About 100 people attend the second Elevate cracker barrel to ask questions and hear from state legislators

RAPID CITY, S.D. – It’s cracker barrel season, where South Dakota lawmakers face the people who elected them. Elevate Rapid City hosted the second of three sessions at Western Dakota Tech Saturday morning.

State representatives and senators answered resident’s questions and addressed their concerns. The public event gives legislators time to discuss bills and issues with the public, then speak directly with the public afterward.

About 100 people came for the cracker barrel to discuss topics like public education and airport renovation funding. There were more legislators at this meeting than the first one and more topics were covered.

Before the meeting:

Before the meeting, about 20 people stood outside protesting House Bill 1080. This measure prohibits healthcare professionals from administering treatment or performing surgery on a minor to alter that minor’s gender.

The legislature passed the measure and sent it to Gov. Noem, who is expected to sign it.

Topics discussed:

Legislators introduces themselves and covered some of their bills and issues, then the public could write down a question to ask any senator or representative.

Some of the topics that were covered included:

  • Airport update funding
  • CO2 pipelines
  • Public and private schooling
  • Workforce housing
  • Gun education

There is a more extensive list of the topics and discussions during the cracker barrel here.

Photos of the second Elevate legislative cracker barrel:

State Rep. Dennis Krull, (R) District 30

State Rep. Krull focused on topics and areas that dealt with money, like education funding certain bills and making sure there is a balanced budget.

“Appropriations, to me, is very fascinating. I love the idea that we’re still working with the 2022 and ’23 budget, which ends at the end of this June,” Krull said. “We’re also formulating the ’24-’25 budget, which starts the 1st of July. And so what we have to do is we have to take the ’23 budget and make sure that it’s balanced by the end of the year. So if any bill, if any agency or something that was overspent or underspent, we have to make sure that by the end of the year that it all equals out. Because by the Constitution, we have to have a balanced budget.”

One of the discussions pertaining to public education was House Bill 1234 which is an act to provide a voucher for students enrolled in certain grade levels at accredited nonpublic schools.

“Public education is something that is mandated by the Constitution that we have to have, and I think we need to keep funding public education,” Krull said. “We need to invest in our upcoming young people. That is going to be the next generation taking over for South Dakota. By saying that, we need to make sure that the funding of public education stays with public education. I don’t have any problem with private education, but when they start talking about vouchers to go to private education and taking it away from public education, I don’t think that’s something that I could support.”

Krull has been on Hill City’s school board for eight year and understands the state aid formula and how it works.

“Part of that formula is for teachers pay. And then part of it is for the overhead of each school district,” he said. “If we start taking that funding away from each of the school districts, we’re going to start having a problem with our public education.”

State Sen. David Johnson, (R) District 33

Some discussions could relate back to others, like how State Sen. Johnson feels about county jails being overcrowded.

“South Dakota has a problem, as does most of the United States, in jail overcrowding. There are people who have come up to me after the cracker barrel mentioning that there may be other ways and, primarily, education. I couldn’t agree more,” he said. “We need to address the issue at its core, and that is public education of our kids. If we can start with early learning and public education funding it well so that we can get the best teachers — we already have good teachers here, but we just don’t have enough. If we address that problem at an elementary level and get our kids educated, that’s going to be an automatic remedy to our jail overcrowding. And I believe in that firmly.

Also, as a part of appropriations, Johnson answered a number of questions relating back to it.

“We’ve got $5 billion in excess. $5 billion that we have to disseminate into our community, whether that be through tax reform and tax refunds, or whether it’s spending on education or whether it’s spending to build more jails,” Johnson said. “Then we also have an excess of 400 legislative issues that we still have to address, and we have only 16 days to do it. So we need to get to work. We need to get this stuff done. I’m just thankful that we had so many people here today offering their opinions and their questions. That shows an interest that we haven’t seen before. I’m happy to see it.”

The next Elevate cracker barrel will be at 9 a.m., March 4 at Western Dakota Tech’s Event Center.

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections