RAPID CITY, S.D. – About 60 people turned out despite the cold and snow for Rapid City’s first legislative cracker barrel of 2023, which was hosted by Elevate Rapid City and held at Western Dakota Tech.
After officials introduced themselves and some of their bills or concerns, the public was able to submit written questions for the representatives and senators. Once it was over, attendees had a chance to speak with the lawmakers and share some of the issues that are important to them.
Elevate’s next cracker barrel will be at Western Dakota Tech in Rapid City on Saturday, February 11 at 9 a.m.
The first cracker barrel in Rapid City of 2023:
“A lot of people came out in really bad weather and still took the time to sit here and really get educated,” St. Sen. Helene Duhamel, (R) District 32, said. “I think this is a great opportunity for us to explain. A lot of things make headlines, but people don’t know the backstory. This is a great way to learn more about the different pieces of legislation we work on.”
Importance of water:
Importance of water resources was a large concern for Duhamel, as a number of questions were directed toward her stance on the topic.
“We cannot have a future in Rapid City without long-term quality water. Some people have talked about we don’t know if we want to be part of your water pipeline. They said, ‘well, we have a well.’ How deep is it? Because the Madison Aquifer is not recharging fast enough and you better get used to the idea of drinking wastewater, because if we don’t do this, we’ll be doing that sooner than later. Just look at the whole nation, everyone is fighting over water. Everyone has also realized the importance of water, and the Missouri River is our resource. Our time is now. This is a golden opportunity to do something that will have benefits for generations to come,” Duhamel said.
Public safety and county jail:
Being a part of Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, another important topic to Duhamel is public safety and county jails.
“A lot of people don’t want people to be locked up. I understand that. And then there’s other people that say lock them all up. But it takes resources, costs money to lock them up,” she said. “Counties have only one source of funding, and that’s property taxes. So, we are looking for more tools for counties to be able to figure out how to afford to build a jail and then to operate a jail. We have a piece of legislation. We’re seeing if the many counties that benefit from accessibility can come together and as a group, increase their property taxes. So it increases just a small amount. So everybody benefits without too much in the game.
“It’s controversial,” she added” The administration is against us, but it was a summer study and many legislators were involved. If people don’t want to do it or they want it to go to the ballot box to vote on that, it’s a tool for counties that they so desperately need right now.”
Other discussions at the cracker barrel:
Being the chair of House Appropriations, a lot of questions for St. Rep. Mike Derby, (R) District 34, were related to that.
“We are early in the process. We’ve had 19 budgets and we’re finishing up our departments and moving through the process,” Derby said. “So, we’ve got a lot to do and a lot to see. We still have revenue estimates. So we’re waiting before we take a position or vote on appropriation bills. We’re waiting for those type of things to get through the system.”
Discussion of taxes:
Currently, there are four options when it comes to this discussion:
Governor’s repeal of sales tax on food
Property tax assessment that exempts the first $100,000 on property tax
Another competing bill to reduce general sales tax from 4.5% to 4%
Leaving things exactly the way they are and fund some other ongoing needs for South Dakota
Why are cracker barrels like this important to have?
“I’ve always been a big advocate of them,” Derby said. “People are engaged. You get to meet your senators and representatives. I’ve just spent 40 minutes talking to people after the cracker barrel about their issues. I love the face-to-face interaction. It’s also being recorded and so that you can look at it at a later date through Elevate. We’ve got representatives from school boards, the City Council, County Commission here, and it’s a really a team effort. So the more we all know how everything works, the better off we are.”