeping graduates in South Dakota.
Ryan Brunner, a senior agriculture economics major, has spent a lot of time in Pierre this session. Brunner said there are bills that will affect SDSU, but not as many as in past years. One past bill he was particularly interested in would have increased the amount of money received by Opportunity Scholarship recipients. The bill died, Brunner says, but lawmakers plan to look into trying again next year.
Senate Bill 54 would assist fraternities and sororities at SDSU in establishing a Greek row, a central location for greek houses. The bill would help these organizations obtain commercial financing for improvements on their houses if the land they are on was purchased through the Board of Regents. However, these houses would be subject to rules prescribed by the Board of Regents. Some lawmakers have problems with the wording of the bill, which is scheduled for a committee hearing on Jan. 26.
A less controversial bill that may affect some SDSU students is House Bill 1027. If passed, it will establish temporary snowmobile permits that will cost the rider $40 and be valid for five consecutive days.
If HB 1062 passes, the Board of Regents will receive funding, approximately $2.8 million, to upgrade state university information technology and security systems.
While funding of a high-speed Internet connection between all six regental universities for the purpose of research is no longer a legislative issue, it will be next year. The Great Plains Education Foundation donated the necessary $8 million to get the project up and running. However, about $1 to $2 million will need to be appropriated during the next legislative session to pay for upkeep.