Noon Forum: What’s Happening in Pierre?

Julie Johnson. Photo courtesy of

   What’s happening in Pierre? Luckily, we have Julie Johnson to fill us in.
   Johnson is an instructor here at Northern State University in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as the School of Business Management and Marketing.
   In addition to teaching, Johnson has worked in Pierre for thirty-seven years as a lobbyist. With the lobbying role, Johnson’s main focus is to look out for the best interests of Northeast South Dakota. More specifically, this focus includes economic development, community development, tourism/visitor development, workforce development, human resource development, law issues, Aberdeen-unique issues, and NSU.
   An important move in Pierre involved Northern and the Education Package. For the first time, NSU’s E-Learning Center was awarded one million dollars in additional funds and inclusion in grant language.
   The E-Learning Center is a unique feature that can help with the teacher shortage in South Dakota. When the E-Learning Center started gaining attention by the media initially, it received the nickname “One-Room Schoolhouse,” which is a fitting description. While being equipped with the best learning equipment, Northern E-Learning does business will all but four school districts in South Dakota.
   In addition to the E-Learning Center, the Board of Regents addressed the tuition freeze that you may have already recently heard of. The tuition freeze, HB 1203, is a one-time transaction that is based on the funding mechanism at this time.
   Also discussed in Pierre was HB 1017, which would allow Northern to build a new science building. This issue was addressed because Northern needs specific authorization from legislature to begin this process. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled, but a major gift commitment has already been made. This $35 million authorization will be presented in the next legislative session as HB 1017 remains up for consideration.
   SB 102 is a bill that could potentially affect Northern. SB 102, in essence, is a South Dakota State University bill that allows alcoholic beverages on campus. With the passing of this bill, alcohol licenses or special events licenses would be allowed for periodic retail sale of malt beverages or wine at the following events: performing arts, intercollegiate athletics, fundraising, reception, conference, or an occasion or scheduled event at a facility used for performing arts, intercollegiate athletics, and/or events/receptions.
   Notably, this particular bill redefined “campus,” as it excludes classrooms, administrative offices, and housing. While this bill was primarily sponsored by Senator Tidemann in support of the new facilities at South Dakota State University and was passed for everyone, Northern still has yet to decide whether or not to adopt and further implement this bill.
   Other Aberdeen area issues were discussed in Pierre, mainly involving the Labor Department. A few of the issues discussed include the Labor Department budget, federal dollars shrinking, FTE reduction, general funds for labor, UI fee increase bills, and the US trust fund.
   Opportunities in the Aberdeen area included in the tourism budget and the “New Frontiers” Program, both of which were discussed in Pierre.
   Altogether, these are just a few of the bills that were discussed during the legislative sessions in Pierre. Multiple other bills were passed that affected South Dakota as a whole rather than just the Aberdeen area. Below are a few dates that are important to note for the future.

Important Dates:
April 26 – Independent Candidate Deadline.
May 23 – Voter Registration Deadline Primary.
June 7 – Primary Election.
August 2 – Last Day for Candidates to Withdraw.
August 9 – Last Day for Central Committee to Fill Vacancies.
October 24 – Voter Registration Deadline General.
November 8 – General Election.
January 10, 2017 – Next Legislative Session.

Stacey McDonald