First Lady Linda Daugaard’s Column: Some Advice For New Parents

Some Advice For New Parents
A column by First Lady Linda Daugaard:

First LadyMuch has changed for Dennis and me in the last five years. Moving from Dell Rapids to Pierre to serve as governor and first lady has been quite the adventure. But there are other titles we’ve recently acquired that we value even more: grandpa and grandma.

Becoming a grandma has reminded me how much new parents have to decide in nine short months. What color to paint baby’s bedroom, which stroller to buy, whether to know the gender ahead of time – the list of questions can be endless for first-time parents.

Though it can all be overwhelming, the decisions that really matter are those that affect a baby’s health. When Dennis was first elected, he was shocked to learn how many infants were not reaching their first birthday, and that South Dakota’s infant mortality rate was higher than the rates in surrounding states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.

This unsettling truth led him to ask me to lead a task force on infant mortality in South Dakota. I worked with a group of doctors, nurses, tribal health care workers, midwives, social workers and Department of Health officials to understand the causes of the problem. In our research, we found that deciding against early elective deliveries (EEDs), abstaining from tobacco, learning safe sleep practices and receiving prenatal care are critical to an infant’s wellbeing.

Inducing early for non-medical reasons can be dangerous. There are no known health benefits for EEDs, and there are significant health risks for baby – low birthweight, respiratory syndrome, pneumonia and even death. I’m very pleased that 20 of South Dakota’s birthing hospitals have signed pledges to work with us to reduce EEDs.

The infant mortality rate for infants of mothers who smoke is almost twice as high as it is for infants born of non-smokers. Last year, about 15 percent of pregnant women smoked. Though that is an improvement from 2011 when the task force began its work, South Dakota still has one of the highest rates of mothers smoking during pregnancy.

Along with abstaining from tobacco products, it’s critically important for expectant mothers to seek the care they need during the first trimester. In South Dakota, 72 percent of women received prenatal care in the first trimester last year. I’ve heard stories from women who have been told to wait until they are 12 weeks along to schedule prenatal care visits. That’s not good advice. Those who seek that care early on are less likely to lose their child within the first year.

Also before baby is born, expectant parents should learn about safe sleep practices. Infants need to sleep on a firm surface covered by a fitted sheet. Pillows, blankets, toys and crib bumpers should not be in the crib. Babies need to be placed on their back and it’s best for them to sleep in light clothing. Family members and other caregivers also need to know about these important practices.

The good news is that the infant mortality rate is declining in South Dakota. According to the Department of Health, the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births is down from 2013’s rate of 6.5 to 5.9 in 2014. Last year’s rate is also below 2011’s 20-year low of 6.3. It’s important we keep working to increase prenatal care, promote safe sleep practices, and decrease tobacco use and EEDs to make sure that decline continues.

I know from experience there’s no way to fully prepare yourself for parenthood. Don’t sweat the small stuff. No parent is perfect. Know that by concerning yourself primarily with your baby’s health and safety, you’ll be just what your little one needs.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Preparing For A Dry Year

Preparing For A Dry Year
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardIt’s only April and it’s already looking like it will be a dry year. Right now, 99 percent of the state’s ground is abnormally dry. About 13 percent is experiencing moderate drought. The drought area includes northeastern South Dakota and another portion in Meade and Pennington counties, leaving 132,149 South Dakotans who live in an area affected by drought.

Because it’s so dry, we’re at an elevated risk for fires. The fire danger is currently “very high” for the Black Hills and “extreme” in counties surrounding the Black Hills. Grassland areas throughout the state are under a “red flag warning” from the National Weather Service.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture’s Wildland Fire Division helps with response to wildfires on forested, state and private lands. Just in the last few days, the Division has reported fires near Fort Pierre, at Custer State Park, in the Palmer Gulch area and in Harding County.

The Sheep Draw Fire in Harding County is the worst we’ve experienced so far this year. With wind gusts up to 70 mph, the fire grew to 6,430 acres in one day. In response, I ordered two National Guard helicopters to assist those on the ground in putting out the fire. As I write this, the size of the Sheep Draw Fire is now estimated at almost 14,000 acres, but thanks to local firefighters, the state Division of Wildland Fire and others who are helping, the fire is 85 percent contained.

This could be just the beginning of a difficult fire season. I know some fires are inevitable – we can’t prevent lightning strikes or control how much moisture we receive – but there are still ways we can prevent fires.

We need to respect county burn bans when they’re in place. Where fires are permitted, never leave a fire unattended, completely extinguish fires before leaving the area and remind others to be cautious. Also, be mindful when operating equipment in dry areas.

Since I’ve been in office we’ve experienced floods, droughts, fires, blizzards and tornadoes. South Dakota weather is anything but predictable, but I know from experience that the perseverance and benevolence of South Dakotans are things upon which we can always depend. That being said, we need to do all we can to prevent fires, especially this year.


Daugaards Invite Families To Attend Annual Easter Egg Hunt

Daugaards Invite Families To Attend Annual Easter Egg Hunt

PIERRE, S.D. – The Governor and First Lady are inviting families to take part in the 62nd Annual Elks Easter Egg Hunt on the Governor’s residence lawn at 1 p.m. CDT on Easter.

“This will be the fifth year that Linda and I have participated in the mansion Easter Egg Hunt. We’re happy to have the opportunity to continue the tradition,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Children up to age 12 are invited to participate in the Egg Hunt. Steve Wegman, chairman of the Elks Easter Egg Hunt, estimates that up to 1,500 children participate each year. According to Wegman, the event is the oldest and largest family event in the state of South Dakota.

The event is sponsored by the Pierre Elk’s Lodge #1953. Those who would like to make a contribution toward the event should contact Wegman at 605-295-1221.

Governor Daugaard: Sen. Lederman Resigns; Governor Invites Public Input

Sen. Lederman Resigns; Governor Invites Public Input

daugaard2PIERRE, S.D. – State Sen. Dan Lederman has resigned his seat in the South Dakota State Senate. Lederman, a Dakota Dunes Republican, also serves as assistant majority leader.

“Dan Lederman has been a vigorous advocate for his constituents and for South Dakota,” said Gov. Daugaard. “He will certainly be missed, and I wish the best to him and his family.”

Lederman has served in the state Senate since 2011, after serving one term in the state House. He was elected assistant majority leader in 2013.

Lederman represents District 16, which includes all of the Union County, and southern and eastern portions of Lincoln County, including the cities of Worthing, Canton, Beresford and Hudson.

His resignation was effective after the adjournment of the legislative session today.

Lederman’s resignation creates a vacancy that will be filled by gubernatorial appointment. The Governor is asking the public to nominate candidates to fill the position.

Those wishing to be considered for the appointment, or to offer nominations, should contact Grace Kessler in the Office of the Governor at 605-773-3661. Nominations should include the candidate’s name, current address, telephone number and relevant background information.

Gov. Daugaard expects to name an appointee by late spring or early summer.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Expecting Another Busy Year For South Dakota’s Parks

Expecting Another Busy Year For South Dakota’s Parks
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardSpring has sprung and summer is around the corner. Now is a good time to plan a summer trip to one of our state parks. If not a week-long vacation, consider at least a weekend or weeknight stay.

State parks are great vacation spots for out-of-state tourists, but they are also great destinations for South Dakotans to spend some quality time with family and friends. We’re fortunate to live in a state where beautiful outdoor opportunities are never too far away. We have an abundance of choices, too. We’re home to 56 state parks and recreation areas including Angostura, Good Earth, North Point, Okobojo and Custer State Park. Hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating – you can do all those things right here in South Dakota.

Last year, more people camped in South Dakota’s state parks than ever before. Our parks hosted over 290,000 nights of camping for in- and out-of-state guests – up 3.8 percent from 2013. State park staff members expect this year to be just as busy.

Linda and I are already planning a trip to Custer State Park. We are reserving our spots early because a number of Linda’s siblings and cousins will be joining us for a big family reunion.

Custer State Park takes reservations one year in advance. For other state parks, however, reservations open 90 days in advance. That means early summer dates are already available.  And, starting the first week of April, you’ll be able to make reservations for the Fourth of July weekend, which is the most popular camping weekend of the year.

Start planning your summer now so you don’t miss out. Make reservations for your favorite campground as soon as possible. To reserve your spot, visit or call 1-800-710-2267.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Overview of the 2015 Legislative Session

Overview of the 2015 Legislative Session
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEarlier this month, the State Legislature concluded the main run of its nine-week session. The session is a time for debates, and some disagreements, but we can be proud of the work our legislators did and the decisions they made.

This year, the Legislature passed an important bill to reform our juvenile justice system. South Dakota has the second highest juvenile commitment rate in the nation, even though our juvenile violent crime arrest rate is just one-third of the national average. Rather than continuing to place juveniles in expensive state-funded facilities, we will invest in proven intervention and treatment programs that keep youth close to home and connected to their communities. This bill passed with only seven “no” votes and I appreciate the Legislature’s strong support.

I also appreciated the Legislature’s passage of a comprehensive road and bridge funding bill. Especially in a rural state like South Dakota, good quality roads are our lifeline. State highways, county oil, township gravel and hundreds of rural bridges are in need of additional maintenance. Maintaining infrastructure is one of the most fundamental functions of government. The Legislature showed true courage and vision this year by dealing with this problem now, rather than leaving it for future generations. No one likes to raise taxes, but by spending a little more on maintenance now, South Dakota will avoid much higher costs later.

The Legislature passed a state budget this year that is honestly balanced. In South Dakota, we don’t spend money we don’t have. We don’t rely on inflated revenue estimates or accounting gimmicks. We use ongoing revenue to fund ongoing expenses. At least 21 other states are dealing with deficits today, often because of short-sighted budget decisions. Meanwhile, South Dakota is becoming even stronger. This year, we put new limits on borrowing by state authorities, established procedures to more effectively collect debt owed to the state and gained greater insurance protection for our state buildings.

Our state budget is a statement of our priorities. Education is 45 percent of general fund spending, and we increased the K-12 formula by more than the law requires. The Legislature also authorized the first increase in the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship since it was created, and added funding for high school students taking dual credit courses at our universities and technical institutes. I also joined with legislative leaders to create a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students, which will spend the next year studying the teaching workforce and our school funding formula. The state budget also increased reimbursement for Medicaid providers, with extra funds for providers who offer front-line care in our communities.

Legislators made many other important decisions this year. We modernized our laws to deal with contagious disease outbreaks and to offer better screening of infants for inherited or genetic disorders. We improved our insurance laws to offer better coverage for children with autism. We found a way to continue the important work of the Jolene’s Law task force, which is taking on the difficult issue of sexual abuse of children.

We continued our state’s investment in the Sanford Underground Research Facility, which offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity for a national laboratory in the Black Hills. We increased local control over decisions about livestock development. And we passed a constitutional amendment that, if approved by the voters, will strengthen higher education by recognizing the important role of our technical institutes in workforce development.

South Dakotans can be proud of the work of our state legislators. The vast majority of the big decisions are made on a bipartisan basis. The highway bill, the juvenile justice bill, the state budget and many other bills passed with broad bipartisan support.

No one agrees with every decision or every vote, but our legislators do their work respectfully, with open-minds and a commitment to service. Unlike Washington, D.C., where partisanship leads to gridlock and gamesmanship, our legislators consider every issue on its own merits.

Our part-time legislators come to Pierre for nine weeks in winter, and then return home to live and work among the friends and neighbors they serve. I thank all 105 state legislators for their hard work this year. If you see a state legislator in the coming days, I hope you say “thank you” as well.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Eliminating Unnecessary Red Tape In State Government

Eliminating Unnecessary Red Tape In State Government
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEvery year, from the second Tuesday in January until mid-March, the South Dakota Legislature convenes in Pierre to create laws. Legislators come to town ready to offer proposals to improve our state and better serve South Dakotans.

This legislative session, a total of 429 bills were introduced and as I write this, I’ve signed 198 of those bills into law. But not every one of those bills creates new laws. We’ve also repealed laws. So far this year, I’ve signed 13 bills to repeal unnecessary and outdated laws.

With laws, more isn’t necessarily better. Laws should be clear and easy to follow. Government shouldn’t place unnecessary hurdles before our citizens or entrepreneurs, and things shouldn’t be overly complicated for people who are trying to know and obey the law.

That’s why a few years ago I started asking state agencies to identify provisions we can repeal.

With the help of the agencies and legislators, we’ve already gone a long way in removing unnecessary red tape in state government. In this legislative session alone, we have repealed 235 sections of law and 90 sections of administrative rules. Since beginning this effort in 2012, we have eliminated over 4,000 sections of law and regulations – which amounts to a total of 444,426 words that have been repealed.

We’ve repealed outdated provisions dealing with a wide range of subjects, from petroleum products, to county prisoners, to the federal census, to traction engines, to the medical department of the National Guard, and more.

I am grateful legislators have joined me in my effort to minimize red tape and I hope this is a habit that we will continue in years to come. Our efforts to cut red tape may not be creating headlines, but they’re important.


Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Preserving A Way Of Life Through Ag Development

Preserving A Way Of Life Through Ag Development
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardIn South Dakota, agriculture is more than just a sector of our economy. It’s a way of life. Whether it’s a small family farm, a sizeable cattle ranch or a dairy operation, all forms of agricultural businesses are important to that way of life.

In 2013, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA) began offering counties a service called the County Site Analysis Program. This service helps counties use data to identify sites suitable for agriculture-related development, and to avoid sites which are not suitable.

Ag investments are vital, especially in rural South Dakota, but development must be done responsibly. Because not every new project is a good fit in every location, the program helps county commissioners and landowners determine where projects best fit.

Through the County Site Analysis Program, SDDA looks at local zoning ordinances, locations of roads, utilities and other infrastructure, as well as other local permitting requirements. This information is used to rate property locations on their suitability for things such as manufacturing, commodity processing or livestock-related enterprises.

This program respects local control, because local officials must initiate the process by a formal resolution, requesting SDDA assistance. County commissions, planning and zoning boards, and landowners can use the produced data to make well-informed decisions. Local leaders use the data in their comprehensive planning efforts; landowners have concrete information outlining options for their land; and agribusinesses learn where their investments will be welcomed.

Even though the County Site Analysis Program is fairly new, a majority of counties have already expressed interest in participating. Since the program’s launch, 49 counties have requested a site analysis, and SDDA has completed analyses in 15 counties.

In addition to this program, local governments may soon have another way to pave the road for economic development. There’s a proposal in the Legislature right now that would revise state law on conditional use permits. Conditional use permits are local zoning exceptions which allow property to be used for specific purposes. Cemeteries, churches, golf courses, gravel pits and livestock barns are some examples of projects that might require this kind of permit.

Under current state law, local governments must have a two-thirds majority to approve conditional use permits. House Bill 1201 would allow local governments to change that requirement to a majority vote, if they so choose. Like the County Site Analysis Program, this proposal respects local control. It does not mandate that local governments change the current supermajority requirement. It gives the option. This bill could make it easier to start an agribusiness in South Dakota within our counties and municipalities who invite those opportunities.

Agriculture’s preeminence in our state economy is not something that is inevitable. Local leaders understand this and they know they must be intentional about allowing for opportunities. The County Site Analysis Program and House Bill 1201 seek to broaden those opportunities.

By furthering ag development in our state, we’ll not only be maintaining our number one industry, but we’ll be preserving a way of life.


Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Weekly Column: The Future Of The Sanford Underground Research Lab

The Future Of The Sanford Underground Research Lab
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardIn 2001, when the Homestake Mine in Lead closed, South Dakota lost one of its iconic businesses. Over the past 14 years, however, that setback has evolved into a unique opportunity, as the Sanford Underground Research Facility has been created within the former mine, nearly a mile underground.

Last week, I met in Pierre with Dr. Nigel Lockyer, the director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. This facility, also known as Fermilab, is just outside Chicago, and is one of our nation’s key national laboratories, focusing on high energy particle physics.

Fermilab and the Sanford Lab are joining together to support the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF). This new experiment will aim a beam of neutrinos through the curvature of the earth, from Fermilab in suburban Chicago to a large underground detector at Sanford Lab in Lead.

I have never felt more optimistic about the future of Sanford Lab than I do today. If approved, this LBNF experiment will be a massive “anchor tenant” for the Sanford Lab, and it will secure the lab for decades, with the LBNF experiment expected to last until at least 2040.

In Washington, D.C., elected leaders and government officials are moving in support of LBNF. The President’s budget includes funds to operate the Sanford Lab and discusses the prospects for future experiments. Officials from the Department of Energy are working closely on the proposal.

The experiment is also receiving international support. A coalition of European nations, as well as nations in Asia and South America, are expressing support for the project.  They have also expressed interest in providing financial contributions. Rather than competing with the United States in this area, these nations are pooling their resources with us to support our research.

I am very hopeful that LBNF will continue to move forward and that, within a year or two, we will secure the Sanford Lab well into the future.

We are at this position today because many South Dakotans had the vision to begin this project and the resolve to push it forward. Gov. Bill Janklow began the discussion when the mine closed. Gov. Mike Rounds made the lab’s development a major priority, and during his tenure state legislators put $42 million into its development. Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated another $70 million to move it forward. These funds have led to $160 million in federal funding.

Those investments are already paying off. Sanford Lab has spent $112 million on contractors and vendors, 70 percent of which was spent with South Dakota companies. The lab employs 163 full-time staff and has a payroll of $12.4 million. The lab has brought many researchers to Lead, and it has created new educational opportunities for South Dakota students, including doctoral programs in physics at the School of Mines and USD.

And once LBNF is finalized, it will represent a $300 million construction project in Lead, and will bring even more jobs and activity to the lab.

We can be very proud of the vision South Dakotans have shown in moving this project forward.  The future of the Sanford Underground Research Facility has never been brighter.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Offering Quality, Affordable Higher Education In South Dakota

Offering Quality, Affordable Higher Education In South Dakota

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEducation after high school can be expensive. Over the past few decades, the cost of higher education has increased much faster than average inflation. The costs of things like food, housing and medical care have increased over the years, but, on average, not at the rate of college tuition. In some places it’s downright unaffordable. For instance, a four-year degree from an Ivy League school can cost up to $100,000.

The truth is that higher education doesn’t have to be expensive and young people don’t have to go far from home to get a good education. South Dakota’s tech schools and universities offer affordable programs and a number of scholarship opportunities, including the Build Dakota Scholarship and the Opportunity Scholarship.

The Build Dakota Scholarship is a partnership between T. Denny Sanford and the State of South Dakota. Mr. Sanford donated $25 million, which the state matched, to create a $50 million scholarship program for students entering high-need workforce programs at South Dakota technical institutes.

The program will fund 300 full-ride scholarships for qualified applicants in high-need programs. Anyone interested in enrolling in one of the high-need programs in South Dakota is eligible. Graduates of these programs have high-paying, in-demand jobs waiting for them at the end of their schooling. Employers in these fields will have a bumper crop of skilled and motivated applicants for jobs that now remain unfilled.

Anyone interested in the program can go to to see what programs are eligible and how to apply.

The South Dakota Opportunity scholarship provides financial aid for South Dakota high school students. It is available to those who achieve a 24 or above on the ACT and earn good grades in high school while taking a rigorous curriculum. The scholarship’s aim is to incentivize our best students to stay in South Dakota for college.

Because the scholarship has not kept up with the increasing cost of college, it is not the incentive it once was to keep young people in the state. In my budget, I have proposed to increase the value of the scholarship from $5,000 for 4 years of college to $6,500 for 4 years of college. My proposal to increase the scholarship, House Bill 1147, is dependent upon approval from the Legislature.

The Build Dakota tech school scholarship and the Opportunity Scholarship are both wise investments. It is my hope that these scholarships will lead more young people to consider the affordable, high quality education experiences offered right here in South Dakota.