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SD Department of Education Ignoring Voters and Law?

Secretary of Education Melody Schopp has put together three of the six workgroups called for Governor Daugaard's wildly unpopular House Bill 1234. I learned last night while out petitioning against the Governor's education bill that Pierre is sending out communications to the folks slated for the other three committees.

I noted last Thursday that those committees will have to wait until HB 1234 comes into effect to do any of their work. Like most Legislative actions, HB 1234 is supposed to take effect on July 1... but my 70% to 80% signature success rate on my petitions indicates that the referendum drive will succeed and put the bill on hold until the November election.

Reporter Bob Mercer wonders if even the naming of these committees is a slap at voters, if not a violation of law:

Why did the state Department of Education proceed already in naming the members of three of the panels created in the legislation? Those are the teacher evaluation work group, the principal evaluation work group and the local teacher reward plan advisory council. Do the voters not matter? [Bob Mercer, "Disregard by Department of Education?" Pure Pierre Politics, 2012.05.14]

The three committees Mercer names, plus the Local Teacher Reward Plan Oversight Board, the Critical Teaching Needs Scholarship Board, and the Education Reform Advisory Council, will exist by authority of HB 1234. HB 1234 is not currently in effect. There is thus no authority for these six committees to exist, let alone take any action.

Now perhaps Secretary Schopp could smoke us with mirror committees. She and Governor Daugaard could claim that the six work groups they are naming and convening aren't really the committees conjured up by HB 1234, just nice people working on nice ideas for education that just happen to fit with the policies that HB 1234 will enact if the referendum drive fails.

But Secretary Schopp is not playing any such word games. Her department's May 4 press release clearly refers to these first three committees as the "HB 1234 work groups."

A lot of South Dakotans are singing petitions right now to put the bad ideas of state-mandated standardized-test-based teacher evaluations and merit pay to a public vote. Yet before the public has a chance to approve or reject these policies, before the law authorizing the committee discussion of these policies even comes into effect, the state Department of Education appears to be rolling ahead with their implementation. Angry? Yeah, maybe we should be.


  1. Michael Black 2012.05.15

    If voters in November affirm HB1234, when does the law go into affect?

  2. Nick Nemec 2012.05.15


  3. Troy Jones 2012.05.15


    Every now and then, your ideology blinds your reason. This once such case.

    Good government requires state agencies to move forward whether the law may be accepted or rejected by the people or in the courts. They can not assume you will get sufficient signatures.

    And, even if you get them they can't assume it your initiative will pass.

    And frankly, as a liberal who generally likes government activism, your should not desire them from pausing in this instance. If government were to do so with every legal or initiated threat, such would become a means to obstruct and delay everything.

    As of now, it is the law of the state scheduled to go into effect in about 45 days. Good government requires them to assume it will go into effect until they know it will not.

  4. larry kurtz 2012.05.15

    "The model answers provided by ALEC have the consistent theme of attempting to obscure the influence of its corporate members and to shift emphasis onto the role of legislators, whose dues comprise only 2 percent of the group's budget, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.

    Common Cause last month filed an IRS complaint accusing ALEC of masquerading as a public charity while doing widespread lobbying." HuffPost.

  5. Rorschach 2012.05.15

    I support the referendum, but Troy makes a good point. The law is passed and the state should proceed as it would with any other passed law, not assuming it will be placed on hold by a referendum.

    On a side note, I am troubled by the state not enforcing another law on the books and allowing Wyoming refineries to ship substandard gasoline into South Dakota illegally. I'm also troubled by comments out of the Governor's office suggesting that it may favor allowing the substandard gasoline statewide as long as it's labeled "suboctane." Using SD as a dumping ground for a low-grade commodity that doesn't meet carmaker specifications isn't my idea of good government.

  6. Steve Sibson 2012.05.15

    The law does not go into effect untill July 1, reagardles of the signatures.

    "There is thus no authority for these six committees to exist, let alone take any action."

    There is no "legislative" authortiy, but as with ObamaCare, they will say they have "rule-making" authority within the executive branch. Yes, they bypass the people and their representatives. But as I said in another thread, the constitution (and its separation of powers) has been destroyed for a while now. Thank FDR.

  7. larry kurtz 2012.05.15

    The end is near: duck and cover.

  8. Carter 2012.05.15

    I actually agree with Troy on this one, I think. He makes a good argument.

    Look at all the different odds and ends associated with ObamaCare. If they were just to wait until that law takes effect, there would still be many months, if not years, of different preparations to make before it could be applied, and it would push it back even farther.

    I completely understand the government wanted to have its ducks in a row before a new bill goes into effect so they can actually implement the policies right away. I don't support HB 1234 in any way, but I would rather the government get ready for it and then have to disband it than I would insist that the government wait, and then make the government wait on preparing for any bills that are good.

  9. Troy Jones 2012.05.15

    Carter, you act surprised. :)

    The issue came home to me during the Mickelson years. I don't remember the issue but one of the Governor's bills had near unanamous support and someone thought they were doing the Governor a favor by amending the bill with an emergency clause (requires 2/3 or 3/4 support) and I remember the scurrying of about everyone from the Governor's office to get it defeated because they wouldn't be able to fulfill the law before July 1.

    Departments must proceed under the known law regardless of what may occur in the future. To do otherwise would render government inoperable.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.16

    But Troy, here's my question: if the law authorizes the creation of committees, and the law isn't in effect yet, can Pierre really create those committees right now? Can those committees meet before July 1? What parts of the bill can we act on pre-enactment, and what parts can we not?

    Michael, if the referendum makes the ballot but fails, HB 1234 goes into effect as soon as the State Canvassing Board makes the results official (SDCL 2-1-12), usually within days after the election.

  11. Troy Jones 2012.05.16

    There is great precedence and customary practice for not only the appointment of members but to even meet, often over the phone, for planning purposes. I know when we started the REDI Fund we had conference

  12. Troy Jones 2012.05.16

    Calls to discuss logistics. Etc regarding administrative rules process and public hearings so on July 1st we. Ould hit the ground running.

    Seriously, failure of the Department to do this would be a derilictioni.

  13. Carter 2012.05.16

    Yes, Troy. That's what I would say, too. It might not be specifically stated anywhere that it can be done, but it seems like something we're much better off having. If it's just assumed it can be done (like it seems to be) then things can get going right away.

    Besides, as long as we're not paying them yet, there's no harm done if they end up having to break up the committees.

  14. Troy 2012.05.16

    Note to self: Don't try to respond using my phone. Above is a disaster.

  15. Bill Fleming 2012.05.16

    I don't know, Troy, I kind of like the new noun you coined. 'Derilictioni.' Excellent. I think I actually know some of those.

    Testing out this voice thing. Cool now I don't have to type it I'll just talk. Go iPad!

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.16

    derelictioni—I seriously thought Troy was breaking out the Latin again and citing some principle from case law. That's what you get for being all thumbs....

    So Troy, just to be clear, you're saying that precedent (any court challenges?) and practice justify naming members and meeting to plan. I can see the logic there. We're going to have to carry out a law on July 1; we'd better get ready to do so, print the forms, set schedules, etc. But would there be a line after that, saying you can plan your meeting, you can even write an agenda, but your committee can't have substantive discussions about the authorized topic until July 1?

  17. Fred Deutsch 2012.05.16

    In response to the timing of the meetings, the Education Reform Advisory Council won't hold its first meeting until mid-July. I don't know about when the others will meet.

  18. Troy 2012.05.17

    Cory, it was 25 years ago so my memory isn't perfect but here is what I remember.

    Because the newly created Board of Economic Development had three responsibilities (run the REDI Fund, advise the GOED about on priorities & policies, and some oversight of other existing boards), we prepared information regarding the office policies and objectives, the administrative rules process, and proposed a series of public hearings with dates.

    We had at least one conference call where we answered questions and reconfigured the public hearing dates for rule making to accommodate schedules (I think we had 6 hearings across the state where we needed a quorum at each location so coordination was critical).

    No formal action was taken that I remember and I don't know if we had any authority yet to do so.

    Bottom line and I know I repeat myself: The law is scheduled to take effect July 1. The Department has no choice but to assume it will take effect unless petitions are certified saying it will be on the ballot.

  19. LK 2012.05.17

    Troy may well be correct about standard operating procedure.

    My larger problem remains that these committees are basically going to be rubber stamps that will give a fig leaf to Schopp/Daugaard to implement bad policy.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.17

    Fred! Who's on the SDERAC? Is the list public?

  21. Fred Deutsch 2012.05.17

    Corey, I just know one person . . . yours truly.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.17

    How do you get picked and not me? ;-)

Comments are closed.