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Olson’s Need-Based Scholarship Bill Awaits Details

I want to be more positive about government. I need to be, to counter the Libertarian extremism that seeps into too much of our common civil discourse. But knowing that this year's South Dakota Legislature has dispersed from Pierre for another three-day weekend brings me an immediate sense of relief. "All clear!" I want to shout. "No more bad decisions until Monday!"

As I noted yesterday, the 2013 Legislature has made some good decisions, mostly in voting down some bad bills. But can they do anything positive?

Well, I notice that Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Wentworth), who has a history of blocking and deleting citizens who dare engage him in civic debate online, has unblocked me on his Twitter account. That's a step in the right direction!

Another step—a small step—is Senate Bill 237, in which prime sponsor Olson proposes a need-based scholarship for South Dakota postsecondary students. I should call this a big step, since South Dakota is the only state in the Union that does not offer such scholarships. But the bill as posted is just a small step, since it is still just a placeholder, with no language laying out details, timeframe, or, most importantly, the money to make it happen. That lack of detail suggest Senator Olson's priorities: he had time to figure out and sponsor bills to impose business-skewed goals on our universities, create more data-collection paperwork for the Regents and the Department of Labor, protect gas stations from incautious customers, appropriate money to bring the home folks at DSU some pork, and appropriate emergency money to shoot more nasty critters. But how to make a need-based scholarship program work, even with 49 other states offering models of how to do it, still has Senator Olson scratching his head.

Senator Olson is not incapable of coming up with workable ideas. Let's hope he spends this three-day weekend writing up the specifics of Senate Bill 237 to help low-income students enjoy the opportunity of a quality South Dakota university education.