- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2016

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, June 2, 2016

In less than 30 days some - or maybe many - of the governor-appointed members of 22 state boards will have to make a decision they have not had to consider in the past.

The decision they face is the result of House Bill 1214, which was introduced by Rep. Mark Mickelson and approved unanimously by the House and Senate. The new state law requires them to either disclose and seek a waiver for any conflicts of interest they might have or leave the board.

A violation of the law, which takes effect July 1, is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Last week, the Transportation Commission learned more about the legislation and it appears the potential consequences were a bit of a shock to at least two of its nine members.

Commissioner Ralph Marquardt, who owns Marquardt-Skyway Transportation in Yankton, called the new law “a big issue” and that “it makes it about impossible for us to do business with the state of South Dakota.”

His company, according to the Journal’s coverage of the meeting, includes hauling road salt and supplying gravel for the Department of Transportation, which works closely with the Transportation Commission. In other words, it is a classic conflict of interest that could give his company a competitive advantage when contracts are awarded.

Sioux Falls lawyer and lobbyist Tim Dougherty said the legislation could hurt “innocent victims,” who we can assume are clients of his and other attorneys whose state contracts might be endangered by the conflict-of-interest legislation.

Judging by the sorrowful comments of these men, the new law is doing exactly what it is intended to do - make board members and those who appoint them accountable to the public.

Now, board members who are accustomed to their special relationship with the state will still have the opportunity to serve and be served. The legislation allows boards to grant waivers to board members, which has the potential to undermine the intent of the legislation. The conflict reports are then collected for the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee, which will review them annually.

The next test will be to see how rigorously the state enforces this new law and if waivers will be routinely granted under the guise that South Dakota is such a small state that conflicts of interest are unavoidable, an argument that seems convenient at best.

It was encouraging, however, to see a state attorney at the meeting explaining the new law to board members and the consequences of ignoring it.

Let’s hope state officials do all they can to enforce the new law and that commission members who want to do business with the state resign their positions and let others without business ties to an agency oversee it.

___

Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, June 2, 2016

The headlines out of the Ellendale, N.D., public schools over recent years have been impressive:

- A $4.2 million bond issue that taxpayers from our neighboring North Dakota community passed by nearly 87 percent in April 2010. The money was used to completely revamp the elementary school and to build a state-of-the-art gymnasium.

- Teachers and administrators have won major awards.

- New technology has been expanded and added.

And now comes another American News headline about the school.

Ellendale is completing several small projects that will make the building more energy efficient, superintendent Jeff Fastnacht said. The upgrades will start this summer and will take about a year.

In the first year of the changes, the school is expected to save more than $64,000.

The work includes tasks such as switching fluorescent light bulbs for LED versions, changing the controls in the heating and cooling system and updating a boiler.

“When you’re talking about a large facility with lots of rooms, having heaters and air conditioners on all the time when you could be shutting them down on the weekends or at nights or during nonschool times … there’s a savings there,” he said. “By updating those to a digital format, that’s our first improvement.”

We like these going green changes for several reasons:

- A public entity is looking to save public money.

- The changes will lessen the carbon footprint of a school, which can be a big drain of natural resources.

- It is always easier and more comfortable to maintain status quo rather than maintain momentum by making changes and taking steps forward into the unknown.

- And one of the best reasons is that an area school is setting a great example for its students.

So often it seems that we as adults try to teach by our words. However, if we are telling our children “do as we say, not as we do,” we fail miserably.

It is foolish to expect young people to follow our advice and ignore our example.

Many of us are blessed to have what seems like unlimited natural resources at our fingertips in each of our homes. However, we have learned through blackouts and water shortages that those resources are not unlimited.

It is important to teach children - ours, yours and theirs - that lesson because the more of us who conserve the brighter our future.

The greater good is always a cause worth fighting for.

“If we can help to be leaders for not only for our kids, but for our community, to be energy efficient, we have a responsibility there,” Fastnacht said.

We couldn’t agree more.

___

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, June 2, 2016

Sadly, baseball umpires are a dying breed.

According to information from the South Dakota Umpires Association, the number of registered umpires in the state has fallen about 40 percent in two years, when there were between 325 to 350. This year, the number has settled around 220.

Considering the importance of baseball to South Dakota’s summers, the news of declining umpires is concerning. And the cause of the problem comes from the top.

The South Dakota Umpires Association is in charge of certifying and organizing the state’s baseball umpires. It also selects the umpires for the Class A and Class B Legion and Class B amateur state tournaments.

But the association hasn’t done a sufficient job replenishing the older generation of umpires who are slowly retiring with younger umpires to take their place.

It should be the association’s job to encourage people to become umpires and to keep those people interested in doing it annually. That doesn’t seem to be the case. The association has relied too heavily on the umpires they have, rather than recruiting fresh blood.

To be selected to a state tournament is an honor to many umpires, but the association isn’t getting enough younger, talented umpires in the rotation. Each year, the association asks umpires to apply to either the Class A or B state Legion tournament or the Class B state amateur tournament. It’s a good selection method that mandates umpires to have experience and knowledge of the job.

But based on the numbers, either not many new umpires are applying for state tournaments, or the association just is not picking them. In a six-year span from 2010 to 2015, six umpires were selected to work at least four Class B state amateur tournaments, and two of those umpires worked every year from at least 2008 to 2015. Last year at the Class B state amateur tournament in Mitchell, all 13 umpires who worked had been selected to previous state amateur tournaments.

It’s understandable to have some of the longest-tenured umpires selected as they have the most experience, but it’s unfortunate the association does not mandate that at least one or two new umpires are selected for state events.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association, for example, has rules in place to ensure new officials each year are working state tournaments in several sports such as football, volleyball and wrestling.

There certainly has to be a way to get new umpires state tournament appearances to keep them involved and interested. Because, as the way it seems now, the umpires association is concerned with keeping our longer-tenured umpires happy. That doesn’t bode well for the future of umpires here.

We love baseball in South Dakota, from youth levels to teeners up to amateur ball. But a healthy crop of umpires is absolutely needed to keep the game alive and well in our state.

Those who run the South Dakota Umpires Association need to show they understand that. They need to step up to the plate.


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