Sen. Art Rusch

The South Dakota Legislature meets for just 40 days in January, February and March of each year. This year it was from Jan. 14 to March 12 with veto day scheduled for March 30. However, most legislators are assigned to other committees that meet during the rest of the year. One of the committees on which I serve is the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC). GOAC deals with audits of state departments and agencies and oversight of juvenile corrections. The GOAC Committee meets every month outside of the legislative session.

GOAC had their July meeting on July 23. At that meeting GOAC received a report from the South Dakota Secretary of State concerning their expenditures from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security and the Help America Vote Act funds during the primary election this year. According to the Secretary of State, they spent about $500,000 to facilitate absentee voting in South Dakota. There were about 112,000 requests for absentee ballots compared to about 20,000 in prior elections. 96,000 of those requests also requested absentee ballots for the General Election so they are already in line to have ballots sent to them before the November election.

The South Dakota High School Activity Association (SDHSAA) reported to the Committee that they lost about $760,000 in revenue from high school activities that were cancelled due to the Coronavirus. Since the events were not held, the SDHAA was able to avoid some of the expenses that they would have otherwise incurred, but they still lost about $307,000 overall.

The new executive director of the Board of Regents was introduced to the committee. Brian Maher was the former superintendent of schools from Sioux Falls. USD President Sheila Gestring reported on the progress at the Community College of Sioux Falls which is under the management of USD. She reported that income at the CCSF has fallen from $4.9 million in FY2017 to $3.6 million in FY 2020. Expenses have fallen from $4.9 million to $4 million so that reflected a loss of $409,000 to USD. She felt that it will take three years to get the CCSF turned around.

President Laurie Nichols from Black Hills State University reported on the progress at BHSU in Rapid City and the West River Health Sciences Center which they are planning there. Their revenues have also dropped from about $5 million in FY2017 to $3.8 million in FY2020 which is about even with what their expenses are. It appears that there are various reasons for the declining enrollments at the Community Colleges in Sioux Falls and Rapid City because more students are taking classes on-line and also when jobs are available, fewer young people decide to go to college.

GOAC also heard from the Department of Corrections about all reported claims of injury occurring to juveniles under their custody. Some of the injuries resulted when trying to restrain out-of-control juveniles but some were the result of abuse or neglect by staff members. The Department of Corrections no longer operates any juvenile facilities so these were all in private facilities either in or out-of-state. It appeared that in all of the instances which were found to be well founded that appropriate discipline was handed down to the staff involved.

Finally, we heard from the South Dakota Brand Board, the Department of Agriculture, the Corn Utilization Council and the Soybean Research and Promotion Council. The soybean report was given by Jerry Schmitz of Vermillion who is the executive director of the Soybean Council.


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