- Associated Press - Thursday, May 28, 2015

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at [email protected]

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Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, May 28, 2015

County should hear more voices on consolidation talk

The idea of looking for efficiencies in government is never a bad one.

That’s what the Brown County Commission is doing with the creation of a committee that is studying whether it would make sense for the county to combine auditor’s, treasurer’s and register of deeds’ offices.

A couple of other counties in South Dakota have consolidated the three offices, and a Brookings County commissioner said it has worked well.

It might work well here in Brown County, too. So taking the time to study the topic makes sense.

But so would have more forthrightly discussing the option. It’s true that the topic was brought up, though briefly, at a commission meeting late last year. And that State’s Attorney Larry Lovrien passed out to commissioners a packet that set out how the possible consolidation might work. Even so, that the subject was being discussed seemed to be a surprise to at least a couple of the county employees it would affect.

Considering that, their less-than-enthusiastic reactions weren’t unexpected or out of line.

“If it comes to it, the people in my office and I are prepared to do what we can to make sure this is referred to a public vote,” treasurer Sheila Enderson said. “Other counties that have done this are smaller counties. We have a lot on our plate here with the fair and the landfill and a bigger population.”

“Our purpose should be to serve the taxpayers of the county rather than to act on an agenda,” said Carol Sherman, register of deeds. “I believe everyone can have an opinion on how local government should be run, but I don’t know why this was brought up.”

Most likely, the idea was brought up as a consolidation that might improve efficiencies and communication at the courthouse. And that would be a good thing. If anything, government agencies don’t contemplate consolidation often enough.

It’s not the idea that’s bad, it’s how it was (or wasn’t) presented to county workers and the public.

Maybe commissioners just wanted to gather more information to see if the idea was worthwhile before the potential of change started to stress county employees. But it would have been wiser to err on side of too much publicity. Especially when the end result could be three elected county officials running against each other for one spot.

We trust the commission will eventually make an informed decision and explain the choice. We also hope that if they decide to combine the offices, they refer their decision to the public without forcing registered voters to collect signatures. It would be a big move that would likely affect the public, so the voice of the people should be heard.

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Watertown Public Opinion, Watertown, May 28, 2015

When it comes to pot, it’s all about the green

A week or so ago we editorialized on the likelihood that South Dakota will eventually see a measure on the ballot to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Colorado and Washington were the first states to go down that path and several others have followed. South Dakota isn’t there yet but an item that could be on the 2016 ballot could be a step in that direction.

Melissa Mentele, a medical marijuana activist from Emery, hopes to start collecting signatures within a month to put a proposal on the 2016 ballot to allow people with serious medical conditions to use marijuana. The ballot language she’s been working on is now being reviewed at the state attorney general’s office, and if it passes muster, Mentele and other supporters will need 13,871 signatures by Nov. 8 to get the proposal on the 2016 ballot.

Mentele, 38, said she wants to help patients similar to herself - she suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy - who have debilitating medical conditions ranging from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. In many cases, supporters say, marijuana is one of the few things that provide relief without nausea or other complications.

As laudable as her motives may be, if past history is any indication, Mentele is facing an uphill climb.

Members of the South Dakota Legislature haven’t shown much interest in passing medical marijuana legislation in recent sessions and past ballot efforts to legalize it have failed at the polls. A 2006 proposal received 47.7 percent of the vote and a 2010 effort got even less support with only 36.7 percent of voters favoring passage.

So what’s this got to do with the recreational use of marijuana? At this point nothing, and that leads us to two other possible initiated measures that could be on the 2016 ballot which, in the long run, may play a factor in the marijuana debate whether it’s medicinal or recreational.

Bob Newland, 67, is an activist from Hot Springs who has long supported efforts to allow medical marijuana in the state. This time around, however, he’s targeting two other products and not in a supportive way. Newland is proposing voter initiatives that would prohibit the sale and transfer of tobacco and alcohol in South Dakota.

Newland argues that South Dakota has been receiving a substantial portion of its budget for years from the sale and taxing of deadly drugs - i.e. tobacco and alcohol. He argues that if marijuana is banned because of its perceived harmful consequences, then so, too, should tobacco and alcohol.

He admits the alcohol measure is unlikely to pass even it if gets on the ballot. And chances are the tobacco measure won’t either. The reason is simple: Both are currently legal products that can be bought and sold and they generate substantial sums for merchants and state and local governments. Neither is going to give up that income stream without a fight.

And that leads us back to recreational marijuana and whether or not it will ever become legal in South Dakota.

First off, we don’t think it should. With all the problems tobacco and alcohol use and abuse cause, why add another potential troublesome product to the mix?

But there are those who will ask people to consider the money state and local governments receive from the sale of alcohol and tobacco and then think about what adding marijuana to the mix could bring. Doing that could provide much needed additional revenue for education, roads and bridges, health care and a host of other public needs.

Like we said, unless something changes voters aren’t likely to approve the sale and use of marijuana in any form or reason. But as the upcoming third attempt to get voter approval for medical marijuana approaches, sooner or later there will be a push to follow Colorado and Washington and approve the sale, possession and use of marijuana for recreational purposes. It’s only a question of time because it’s all about the green - money.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, May 23, 2015

State should pursue new math test for teachers

South Dakota school administrators, who are struggling to find qualified teachers, have had to adopt unique approaches to fill classroom openings.

One such approach is to allow a teacher who is not certified to teach high school math courses the opportunity to gain that certification.

Currently, that teacher would have to pass a math test. It is the same test whether the teacher needs to acquire math credentials in order to assist a special education student or hopes to teach calculus to high school seniors.

And almost half of the teachers who take the required exam fail it. It’s the same story in other states, many of whom also use the same Praxis series tests from the Educational Testing Service.

South Dakota education officials are hoping to find a way to make math credentialing more attainable for instructors.

The state’s Board of Education is studying a plan to provide separate credentialing tests for different levels of math instruction.

For example, if you are a high school science teacher but want to be able to teach algebra as well, you would be given a credentialing exam suitable to that level of instruction. You would not be required to pass the exam needed to teach higher-level math or calculus.

Creating a separate “intermediate level of math endorsement,” as a state official described it, to credential teachers for some high school math courses is a good idea.

In a perfect world, skilled math teachers would be abundant and parceling out credentials for different levels of instruction would not be needed.

But South Dakota doesn’t have that luxury, and at least for the time being, must be creative. A survey of school administrators this past school year revealed dwindling numbers of applicants for teaching jobs across the state - with math instructors the hardest to find.

In many cases, the person seeking the math credentialing would be helping to fill a particular instructional need in a school district.

This process would make sure the person met the requirements to teach algebra or general math, for instance, without requiring that he or she also master high-level mathematics or calculus.

Right now there is no such intermediate test available in the Praxis series, so education officials must work to find an appropriate testing vehicle.

Overall, this is a practical step that will help districts struggling to fill math teaching positions. The board of education should adopt this plan and proceed with finding an appropriate math credentialing test.


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