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Monday, April 07, 2008

Hard feelings flowed by the end of legislative session in Pierre

By Gordon Garnos

AT ISSUE: It was evident that tempers were ignited during the last legislative session in Pierre, but it has only been recently that we learned that following Governor Mike Rounds' veto messages that the hard feelings created between some of the legislators and the Governor were as serious as they were. Visiting with various legislators painted quite an interesting picture.

IT IS EXPECTED that legislative members who are not part of the governor's political party will go home frustrated, disenchanted and the like, but when legislators from his own party express their hard feelings toward the
governor, this needs further examination. So, a few phone calls explained
what Capital Correspondent Bob Mercer described recently as "...distrust and
frustration which many members of the Legislature openly showed toward Gov. Mike Rounds."

It is a generally accepted axiom that it is easier to blame someone else
than blame one's self and whether or not this cliche has anything to do with
what happened in Pierre is hard to say. However, another saying is when one
points a finger at someone else, there are three pointing back to him. So,
let's take a look at the issues.

There was no question that Senator Gene Abdallah of Sioux Falls was terribly
upset during the session with the Governor for him cutting $2 million from
the highway patrol's budget for next year. But when the vetoes hit the
Legislature, to say there was grumbling would put it mildly.

GOVERNOR ROUNDS virtually won six of his seven vetoes on the last day of the session as they were upheld by both houses of the Legislature. But that
doesn't mean they were happy victories. At the same time four of the upheld
bills where the Governor won were rejected by Rounds because of errors
within the printed bills.

Now just wait a gosh-darn minute! Four of the six bills vetoed by the
Governor had glitches in them? Why weren't these bloopers found before they
went to the Governor's office? The sponsors of a couple of these bills
admitted the errors were their faults as they didn't check them close
enough. At the same time any error in a bill should also have been found by
the legislative professional staff, lobbyists supporting the bills and by
the Governor's staff as well before their final printing, not after.

At the same time, three of the seven vetoed bills were killed by the
Governor simply because he didn't like them, which is his prerogative.

THE SD DEPARTMENT of Health, which is under the Governor's domain, supported a bill on health insurance that sneaked under the watchful eyes of his staff until it was too late. A funding bill for our four tech schools also failed
to get the Governor's signature although it is badly needed. Mercer wrote
that both the Governor and his secretary of education, Rick Melmer, worked
against its passage.

Perhaps what the vetoed bills said or didn't say, is not important here.
What is important are the ways legislative members of his own political
party now feel about our Governor who spent 10 years as a state senator and
this is the sixth legislative session he has dealt with as governor.

The Republican legislators I visited with upheld Mercer's March 22nd column
in some of the daily newspapers in the state where he referred to the
developing "distrust and frustration" they have of the Governor as a result
of his and his administration's antics during the session.

"IN SEVERAL INSTANCES, legislators said directly or implicitly, as part of the official debates on vetoes Monday, that the Governor couldn't be trusted
to do what he promised on the issue in question, or to respect the
Legislature's directive on the matter," Mercer wrote.

Those are very strong words, but the final tally is that Governor Rounds won
most of his battles and while a number of legislators won't be returning to
Pierre next year because of term limits, our Governor still has two
legislative sessions left in his term of office. The opposition party has
pledged to get control of at least one of the legislative houses in the next
General Election and has had a statewide campaign recruiting candidates for
those jobs, several, I understand, will be retreads. It will be interesting
to see what happens to our Legislature. One of those new retread candidates
is a woman who is now in her 80¹s. Yes, it will be interesting....

P.S. Remember when I said last week, "...any shortfall in public university
funding is usually augmented with increases in student tuition and fees,
which are paid for with student loans, the parents and increased cost to
non-traditional students"? Well, the headlines March 28 read, "S.D.
(regents) to raise college tuition 8 %. Tsck, tsck, tsck!....

Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion and recently retired after 39 years with that newspaper. Garnos, a lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.


John said...

I talked with a few legislators during the session and there was definately a lot of frustration with Gov. Rounds this year.

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