New Building at Northern State, Emanating Domain Matters at Cracker Barrel
A new Lincoln Hall for Northern State University has the support of local state lawmakers.
The proposed installation was one of the main topics of Saturday’s legislative cracker barrel at the Barnett Center on North Campus.
Most of the lawmakers from Districts 1, 2, 3 and 23 attended. About 85 local residents also participated.
A session resident expressed dismay at Northern’s plan to demolish Lincoln and Briscoe Halls and replace them with a new building. He asked if lawmakers would support restoration over demolition.
Northern proposed demolishing the two buildings and constructing a $29.5 million facility that would provide new spaces for business education, an accelerated nursing simulation lab, economics incubator space digital technology, new admissions offices and new classrooms. After the cracker barrel, North President Neal Schnoor said plans also include remembering the historic building that now stands.
During cracker barrel, Schnoor noted that Lincoln Hall was built in 1917 as a residence hall and that rehabilitating the existing space would cost twice as much as a new building. And the renovation would not provide the kind of facility needed, he said.
In response to the question, several lawmakers expressed support for the new building.
“Yes, I support the Lincoln building project,” said District 3 Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen. “It’s embarrassing for South Dakota to show them that’s where your education is going to be. It’s time for it to be over.”
District 23 Representative Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, said he was confident Schnoor and his team would “build a world-class facility.”
District 2 Representative Lana Greenfield, R-Doland, said the current building, which features two pillars in one of the classrooms, is not an ideal atmosphere for teaching.
“Most importantly, it’s not handicapped accessible,” she said. “We need to make them open and suitable for everyone.”
District 1 Senator Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, agreed on the importance of keeping culture and heritage alive, but also noted that the project is planned with the use of available federal funding, pending approval.
District 3 Representative Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, said it’s less about the building that currently stands there and more about the benefits of the proposed space, which include a partnership with the Nursing Program of South Dakota State University. With one in 10 nursing positions currently open in the state, he said, the investment is worth it.
Other main topics discussed on Saturday were eminent domain and gestational surrogacy.
Are changes to the eminent domains policy needed?
Lawmakers were also asked if they would support legislation changing the rules of eminent domains. Ed Fischbach, who also expressed concern about a proposed carbon dioxide pipeline that would cross the area, asked the question. He said current eminent domain regulations in South Dakota needed to be changed.
District 23 Rep. Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, said it’s a matter that has come to his attention, but he just received proposed revisions Thursday with the bill submission deadline looming.
“An important topic like eminent domain takes longer than three days,” he said, noting that the fix will require more than just an amendment.
“It may be a subject that we will not be able to solve this year. But I will continue to watch it,” Gosch said.
District 23 Sen. Bryan Breitling, R-Miller, said roads and railroads wouldn’t exist without eminent domain language, but added that he was working on a bill dealing with language regarding easements. Although easements are perpetual, he says, there is a life cycle to the infrastructure.
“The landowner should have the option to terminate this agreement,” he said.
Since the topic of eminent domain was related to proposed carbon dioxide pipelines, including one running through parts of District 23, the pipeline was also a hot topic.
Carbon Dioxide Pipeline Proposal Raises Questions
District 3 Representative Carl Perry. R-Aberdeen, said there has not been a pipeline bill, but there have been conversations with supporters and opponents and he is leaning against the project.
Hoffman expressed support for the proposal, but noted that Summit Carbon Solutions can communicate better with people. The pipeline still has to pass the Public Utilities Commission, he said.
Regulations on surrogacy could be in the works
Dennert, Novstrup, and District 2 Rep. Kaleb Weis, R-Aberdeen, were specifically asked about their stance on creating gestational surrogacy regulations in South Dakota. This is coming in Senate Bill 137, which would authorize gestational surrogacy arrangements and agreements.
Gestational surrogacy is when someone who did not provide the egg used in conception carries a fetus during pregnancy and gives birth to another couple or another person.
Providing some background, Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, of District 2, said surrogacy has been around in the state for some time, but has yet to put regulation into state law. ‘State.
“We’re one of the few states that doesn’t have regulations in the code,” he said. “Of all the people who would like to avail, 2% would qualify. They’re very particular about what they’re looking for. … We’re trying to inject more integrity and regulation into the process.”
Dennert said he hadn’t had a chance to read the five-page bill, but was open to the concept and ready to support it.
“It would make more sense to try this and regulate it rather than ban it,” he said.
Weis said he’s glad the issue is going through the Legislative Assembly, but because it just went through the Senate, he hasn’t considered the bill yet and doesn’t have an opinion yet.
Novstrup also did not commit, but noted that the top priority of state laws should be to determine what is in the best interests of the child.
“That will be my number one criteria,” he said.
Lawmakers see growing opposition to collective bargaining bill
Dennert said he was starting to see emails opposing House Bill 1216. He proposes the elimination of collective bargaining for school district employees. He made the comment in response to a question asking lawmakers to comment on the measure, which had not yet had a committee hearing.
Brock Greenfield said he expects significant opposition to this bill, recalling the fate of a bill introduced in a previous session which sought to ban collective bargaining and did not win much ground.
He said he wasn’t sure what the vote would be, but thinks as more information comes out there will be more hesitation in backing it.
Dennert said he is generally against such bills and would more than likely oppose this one, but he has yet to hear testimony on the matter.
“It would be foolish to take a tough stance without hearing testimony,” he said.
Could the education tax credit program be expanded?
Lawmakers were asked if they would support Senate Bill 71, which proposes an increase to the tax credit program for study program partners. The program, which offers scholarships to families wishing to send their students to a private school, has a limit of $2 million on annual contributions from insurance companies. The bill proposes to increase this limit to $3.5 million. In exchange for contributions, insurance companies receive a tax credit.
Lana Greenfield said testimony on that bill was expected on Monday.
“We will listen to the testimony and see what we can come up with,” she said, noting that one argument will be the use of taxpayers’ money.
District 1 Representative Jennifer Keitz, D-Eden, said she opposes anything to do with private education.
“I don’t think that’s an appropriate use of public funds,” she said.
About 85 people attended the keg of crackers in the Kessler Hall of Champions at the Barnett Center. It will also be the home of the cracker barrels on February 12 and March 5. Both will start at 10 a.m.
District 1 Representative Tamara St. John, R-Sisseton, was unable to attend.