- Associated Press - Thursday, March 3, 2016

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, March 2, 2016

A curveball from the feds has delayed any action by the South Dakota Legislature to expand Medicaid. What that means for the proposal is anybody’s guess.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard floated the idea of providing coverage to more people in the state with a caveat: that the federal government cover the cost of all services provided to American Indians in the state by Indian Health Services.

IHS offers medical care to young, low-income and single and pregnant American Indians.

Daugaard’s thinking was that South Dakota would come out money ahead with the swap. That’s why he was open to the idea of expanding Medicaid, a decidedly Obama idea from which Republicans in our state are generally quick to distance themselves.

Then, late on Friday, IHS unexpectedly issued a letter that said Medicaid will cover all of the health care services the agency provides - even those at non-IHS facilities. Not just in South Dakota, but nationwide. And with no strings attached.

Without question, that’s a win for our state. The state currently pays for about half of IHS costs - to the tune of $67 million last year- for medical care provided by non-IHS facilities.

Now, Daugaard and state legislators have two options for Medicaid:

- They can adopt the Steve Miller Band approach - take the money and run. In other words, do nothing.

- Or they can decide to expand the program anyhow, and provide health insurance for another 45,000 or so South Dakotans.

Daugaard said there’s not enough time left in the session to settle the matter. He’s floated the idea of a special session to further discuss Medicaid expansion.

While it comes at a cost, that seems reasonable. We hope legislators will agree to it.

Daugaard outlined several reasons why he believes Medicaid expansion is a good idea for South Dakota. While he might have come to those answers in trying to solve the IHS payments problem, we believe his reasoning to be sincere.

Even though the state will soon be freed from its burden of paying for some IHS services, expansion of Medicaid is still a good idea. Using the fiscally conservative Daugaard’s math, South Dakota will still see a financial gain.

The federal health care act is far from perfect. But as things stand, far too many people can’t tap into health insurance because of preexisting conditions or other reasons. Often, these people are among the poorest, unhealthiest in the state. The IHS decision helps some of them. Let’s take the next step to benefit the rest.

Further discussion during a special legislative session seems the least we, as a state, can do to help our roughly 45,000 fellow residents who don’t now have health insurance.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, March 1, 2016

Last week was set aside to recognize and appreciate FFA, the organization for youths that promotes agriculture education and other topics.

National FFA Week ran from Feb. 21 to Feb. 28, and we were proud to see some of our area communities take part in the festivities.

Nationally, there are more than 629,000 members in grades seven through 12 in FFA, which holds the motto “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

The organization operates on local, state and national levels, and students who participate in FFA are more prepared to succeed after high school and college.

What’s concerning, though, is there’s a shortage of qualified agriculture teachers for FFA. According to the organization’s website, that’s the greatest challenge facing FFA and agriculture education as a whole.

We presume this is an issue in South Dakota as well as nationally. FFA says there are more than 11,000 FFA advisers and agriculture teachers, which is far too low for about 630,000 FFA students. That’s about one teacher per 57 students.

Last week, we saw firsthand the benefits of just one FFA project.

In Salem, students toured the town with a pair of goats as part of their “Get the Goat” fundraiser. They raised about $1,500 while going from business to business throughout the community during the annual event. Each year, the chapter picks a different animal and title and takes that animal around town. People can buy insurance to keep the animal from visiting; if they don’t, and the animal shows up, they have to pay $5 to send it on, with the chance it could return. If they pay $25, it sends the animal away permanently.

Considering a portion of FFA’s motto is “Learning to Serve,” it was great to see high school students interacting with the Salem community while also hosting Jordanne Howe, the 2015-16 South Dakota state FFA president.

Through its past awards and high student participation, the McCook Central chapter is seemingly one of the more decorated FFA organizations in the area. But we wonder where it would be without its advisers and teachers. The McCook Central chapter is successful because it has highly dedicated FFA instructors, and we hope that continues for all of FFA.

The organization helps students land scholarships for college, prepares them for life after high school and has many other benefits.

That’s why we encourage anyone who has experience with or an interest in FFA to get involved. If you were a member of FFA years ago, give back to the organization that gave to you.

FFA needs advisers. Please do what you can to help this program continue its legacy.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, March 1, 2016

GOOD: We’re pleased that it looks as though South Dakota lawmakers, despite a long hard road to get there, are poised to pass the sales tax hike for teacher pay and property tax relief, while also giving a fair shake to the idea of expanding Medicaid for low-income residents.

Those two measures were the big ideas of the 2016 legislative session, and it seems as though they are both getting a fair hearing, and a long look by lawmakers. Even though Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Monday it’s too late to consider a Medicaid expansion this session, it could still be done through a special session this year.

What a shame it would have been to miss the opportunity to raise teacher pay with a funding mechanism at least partially paid by non-resident visitors, and to take advantage of President Obama’s final term by pushing through a Medicaid expansion supported by the president and fixing some billing problems with Indian Health Services along the way.

BAD: What a shame that West River police officers felt compelled to use their weapons to kill two suspects over the past few days in Rapid City and Rapid Valley.

Investigations continue into the two shootings: the Friday incident involving a Pennington County Sheriff’s Deputy, who shot and killed a motorist who reportedly fought with the officer; and the Sunday shooting of an armed suspect who terrorized a group of people and shot one man outside the Cornerstone Rescue Mission.

Regardless of how those investigations play out and what they reveal, we sympathize very much with any officer who has to use fatal force, and wish they and their families well while coping during this stressful time.

UGLY: There was no possible positive outcome when a Pine Ridge driver decided last week to flee from a sheriff’s deputy who attempted to make a traffic stop near Oelrichs, on Feb. 23. The driver, 34-year-old Kerry Peters, died and three others, including an Oglala Sioux Tribe officer, were injured when the chase led to a bad wreck. We’ll never know what prompted Peters to lead law enforcement officers on a wild chase that included pursuits in both South Dakota and Nebraska.

But surely there could be nothing so terrible to warrant fleeing and causing such a dramatic and devastating chase. Perhaps if the driver had just pulled over, even if an arrest was likely, Peters would still be alive and three people could have gotten home safely. Police chases for any reason never lead to anything good.

GOOD: Once again, Rapid City did itself proud by hosting two major weekend events at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, one featuring the best dart throwers in the state and another showcasing the top prep wrestlers.

Each time our fair city hosts events like those, which attract many visitors, our city and its economy see an immediate benefit but also a long-range uptick in interest in Rapid City and the Black Hills that can pay dividends for decades.

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