The 2018 South Dakota Legislative session is almost in the books. This seems to be a good time to go over the good, the not so good, and the really ugly.
Over the past year, I learned some very important lessons. First, work with the Legislative Research Council early. This makes sure you have the very best bill. Second, support for a bill can come from unexpected sources. Third, never underestimate the Governor’s staff.
I worked with the Legislative Research Council, American Legislative Research Council, Freedom for individual Rights in Education, Americans for Prosperity, previous and current legislators and some other interested people and came up with the Campus Free Speech bill, HB 1073. What I was completely unprepared for was the intensity of resistance from the Board of Regents. The debate on HB 1073 and SB 198 was some of the best debates this year; it even included Skype® testimony. While both bills were sent to the 41st day, it wasn’t a total loss, the right people are now talking to each other, with the promise to update the policy.
Lessons learned. Time to move on.
I arrived in Pierre a day before session. This gave me time to get settled in, press my shirts, pick up keys, and few other things that needed to get done. I also got a chance to check out the remolded restroom behind each chamber. This year, there was some office space in the capitol that was set aside for legislators. Not really an office, more of cubicle, or rather half a cubicle, in the basement. it is a quiet place that allows me to research, get things done without interruption, and get away from some of the lobbyists. There is access to a printer, copier, coffee and a land line telephone. Still, I miss my dual monitors, full sized keyboard, and all the little things I normally use. Our Pictures got mounted on the wall of the house this year. It is more than a little humbling to have my face displayed for the next 20 years on these walls.
Last year I spoke of walking up the capitol steps, and how it was a humbling experience. This year was no different. I have to admit I didn’t use the front entrance as much as I would have liked. The weather made the steps a bit slick. An Intern found that out the hard way, and ended up with a bruised wing. I have been informed the front steps can be really hard.
Speaking of the weather, most weekends I made the trip back home, except for one. The weather forecast indicated 6+ inches of snow with some wind. I didn’t want to find myself in a bad situation, so I opted to spend the weekend in Pierre. It was the weekend of The Farm and Home show. So, I had something to do, besides laundry. I also found firsthand how some Pierre residents treat ‘outsiders’.
Keep your hands to yourself
This year we had sexual harassment / professionalism training. Anyone who has worked for a major company knows this training well. Boiled down, guys need to act like gentlemen, and gals need to act like ladies, beyond a handshake, keep your hands to yourself. Given the press coverage with #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up Now,’ this training had some special importance. The Argus Leader has several stories related to sexual abuse in the capitol city. The press took roll and noted anyone who came in late and left early.
Johnson vs. DiSanto
I hoped everyone watched the video. With a few exceptions, few people even reacted to the incident. The whole thing was mishandled, and there is enough blame to go around for what did and didn’t happen. I’m not going to start pointing fingers. I have been told this incident has been closed, and there is nothing more to say. Beyond this incident, I will say, serving in the legislature can be tough, if you let it, it can become an emotional pressure cooker. Anyone thinking of serving should know this, and make sure you have an outlet to vent your frustrations, before you circulate your petitions.
Time to re-up.
Two years ago, I thought it would be an easy task to collect signatures for my petitions to get on the ballot, because everyone was in Pierre, that left my district all to myself. I found as an incumbent it was much easier. I had people who wanted to help me. I had a couple who wanted to use this as a teaching tool, to show their kids the process of getting elected. Senator Peters, Representative Steinhauer and myself got together and believed it would be best if the Senior Representative made the move from the House across the rotunda to the Senate. Mrs. Peters would come over to the House of Representatives. It appears we are not going to have a primary. There is one Democrat who has filed petitions for District 09. I got my petitions signed, notarized, and delivered in to the waiting hands of the Secretary of State. No, she really wasn’t wait for my petitions. However, I can tell you that the turnaround time from petitions being turned in to being posted on the website was much quicker.
Given the some of the names popping up, this is shaping up to be an eventful election season.