Sen. Art Rusch

Although the legislative session runs for just 40 days in January, February and into March, most legislators work on issues year round. The legislature has a number of summer study committees that are appointed each year to work on different issues that have come up that year. However, there are also permanent committees and commissions that work every year when the legislature is not in session. I am on several of those permanent committees: the Code Commission, the Corrections Commission, the Uniform Laws Commission and starting this year, the Government Operations and Audit Committee which is commonly referred to as GOAC. GOAC is responsible for reviewing all of the audits of state agencies to see if there are financial or operating problems that need to be corrected and also with performing management reviews for the state agencies to see if the agency is accomplishing what they should be accomplishing. The plan is to review every agency in state government at least every three years.

GOAC had an organizational meeting in March to set a schedule of monthly meetings throughout the summer and fall. We have now had our first monthly meeting. At the meeting we heard reports from USD about how the incident over Hawaiian Day occurred and about the new USD College which will be opening in Sioux Falls, which will be called the “Community College of Sioux Falls.” This will be a college of USD similar to the College of Fine Art or Arts and Sciences. The other universities which were originally part of the University Center will still be allowed to offer advanced degree programs on that campus but the management of the campus and the general education courses which are offered there will be done by USD.

The Committee also heard agency management reports from the South Dakota Department of Game Fish and Parks, Department of Agriculture, Department of Transportation and the Brand Board. Of those agencies, GOAC was not satisfied with the performance measurements used by Game. Fish and Parks and the Department of Agriculture and asked them to return later in the summer with better performance measurements.

Finally, GOAC received an extensive explanation of the “Single Audit Report” for all of the agencies in state government. This audit covers not only the general fund money that is collected by the state of South Dakota and appropriated to the various state agencies but the $2.25 billion which the state receives from the Federal Government. Most of that money is spent directly by the state agencies or departments but $218 million is passed through to various non-state agencies. Because of concerns about how some of those funds were being handled, GOAC asked three of the state departments to appear and provide explanations as to why they were handling the funds in this manner and how what they were doing to assure that the funds being used for their intended purpose.

One of the bills which I introduced during the 2019 legislative session was SB147 which required all commercial pesticide applicators to carry liability insurance. The bill was tabled in the Senate Agriculture Committee but during the hearing on the bill the members of the committee made it clear that they wanted the Department of Agriculture to do something to address the issue of chemical trespass or chemical drift before the next session of the legislature.

As a result, Secretary of Agriculture Kim Vanneman has made an effort to begin addressing the problem with a roundtable that she called in Pierre. I was one of the 18 invited participants who represented all aspects of the agricultural economy including specialty crop producers, and aerial applicators. We had a very extensive discussion about the problem of chemical drift and I hope that the roundtable will assist the Department of Agriculture in developing some ideas for solutions which will protect farmers who want to use pesticides but will also protect specialty producers and the public from possible adverse effects of chemicals.

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