- Associated Press - Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 6, 2016

Minimum wage for youth deserves support

After state voters approved increasing the minimum wage in 2014 from $7.25 to $8.50 an hour, the Legislature responded by passing a bill in 2015 to create what is called a training wage of $7.50 an hour for youth 18 and under.

Proponents of the ballot measure that increased the minimum wage have responded to the new law with Referred Law 20, which asks voters to reject the Legislature’s passage of the youth minimum wage.

Those who referred the law to voters argue that the Republican-dominated Legislature created a sub-minimum wage as a way to undermine the will of the voters, who passed the first measure by 55 to 45 percent. They also claim it is unfair to teenagers who would earn less and adults who could lose their jobs to less costly workers.

Those who support the new law say the lower wage will create entry-level opportunities for young workers who need to gain workplace experience before they become adults.

So will experienced workers lose their jobs or be denied opportunities if an employer can hire teenagers and pay them less or will it be teenagers who can’t find work if they are paid at the same rate as adults?

At this time, it seems the new law will have little, if any, effect on the overall workforce. While many jobs in South Dakota pay less than in other states, most still offer starting wages of at least $9 or $10 an hour and that includes part-time jobs.

It’s also no secret that many employers in Rapid City are struggling to find good, reliable workers and are willing to pay more than minimum wage to get and retain them. Teenagers, on the other hand, are only going to be part-time, temporary employees.

It also is important to note that the law passed by the Legislature prohibits employers from terminating workers or reducing their hours and benefits in order to hire teen-aged workers.

While we understand that those who celebrated the voters’ overwhelming approval of an increased minimum wage in South Dakota feel this law is simply a retaliatory measure by the Legislature, the law still needs to be judged on its merits.

Referred Law 20 does give employers an incentive to hire and train teenagers, who do need to learn how to work in order to prepare for the future, which benefits all of us in the long run.

At the same time, we don’t expect this will hurt the few adults who might be competing for similar jobs, especially in an area where the unemployment rate is consistently below 3 percent.

We recommend a “yes” vote for Referred Law 20 as it will likely have little effect on the workforce while at the same time giving our youth opportunities to learn the value of having a strong work ethic.

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Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, Oct. 4, 2016

State Budgets And Marijuana

It’s interesting to ponder the fact that marijuana legalization was actually a topic of discussion during Monday’s District 18 legislative forum.

Relatively speaking, it wasn’t so long ago that such a discussion would be utterly out of place at this kind of event. But times and attitudes have changed, and now the issue is a genuine point of contention in legislative circles.

This piece doesn’t advocate one way or another on the matter (except, perhaps, for the legalization of industrial hemp, which has a lot of potential manufacturing uses). Instead, we offer up Monday’s discussion of marijuana legalization as an indicator of where we are as a society.

In recent years, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, while 21 other states (including Minnesota) have given their approval to medicinal marijuana. Efforts have been made unsuccessfully in South Dakota to legalize medicinal marijuana; this effort will no doubt be tried again in the future.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the debate is the main reason most advocates promote in calling for legalized marijuana: the economic benefits. Legalizing it and taxing it would allow the state to not only control the substance but also create a potential windfall for the tax coffers. Thus, it’s seen as a potential answer to the state’s revenue issues.

Colorado, which has legalized recreational marijuana, is frequently used as the poster child for the possibilities of legalization. According to one report, that state generated nearly a half-billion dollars in tax revenue from marijuana during the first five months of this year. Time magazine reported a year ago that legalized marijuana now generates more tax revenue for Colorado than alcohol.

While potential numbers in South Dakota and Nebraska would certainly vary due to the smaller populations, it’s nonetheless a temptation for cash-strapped states.

There are, of course, drawbacks to legalization, as law enforcement and substance abuse officials would point out. This is a potential cost of another kind, although how much of a social toll it is may be open to debate.

The issue is worth discussing at legislative forums and other public venues because it won’t be going away: Now that the door of legalization has been opened, the economic temptation (if that is the word) will always be there.

And so, too, will the questions: Are we presently foregoing a lot of badly needed revenue, or are we keeping the lid on a dangerous Pandora’s box?

The public will have the final say on whatever direction South Dakota or Nebraska go on this matter in the years to come. It would be wise, then, to keep an eye on the issue and on the economics of embracing - or rejecting - this path.

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The Daily Republic, Mitchell, Oct. 4, 2016

Was lake decision approved due to lack of choices?

Progress has finally been made to improve our lake.

The Mitchell City Council on Monday night approved a $73,725 study to be used to restore Lake Mitchell and reduce its algae problems.

The 6-2 vote came more than one year after discussions to solve the lake’s woes heated up by the volunteer Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee, which recommended the project to the council.

Omaha-based Fyra Engineering will now look to define the lake’s problems, develop a nutrient mass balance, determine pollutant loads, develop a lake response model and initiate community-based planning.

Certainly, it’s exciting to see some action, but we wonder if this phase was passed because there really wasn’t another viable option on the table. Perhaps the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee and some members of the Mitchell City Council felt if progress was going to be made now, the Fyra plan had to move forward.

We hope these public officials had what’s best for Mitchell in mind, rather than just approving the study because they hadn’t found a better alternative. Clearly, there aren’t many companies out there that will study, plan and restore a lake.

Initially, some lake committee members weren’t impressed with Fyra after seeing the company’s work first-hand on a project it completed at the Nebraska-Iowa border near Omaha.

But after waiting and seeking alternative methods to fix Lake Mitchell, the lake committee later agreed Fyra’s first phase was the best play.

We realize the lake committee was in a no-win situation in trying to solve Lake’s Mitchell’s problems. We commend those volunteers and Mayor Jerry Toomey for spending their time and effort on a difficult subject, but, to be fair, their slow-and-steady approach probably took too long.

We wonder what the next step would be had the Mitchell City Council killed the lake committee’s recommendation Monday night.

Would we be waiting around another year, or more, for the next viable option?

What’s refreshing is the council approved funding for just one phase of Fyra’s plan. Phase two is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $300,000 and there’s no set cost for the third and final phase to put plans into action.

So, while the lake committee and the council reflect on the recently approved Fyra work, there’s still a chance other routes could be explored if those public officials are unhappy with the results.

That’s definitely positive and makes us significantly more comfortable with the council’s decision.

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