Senator Corey Brown wants to have a fight over initiative and referendum signature counts. Seeing that the people and press were outraged by his democracy-hating Senate Bill 166, the Senator from Gettysburg asked that his bill be tabled, but not before issuing a legal threat to future petitioners:

...as you saw by our agenda today, we have many bigger fish to fry and there are a lot of things that we have to discuss and maybe ultimately we just need to let the courts deal with this... [Senator Corey Brown, remarks on Senate Bill 166, Senate State Affairs Committee, 2015.02.06].

You want to go to court, Corey? Fine. As one non-licensed legal scholar to another, let's rumble.

In his remarks yesterday, Senator Brown claimed that, in setting the threshold for petition signatures needed to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot, South Dakota law has adopted a definition of "qualified electors" that is "kind of contrary to what the constitution indicates." Citing the 1994 Poppen v. Walker ruling that briefly overturned video lottery, Senator Brown contends that only the Supreme Court, not the Legislature, may define terms in the state constitution.

Let's look at the relevant texts:

South Dakota Constitution, Article 3, Section 1, clause setting petition signature requirements:

Not more than five percent of the qualified electors of the state shall be required to invoke either the initiative or the referendum.

SD Const., Article 7, Section 2, on voter qualifications:

Every United States citizen eighteen years of age or older who has met all residency and registration requirements shall be entitled to vote in all elections and upon all questions submitted to the voters of the state unless disqualified by law for mental incompetence or the conviction of a felony. The Legislature may by law establish reasonable requirements to insure the integrity of the vote.

Each elector who qualified to vote within a precinct shall be entitled to vote in that precinct until he establishes another voting residence. An elector shall never lose his residency for voting solely by reason of his absence from the state."

SDCL 2-1-5, establishing the practical basis for signature requirements:

The total number of votes cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election, shall for the purposes of this chapter, be the basis for determining the number of petitioners required.

Senator Brown's proposed replacement language in SB 166:

For purposes of this chapter, qualified electors shall mean the total registered voters eligible to cast a ballot for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election as determined by the secretary of state.

Const. 3-1 says initiative and referendum petition signature requirements shall not be more than 5% of "qualified electors." Const. 7-2 defines qualified electors. SDCL 2-1-5 doesn't mention "qualified electors." It sets a perfectly constitutional threshold for available signatories that will always be less than or equal to the threshold set in Const. 3-1.

If Senator Brown thinks current law somehow legislatively co-opts the Supreme Court's authority to define constitutional terms, his own proposed language violates that standard more blatantly. His SB 166 says "qualified elector." Brown writes a new definition not found in the state constitution. Brown, a legislator, is defining a constitutional term, which Brown is telling us the Supreme Court says he cannot do. Brown's bill is thus unconstitutional.

Brown's bill further violates the constitutional signature threshold by math. Const. 3-1 refers to "Not more than five percent of the qualified electors of the state...." It does not say the number of qualified electors yesterday or three months ago or three years ago. Taken by itself, that provision means qualified electors in existence, right now. Senator Brown is trying to qualify that constitutional definition with an arbitrary and fixed date.

Consider that, by the Secretary of State's count, there were 519,361 registered voters ("qualified electors") available for the 2010 gubernatorial election. By July 1, 2012, around when our referendum petitions on Governor Dennis Daugaard's HB 1234 education reform were due, the number of registered voters had dropped to 512,799. Had SB 166 been in effect then, petitioneers would have had to collect 25,969 signatures, which would have been 329 more voters than 5% of the qualified electors in existence in South Dakota at that time.

That, Senator Brown, would have been a stone-cold violation of the state constitution. I'd have taken your bill to court, and you would have lost.

I look forward to circulating initiative petitions this spring and summer here in Aberdeen. I may volunteer to walk around Gettysburg to get all of Senator Brown's neighbors' signatures on the good legislation citizens will propose. And I relish the opportunity to see whatever court challenge Senator Brown is threatening us with go down in flames as democracy marches on over his stilted legal arguments.

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Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) does not lose gracefully. His Senate Bill 166 was a spiteful and crassly political ploy to weaken voters' right to legislate via initiative and referendum. The press blasted him, a variety of citizens and groups rose against SB 166, and numerous opponents trekked to Pierre yesterday to testify against this destructive bill yesterday.

A bigger man would have responded with a simple apology: I'm sorry. You're right. Senate Bill 166 is a bad idea. I withdraw the bill.

Senator Brown is a bigger something else. When Senate State Affairs finally reached SB 166, after opponents had waited through more than three hours of testimony and discussion in on other issues, Senator Brown took the mic, dismissed "the vast majority" of the opposition as thoughtless and impolite, and craftily tabled—not withdrew, but tabled—his bill before patient, thoughtful citizens had any chance to put their opposition on the record.

Senator Brown also misportrayed Senate Bill 166 as a sincere defense of the state constitution and continued his war against the initiative and referendum by threatening to take petitioners to court.

Here is Senator Brown's complete statement, for the record. All blockquotes are Brown's words, in my transcription. My translations, corrections, and commentary are inserted between blockquotes. This portion of the hearing begins at 3:12:36 on the SDPB audio.

You know, when we are elected, I think most of us take that very seriously and we come here to pierre with the idea that we're going to address problems and issues. Most of the colleagues that I've met here in the Legislature have a true interest in trying to find better ways forward or to take care of things that are deemed incorrect. We also take pretty seriously the oath to defend and support the constitution of the state [Senator Corey Brown, remarks on Senate Bill 166, Senate State Affairs Committee, 2015.02.06].

Translation: I'm awesome. I'm brave and noble. I would never propose a bill just to take away a democratic tool that citizens have used to challenge my party's political agenda and undo the things ALEC tells me to do. Never.

I realize that Senate Bill 166 has generated a lot of discussion.

Translation: I'm awesome for introducing such a thought-provoking bill.

Unfortunately I'd say the vast majority of that discussion has not been nearly as thoughtful as I would have hoped that it would have been.

Translation: People criticizing my awesome idea are clearly idiots.

Essentially we have an issue or at least I believe we do, and a lot of you have heard me speak to this, but I think South Dakota, as you know, was one of the first—it was the first state to allow for initiatied measures and referendums. And in the constitution, there was language that was put in there to talk about qualified electors, and that's what the petitions are supposed to be based off of. You can also turn to section... Article 7 in the constitution which talks about the definition of an elector. When you marry those two things up, I think we run into a third problem, and one of the pieces that really hasn't been discussed in this entire conversation has been the Supreme Court Case in 1994, which was Poppen v. Walker. Now that case didn't have anything to do with initiated measures or referendums. What it dealt with basically the gaming industry.

Poppen v. Walker found in 1994 that video lottery as then constituted was unconstitutional because the Legislature had created a gambling mechanism that did not conform to the court's constructed definition of the "lottery" authorized by popular vote in 1986.

Senator Brown commits supreme irony in turning for legal support to a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had violated a constitutional provision that had been approved by the people.

However, there was a major finding in that case that I think is critical to this discussion today. And I'll just read it to you. Basically the Supreme Court came back and said, "It is the duty of the Supreme Court not the Legislature to determine the meaning of constitutional terms."

Unfortunately, if you look at our state statute, the Legislature at one point adopted code very early in our statehood that tried to define what an elector was, and basically they said you needed to go back and take a look at the last election for Governor, and it will be based off a percentage of that.

Correction: the statute in question, SDCL 2-1-5, was enacted in 1939, fifty years after statehood, and amended in 1976. Neither date qualifies as "very early in our statehood."

The problem is we as a Legislature defined what those electors were, kind of contrary to what the constitution indicates.

Correction: The problem is that not one word of current statute is contrary to language in either of the constitutional provisions Senator Brown cites. Stay tuned: I'm working up a separate post dedicated to that topic.

As we go forward, and I should point out that... I don't know the exact reasoning for why that was put into place way back when, but I think, as it's been pointed out to me, when that was adopted, we were at a point in our state's history where when you registered to vote. you did it every two years. You had to come back in and re-register when the county would call that together, and unfortunately, I don't think the tracking mechanisms were very good.

Essentially, at that point in the state's history, the only way you could really go back and figure out how many people were there was you had to go back and look at the last election and see how many people voted for governor

So I think there was a practical reason to put that in there at one point, and obviously it's remained there for a long time.

However, I think society, technology have got ahead and caught us up to a point where we can go on the secretary of state's website and know how many registered voters there are today. And that's, those are the words that were put in the constitution.

Having said all of that, I'm quite surprised that a lot of folks are willing to not engage in an intellectual conversation.

More irony: A South Dakota Republican legislator complains that citizens are not sufficiently intellectual.

And there was something that occurred last night that made me realize that this has really become too big of a distraction for this Legislature to deal with. I had a call from the page advisor. Opponents are calling the Capitol using swear words and curse words at our high school pages. That is absolutely pathetic. I cannot believe that we would reach that level.

Big translation: Political discourse is over in South Dakota. If activists want to kill a bill, all they need to do is call the Capitol, get on the phone with a high school page, and say, "That bill sucks, dagnabit!"

I find such discourse unintellectual and immoral. But if we're being practical (and I want you to think about the moral compass of various special interest groups), what's cheaper:

  1. Running a candidate to unseat Corey Brown?
  2. Hiring a lobbyist?
  3. Mounting a petition drive to refer Senator Brown's bad laws? or,
  4. Cussing out a page?

Senator Brown is obviously blowing smoke. If I were a legislator, and if some frail blossom of youth on my page staff came weeping to me that some mean citizen had burned her ears with foul language over a bill I cared about, I'd console her, assure her we'd keep her safe, but I'd also take the teachable moment, "Dear girl, some people are nasty, and they will try to distract us from doing what's right. But this bill matters, and we aren't going to let the bullies win."

The shorter translation: Corey Brown has no spine, and he's teaching kids to cave to bullies.

And so in the interest of allowing this Legislature—as you saw by our agenda today, we have many bigger fish to fry and there are a lot of things that we have to discuss and maybe ultimately we just need to let the courts deal with this—I'm going to ask that the committee table this bill so we can move on to the other issues that we have before us.

Translation: With opponents gathered to roast this bill, let's put it on the table. I'm not withdrawing it, and once these people leave, maybe I'll bring it back. Or maybe I'll just sue anyone who dares bring an initiative or referendum this year. Who knows? I'm determined to undermine the initiative and referendum, and if I can't get this bill passed, I'm going to at least create as much uncertainty as I can for all those citizens who think they are better than I am at making laws.

At that point, after allowing Senator Brown his grandstanding and insults, without allowing any opponents to speak, Senate State Affairs did indeed table Senate Bill 166. If SB 166 stays dead, we will at least be spared a bad bill. But sore loser Senator Corey Brown remains unapologetically committed to insulting the people of South Dakota and their constitutional right to legislate.

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Senate Bill 166, Senator Corey Brown's spiteful and sinister attack on your right to legislate via initiative and referendum, hits Senate State Affairs tomorrow morning, Friday, at 9 a.m.

Friends and neighbors, now would be a good time to call the members of Senate State Affairs (who include Senator Brown) and tell them to kill this voter-hating bill. As I note in my latest essay for South Dakota Magazine, Senator Brown's bill says we don't trust voters to make good decisions at the polls and we must protect them from their own ignorance by reducing the number of issues they have to vote on. (I'm waiting for the nanny-state chorus here....)

Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie agree that SB 166 is a terrible idea that rejects South Dakota's grand tradition of putting faith in the voters:

“While the two of us have different views on public policy, during the campaign we also found common ground on several issues, one specifically being our belief that the will of our people is all too often ignored by our elected officials in both political parties”, Weiland said. “In our view, one of the clearest and best vehicles to ensure that citizens are heard is the initiative and referendum process–which, it’s worth noting, was started in South Dakota in 1898, and was such a good idea that it was copied by 23 other states”, Weiland added.

“Doubling the signature requirement for initiative and referendum petitions is a terrible idea, and we’re urging South Dakotans to forcefully let their state senators and representatives know that they oppose it. And what is particularly egregious is that the sponsors have tagged it with the 'emergency clause' which, if passed, would make it take effect immediately and, more importantly, mean that it can’t be referred to a vote of the people via a referendum petition”, Howie stated. “If the sponsors really believe that essentially doubling the signature requirement for initiatives and referendums is 'an emergency,' then we fear for their judgment, and what they would call an actual emergency”, Howie added. “In truth, the 'emergency' that these legislators fear is that South Dakota citizens, acting together, will substitute their judgment for that of our legislators. That is not an 'emergency,' its democracy as it’s been practiced in our state since 1898,” Howie said [Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie, joint press release, The Right Side, 2015.02.04].

The Senate State Affairs agenda is crowded tomorrow: they are also taking up Senate Bill 1, the ginormous road funding bill. SB 1 appears first on the agenda, which says the hearing will begin in Room 423 at the Capitol at 9 a.m., then move to Room 414 at 10:00 a.m. There's not telling at what exact time the committee will take up Brown's SB 166, so be there from the opening gavel and listen closely for your opportunity to testify to legislators what a really, really bad idea it is to make it harder to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot.

Update 15:46 CST: If you'd like to e-mail the members of Senate State Affairs, here are their addresses. E-mail them individually, and be sure to use a clear subject line, like "Vote No on SB 166."

If Senator Lederman replies with his bogus line that SB 166 simply brings petition law in line with the state constitution, invoke Bill Janklow. The ever-subtle Bob Mercer posts to his blog a 1975 official opinion from then-Attorney General Janklow, who explained that the Legislature had adopted the current petition signature threshold (5% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) in response to the fact that maximum constitutional threshold (5% of "qualified electors," which SB 166 would restore) is too vague and difficult to calculate. No one knows how many qualified electors there are in South Dakota at any given moment. SB 166 would pin petition signatures to someone's wild guess; current law derives signature count from a firm, documented number.

21 comments

Gee, I just thought Senator Corey Brown's Senate Bill 166, his proposal to raise by 88% the signatures necessary to get an initiative or a referendum on the ballot, was just another cynical Republican ploy to defang democracy and insulate their bad policymaking from popular revolt. Jonathan Ellis, who appears to share Senator Brown's contempt for the masses, calls SB 166 an "incredibly bad idea" that can kill Senator Brown's aspirations to power:

...[T]he Brown Bill is a political loser. Which is surprising, given that its main sponsor, Corey Brown, was thought to have statewide political ambitions. He can probably kiss those goodbye. Sure, he's a smart guy. A retired Navy pilot. But now he's going to be known as a guy who dislikes democracy. Which, with a little political twisting, can be turned into being an America hater. And you don't get elected to office being an America hater unless you're running in Iran, North Korea or Berkeley, Calif.

It's also a political loser because it's most likely going to lose. There are, no doubt, business interests behind the scenes who are whispering their support to lawmakers. But as people learn about the Brown Bill, legions of them are lining up in opposition. The outrage over the Brown Bill, and it is outrage, is being voiced across the political spectrum [Jonathan Ellis, "Bill to Curb Ballot Measures Sparks Outrage," that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.02.02].

Senator Brown, it's time to hit the Withdraw button. Your own Senate State Affairs committee hasn't placed SB 166 on its agenda yet; pull the bill now, and spare yourself the embarrassment of the 41st day... and more mean columns from that darned liberal media.

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Call Senator Brown now, and ask him why he fears democracy.

Call Senator Brown now, and ask him why he fears democracy.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) has perverted Senate Bill 69, the cornerstone of the petition reform package, into an effort to make it harder for Independents to get on the ballot. Not satisfied with that damage, Senator Brown now files Senate Bill 166, which continues the Republican war on the people's power of initiative and referendum.

Current statute (SDCL 2-1-5) uses the total number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election to determine how many signatures are necessary to place an initiated measure or referred law on the ballot. Per SDCL 2-1-1, initiated laws and referenda require signatures of 5% of those gubernatorial voters. Given the turnout of 277,403 voters in the 2014 gubernatorial election, petitions for initiatives and referenda in the next two cycles will require 13,871 signatures to make the ballot.

Because initiatives and referenda tend to go badly for his party, Republican Senator Brown wants to repeal SDCL 2-1-5 and replace the signature count not on the number of people who actually voted in the last gubernatorial election but on the number who could have voted. Assuming he means registered voters on November 3, 2014, that's 521,041. SB 166 would thus nearly double the number of signatures needed to get measures on the ballot, to 26,053.

And because he knows folks are already planning initiatives that he doesn't like, Senator Brown includes an emergency clause in SB 166 to make sure no one could file an initiative before July 1 under the current, less onerous signature requirement.

South Dakotans, Senator Brown does not trust you. He wants to take away your constitutionally guaranteed power to make your own laws. Don't let him do that. Write or call Senator Brown and ask him how Senate Bill 166 serves the public interest.

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The Senate State Affairs Committee heard concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union this morning that the petition reform legislation working its way through Pierre may need some changes to protect ballot access for new political parties.

In testimony on Senate Bill 69, South Dakota ACLU policy director Libby Skarin said her organization understands the overarching reasons the Board of Elections has proposed this bill along with SB 67 and SB 68, to improve the validation process for nominating petitions. However, said Skarin, moving the petition circulation period one month earlier, to a submission deadline at the end of February, creates ballot access issues, especially for new political parties seeking official recognition from the state. Skarin said that the ACLU brought litigation in 1984 challenging a February petition deadline and got that deadline moved later.

To flesh out the ACLU's opposition, Skarin recruited Richard Winger, the ballot access expert blogger Ken Santema cited yesterday in contending that SB 69's February deadline may violate the Constitution. Testifying by phone from out of state on the kind indulgence of committee chairman Senator Tim Rave, Winger said that the Supreme Court has held that states must allow new parties to form in the spring of an election year. He noted that the Republican Party formed in July 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed that spring. Winger said South Dakota is the only state that requires new parties to petition for status before the primary elections. He said there is no need for new parties to form before the primaries.

Winger and Skarin did not ask the committee to reject Senate Bill 69 or even any portion of it. They asked instead that the Legislature add language moving the petition filing date for new parties back to a more reasonable and Constitutional summertime date and allow new parties to nominate their candidates at convention. Neither had a formal amendment fleshed out to present to the committee this morning, but Skarin said she could have a proposal to senators by the end of the day.

Building on the ACLU's point about ballot access, Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) said the February deadline could make it much harder for legislators to help their parties recruit candidates. It's hard enough getting people to run, said Senator Hunhoff. Move that recruitment period to the holidays and the heart of Session when legislators are busy in Pierre, and even more ballot slots may go unfilled. Senator Hunhoff proposed that State Affairs defer SB 69 to allow a couple days to draft legislation that would cover the ACLU's concerns and perhaps create a provision to allow party chairs to fill ballot slots left empty at primary filing time.

When Senator Hunhoff asked her if such a proposal would complicate the election process at all, Secretary Krebs mentioned that parties right now can recruit placeholders to achieve the same end but said she'd have to check with her staff to see if they could think of any complications.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) said deferring the bill wouldn't change the indigestion he was feeling over Senator Hunhoff's proposal. Senator Brown said he finds the whole placeholder concept "abhorrent," and he didn't sound any more enthusiastic about letting party chairs pick nominees for blank spots. He also seemed uneasy about letting new parties nominate legislators at convention, as if facing an opponent selected by just a handful of his neighbors was an affront to democracy.

Chairman Rave, sounding a bit irked to have spent 50 minutes on this one bill, nonetheless urged and the committee agreed to defer SB 69 to Friday, when he promised to handle the bill briefly (translation: if you've got amendments, Bernie, they'd better short and sweet).

Senate State Affairs felt no need to delay SB 69's companion legislation, SB 67. That bill, which would set the second Tuesday in March as the deadline for filing court challenges against nominating petitions, drew no opposition and moves to the Senate floor.

But proceed carefully, Senate: passing SB 67 and SB 68 (which passed Senate Local Government this morning) only makes sense if SB 69 passes without amendment to its petition submission deadline of the last Tuesday in February. Make changes to SB 69 without changing SB 67 and SB 68, and you'll have a statutory spaghetti spill on your hands. (Remind me, Board of Elections, why we didn't write all these changes into one bill?)

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In small ball, I notice that Spencer Cody has submitted a revised Statement of Organization for his attack PAC East River Concerned Citizens. I noticed this week that he failed to include the city in the physical address of his PAC, making it hard for interested citizens and journalists to contact his PAC and ask why they are spreading exaggerations and insults about Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City).

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, original incomplete statement of organization, 2014.09.14

Quick like a bunny, Cody penciled "Hoven, SD 57450" into his address:

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

East River Concerned Citizens PAC, amended but still incomplete statement of organization, 2014.10.23

But Cody still left off the full address for his PAC's bank. The PAC's web address also leads nowhere, showing the East River PAC has twice filed an incomplete and evasive campaign report.

In big ball, Cody has filed his PAC's pre-general campaign finance report. So far, ERCC (yes, pronounce the acronym; it's appropriate) has spent $4,871 on advertising and $766.41 on printing. I assume that's the split between the bullying radio ad and the postcards Cody is sending to attack Rep. Tyler. (Postcards, but no entry for postage? Cody, do you need a campaign finance paperwork class? Or do you just need class?)

That's pretty much ERCC's whole kitty so far. It's donations came from four sources:

  • Harvey Jewett: $1,000
  • Rudy Nef: $1,000
  • Brown for Senate: $1,000
  • Codington County Republican Central Committee: $2,650

Harvey Jewett is the Aberdeen lawyer and Regent who's been implicated in the EB-5 scandal and who would have been in a position to keep the Board of Regents from paying attention to what the EB-5 program was doing on the Northern State University campus through December 2009.

Rudy Nef is chairman of the board at the Valley Queen Cheese factory in Milbank. Valley Queen runs on milk produced by area dairies, many of which were funded with EB-5 visa investment dollars.

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettyburg) has consistently fought Rep. Tyler's effort to get the Legislature's Executive Board to discuss evidence of mismanagement and fraud in the state's EB-5 program. He blocked that discussion last month with the specious claim that the Legislature has no authority to discuss criminal activity. Senator Brown has also personally demeaned Rep. Tyler, insulting her expertise and research on EB-5.

Cody says in his statement of organization that ERCC's mission is "advocating traditional South Dakota values and economic growth." I get the impression the purpose is less the former and more the latter, as three of its four reported donors appear inclined to keep easy money like EB-5 flowing into their friends' pockets than in promoting traditional South Dakota values like honesty, open government, and civility.

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An eager reader complains that Dakota War College's "Yay, Gettysburg!" post seemed to want to give undue credit to Gettysburg legislators Corey Brown and Justin Cronin for BusinessWeek's market-defying conclusion that Gettysburg is the best place in South Dakota to raise kids. Said reader submitted a critique along those lines to DWC, but the itchy spam filter there apparently gobbled it up.

I disagree that UFO (Unidentified Faking Object) "Bill Clay" was necessarily trying to credit Senator Brown and Representative Cronin with making Gettysburg great. "Clay" uses language sufficiently vague ("Some of that must also have to do with the top quality legislators they send to Pierre") to leave the direction of causality's arrow a matter of interpretation. He/she/it could be saying Gettysburg's great legislators are proof of its good educational system. Or "Clay" could just be sending warm fuzzies to legislators. (Next up: DWC goes Fluffington Post and simply posts cute puppies, kitties, and ducklings over Roger Hunt and Dusty Johnson... not that Dusty isn't adorable enough to make The Fluffington Post all by himself.)

But my friend does make a strong point that Brown, Cronin, and other Republican legislators certainly haven't been doing anything to help Gettysburg or any other South Dakota public school win national recognitions. I yield the floor to my friend, whose sentiments I share:

We should all be thinking about the hard work put in by educators in the Gettysburg School District, and other public districts throughout the state, that allow our young people to score higher than the state average in math and reading. You certainly can't credit Brown and Cronin, for they took part, as leaders of our state Legislature, in the slashing to our education system earlier this year that reduced state aid funding by 6.6 percent, and, according to the ASBSD's report, "Costly Cuts: A Survey of South Dakota Schools," forced public schools to shed, at minimum, the equivalent of more than 465 full-time jobs last year.

Gettysburg participated in the survey, but the report doesn't list how many jobs each of the 113 schools districts who took part in the survey lost individually. We do know, however, that in the Gettysburg School District, the burden of education funding has shifted to the district's property taxpayers (something not noted by Businessweek).

The ASBSD report states that the Gettysburg district successfully passed a new $300,000 property tax opt-out over the next five years, effective for school year 2011-12, so that it can meet its goals of maintaining a high quality education -- a task that Corey and Justin obviously believe the state shouldn't be bothered with.

The report also shows that the school districts across the state must tap their reserves to make ends meet, and are taking advantage of some spending flexibility given them when the Legislature, instead of not cutting state aid, offered to allow districts to shift $15.9 million in general fund expenses to their capital outlay budgets.

Sen. Corey Brown, the assistant majority leader from Gettysburg, conducted his own school funding survey for the appropriations committee in September, with 106 districts participating.

He was surprised by how few academic programs were eliminated and by the widespread use of capital outlay spending flexibility. If the Legislature allows that law to sunset in 2014, he said, "We'd probably have a problem on our hands."

Brown also thought he'd see more districts raising more local revenue by opting out of the state's property tax freeze." (Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Nov. 17, 2011)

Corey doesn't seem to bothered by the fact that property taxpayers in his hometown have to pay more because he and his fellow legislators chose not to find any way for the state to even maintain state aid funding at a consistent level.

He lets the folks in Gettysburg, including the school administrators, teachers, and property taxpayers, do all of the heavy lifting, to the point where his hometown, along with scores of other communities across the state, "might have a problem on their hands" by 2014. Oops.

The K-12 system in Gettysburg and statewide produces some good results despite, not thanks to, our Legislature. And the dereliction of duty to education by Brown, Cronin, et al. suggests they are either forgetful of or ungrateful for the great education they received from South Dakota's public schools.

59 comments

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