Editorial Roundup: South Dakota

Black Hills Pioneer. October 22, 2021.

Editorial: Black Hills State University needs to be heard

Black Hills State University has plenty to boast about.

But it seems university leadership and supporters need to crow a bit louder, and in the direction of South Dakota legislators to ensure that the institution gets its share of state higher education dollars.

The issue of how state universities across the state are performing arose during the 2020 legislative session when Black Hills State University alum and State Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel., introduced SB55.

The legislation charged the South Dakota Board of Regents with forming a task force to evaluate the administration of the various institutes of higher learning under its authority to identify any efficiencies and overlaps.

The 20-member task force held meetings at universities across the state, including BHSU in Spearfish. The task force included university presidents and Board of Regents members, but also included a cross-section of representation because the focus was not so much on the university system studying itself, but more about having other constituencies take a fresh look at how the universities operate to give the state a new perspective.

Fred Romkema, former state representative and former mayor of Spearfish, took the opportunity to address the discrepancy in how much funding BHSU receives from the state versus other universities. He revealed that 18.7% of the budget of Black Hills State University is supported by the state versus a 31% average among all universities.

He told those gathered in Spearfish that there seemed to be an inequality of resources.

Maher told those gathered in Spearfish: “You as a community, if you want a university here, you’re going to have to work to help preserve it and save it and move it forward. And that starts by showing up in Pierre.”

The South Dakota Board of Regents does have a lobbyist in Pierre during the legislative session, but that person advocates on behalf of all institutions of higher learning.

It is widely known that South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota have broad representation in the South Dakota State Legislature. So, when it comes to voting for projects or new dollars for universities they may lean toward their alma mater.

Those universities also have a large alumni base on which they can draw support.

BHSU, although an underdog in this fight for state dollars, needs to step up its game. Rally the troops and crow for its fair share of state higher education money.

District 31 Rep. Scott Odenbach, R-Spearfish, may have said it best in a recent column in the Black Hills Pioneer: “We are fortunate to have a beautiful university located in Spearfish. It adds to our quality of life, brings in many new young people every year, and is a great benefit to our region.”

He went on to say that he looks forward to working closely with community and university leaders in Pierre during the next Legislative session to seek approval for smart priorities that will benefit the unique mission of Black Hills State University in the future.

If we continue to take the quality and impact of BHSU for granted it could very well go away.

It’s time to demand our fair share of funding.

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Yankton Press & Dakota. October 25, 2021.

Editorial: Some Movement On The Marijuana Front

South Dakota’s marijuana issues have taken some interesting turns the past few weeks, suggesting that several people and groups are not willing to wait around for things to happen, or possibly not happen.

Last week, a proposal surfaced in an interim subcommittee to inject a new, possibly clarifying wrinkle into the state’s marijuana status. Under the proposal, anyone age 21 and older would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of cannabis for either recreational or medical use. This would address the legality of recreational marijuana, which voters approved last November but was suspended by a lower court last winter and is still awaiting a final verdict from the state Supreme Court. The legislation would also render moot Initiative 26, the medicinal cannabis law that voters overwhelming approved last year. After some early considerations to somehow undercut it, lawmakers finally decided that they cannot overturn the will of the people on this issue.

On one hand, the proposal provides what seems like an overall streamlined solution to marijuana legality in this state by embracing recreational cannabis, which has hung in limbo for months.

However, the proposal would also remove some voter-approved aspects dealing with medical marijuana, notably the portion allowing individuals to grow their own plants. Also, commercial marijuana cultivation in the state could only occur indoors.

Matthew Schweich of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws told KELO, “The positive is that legislators want to enact a bill that is in alignment with the will of the people and that’s good to see. Now, is this proposal the policy that we should ultimately adopt? That remains to be seen. We’re going to need to take a closer look.”

However, he added, “Unfortunately, throughout all over the country, legislators have this fear of home cultivation as though it’s going to create big problems. The reality is that somebody growing three or six or nine plants at home is not going to cause any problem.”

But Schweich’s group isn’t waiting around for what happens with this proposal or what the state Supreme Court may decide (or when it may decide it). Two weeks ago, the group announced a new petition drive to get an initiative for legalizing recreational marijuana on the 2022 ballot.

“At this time, we are completely focused on our petition signature drive so that we can maintain the option of going back to the ballot next year, if necessary,” Schweich told the website Marijuana Moment. “We remain open to working with legislators to enact laws that align with the will of the people. Ideally, a 2022 ballot initiative is unnecessary. But right now, we need to keep that option open.”

Time for this is of the essence, with 16,961 verified signatures needed by Nov. 8, 2021, to get the measure on the 2022 ballot.

Marijuana proponents are leaving nothing to chance with either the Supreme Court or the Legislature.

It’s also clear some lawmakers appear to want to hammer out the marijuana issue in this state once and for all.

At this moment, nothing is settled on the state’s marijuana front other than there will be some form a legalization, probably of both recreational and medicinal cannabis, in the near future. The details remain fluid and must be clarified in the months to come.

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