Brookings, SDSU Day allows community input for legislative issues

Legislators in Pierre, South Dakota discussed issues facing this year’s session with community members from the Brookings area Wednesday, Jan. 20 for the annual Brookings and South Dakota State University Day at the capital.

The group held discussions with decision makers in Pierre about bills and issues addressing the state and how decisions made at the capital will affect SDSU and the city and county of Brookings.

The timing of the event is set for early in the session to give people from the university and community a chance to interact and discuss topics of their interest, said Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the president.

“Each year the dialogues we hold change based on the needs of the community and the university,” Otterson said. “Some years there are specific people and agency heads who are on the list because of hot topics of concern for people in the university and community.”

Discussions were held with secretaries of state, education and the Department of Agriculture as well as the executive director of the Board of Regents and legislators for District 7.

Community members focused on the half-penny sales tax increase proposal, Medicaid expansion and other topics concerning policy changes and taxes.

Event attendees used their time at the capital to provide legislators with information they need to make decisions that affect the future of the Brookings community, said Dan Hansen, associate dean of pharmacy and city council member.

 Legislators will go out of their way to talk to people visiting for Brookings and SDSU day, said Students’ Association (SA) President Caleb Finck. Since the trip to Pierre is a three-hour trek, it means even more to the legislators that people are there to talk to them about their issues and concerns, he said.

Matt Dahle, SA vice president, believes legislators look forward to seeing Brookings and SDSU members not only for the SDSU ice cream, but also because they appreciate the input.

Brookings and SDSU Day makes it easier for community members to develop relationships with legislators and agency heads at the capital, Hansen said.

“Our presence is expected and oftentimes legislators look forward to seeing us because we’re a strong contingent of people and are interactive,” Hansen said.

A reception held later in the evening attracted legislators representing districts from across the state. More than 50 legislators attended the reception according to Otterson.

Events similar to Brookings and SDSU Day are somewhat common around the state with different cities and groups. Sioux Falls has it’s own day at the legislature and SDSU faculty and students from the pharmacy program along with pharmacy professionals will attend the Pharmacy Legislative Day Wednesday, Jan. 27. Those attending the event will provide health screenings and discuss pharmacy related issues with legislators.

Of all the “Days at the Capital” events Dahle has attended, he claims that Brookings and SDSU Day is one of the best structured because legislators and agency heads are so willing to listen and discuss issues that will impact the community.

“I think the state of South Dakota knows that Brookings is a special community,” Dahle said. “It’s one that’s growing, that’s going places—but it’s doing it the right way.”