- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 4, 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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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Oct. 29, 2015

Alcohol sales on campus deserve close study

The idea of college and drinking might seem redundant to some as rituals involving alcohol have been part of the higher-education experience for decades. Yet at the same time, it has been illegal since at least 1939 to sell alcohol on a college campus in South Dakota.

Now, however, the Board of Regents is looking into the pros and cons of bringing more cheers to the college experience. The board has appointed a task force, which includes representatives of the six state universities, to embark on a fact-finding mission to help determine if the Legislature should be asked to change the law and allow universities to tap into a new revenue source.

The universities also have been asked to conduct their own studies to determine how much revenue could be earned from alcohol sales, how the sales would be licensed and where it would be most appropriate to sell alcohol.

Janelle Toman, the communications director for the Regents, is the chair of the task force. She told the Rapid City Journal last week the task force is looking at only allowing alcohol sales at sporting events, concerts, plays, lectures and art exhibits. No one, she said, is advocating opening bars on campus.

Those who support the idea say allowing colleges to sell alcohol at football and basketball games, for example, would make the schools more competitive when recruiting students while pointing out that state schools already have policies that allow drinking at tailgate parties before football games.

But as South Dakota School of Mines & Technology President Heather Wilson acknowledges, alcohol sales are “a difficult issue for a university.” In fact, the sale of alcohol on a college campus raises a number of important questions that must be addressed.

Who is liable if a student gets intoxicated at a campus event and injures himself or others or worse yet is involved in a fatal accident? Who will be held responsible if alcohol is served to a student who is not 21 years old, the legal age to drink in South Dakota? Will legalizing the consumption of alcohol on campus encourage students to drink more often? And, finally, where will the money earned from alcohol sales go? Will it be earmarked to benefit students directly or wind up in the general fund?

There’s no question that drinking has been and always will be part of the college experience and certainly there is some merit to the idea that students are better off having a beer or two in a more controlled environment than during happy hour at a downtown bar on their 21st birthday. Nonetheless, the state of South Dakota needs to proceed with caution when considering if this is in the best interests of students.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Oct. 31, 2015

Teacher pay panel offers no change

The results of a Blue Ribbon Task Force appointed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to explore ways to increase teacher salaries in South Dakota can be summarized with basic math.

Very simple math.

After hours of study and testimony over the summer and fall, the collection of educators, lawmakers and citizens could agree on one firm action point. It’s going to cost at least $75 million to close the gap between the average pay for public school teachers in South Dakota and the neighboring state with the lowest salary, North Dakota.

While that may sound like progress, it’s not.

It’s basic, linear subtraction and multiplication.

It’s not the hard stuff, like balancing the quadratic.

Nor is it terribly surprising.

Salaries for South Dakota’s teachers have not just been trailing other states for 30 years; they’ve been falling further behind. The gap expands. The problem accelerates.

It is the same sort of economic reality that Gov. Daugaard faced when he took office way back in 2010 facing a budget crisis created by the national recession and the benignly named “structural deficit.”

In the case of the state’s budget, it meant we were stealing a little bit from reserves each year to cover the difference in what we took in versus what we spent.

Daugaard wiped that out in one year by cutting what we spent by nearly 10 percent.

That was bold.

It was courageous.

It was painful.

It’s quite likely, given the realities of teacher pay in South Dakota, that same level of aggressive - and quite possibly unpopular - proposals are required.

To be fair, the task force did say the state should change the education funding formula. They just didn’t say how.

Members also agreed - albeit without a hard vote - that the state should consider a sales tax increase if the money can’t be found in the budget. If we had the money in the budget, we wouldn’t need a task force.

They suggested that maybe we should consider taking some money from pension and building funds, but even that’s not enough.

Which all means that, come January, when legislators return to Pierre they will be starting essentially where they left off.

Unless.

Unless Gov. Daugaard decides to bring that same decisive action with which he began his first term to these still early days of the second.

It requires calculus, or at least the notion of it.

Calculus is essentially the measurement of change, or more specifically the prediction of it. It was the basis of Newton’s understanding of acceleration. It allowed us to calculate how to go to the moon and design amazing buildings.

Our teacher pay challenge won’t be solved with basic division.

It’s acceleration. It’s calculus. It’s change.

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Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, Nov. 3, 2015

Now TransCanada wants to wait, too

So now it appears that two are willing to play the stalling game with the Keystone XL pipeline.

The new player is the potential builder of the pipeline itself, TransCanada, which on Monday asked the Obama administration to suspend its interminable review of the project, citing Nebraska’s own ongoing review of the proposed pipeline.

As such, the suspension, if approved, could well delay any final decision on the controversial project until after the 2016 presidential election.

Thus, it’s not just President Obama who is pushing this decision back further and further, beyond all logical time constraints. In the process, the pipeline project has become an overblown piece of ideological symbolism.

The pipeline would run from Alberta to the American Gulf Coast, transporting 800,000 barrels of petroleum from the Canadian oil sands through the center of this country, including across South Dakota and Nebraska.

The real point of contention is the source of this petroleum. The process needed in extracting the Alberta oil emits approximately 17 percent more greenhouse gases than the process needed to extract conventional oil.

However, a State Department review determined that the pipeline would have little environmental impact because that oil was being extracted and burned anyway. It’s also been determined that the economic impact of the project has been greatly overstated.

No matter. The lines have long been drawn - to the point of being entrenched - and the project has been spinning its wheels for years.

In the process, the dynamics have changed somewhat. The plunge in oil prices has now made the project less an economic windfall that it would have been when originally proposed. Whether that’s a factor in TransCanada’s current thinking is unknown.

Rather, some environmentalists believe TransCanada’s efforts to suspend the process are nothing more than the company’s effort to delay what many believe will be Obama’s ultimate rejection of the pipeline. There has been little indication that this president would support the project, and there’s every reason to believe he will reject it - perhaps ahead of the United Nations climate conference in a few weeks. The president is hoping to broker a new deal to address climate change, and scuttling Keystone would be a high-profile tool toward that end.

For its part, TransCanada on Tuesday denied any political motivations in its request.

In this overly long process, Obama has faced considerable criticism for his delays, and those barbs have been fair: This has consumed far too much time and has every appearance of being politically calculated.

But now, TransCanada seems content to play this waiting game, too.

Once again, the issue is left in limbo, to the detriment and frustration of all sides in this overlong, overheated debate.

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