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Justice, retirement systems among Daugaard’s top priorities

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – Gov. Dennis Daugaard enters his final two years in office aiming to tackle issues ranging from rising methamphetamine use to the solvency of the state retirement system.

During the legislative session that starts Jan. 10, the Republican governor will likely be the final word on reshaping a voter-approved government ethics overhaul and deciding whether to restrict the bathrooms that transgender students use.

Daugaard told The Associated Press that he and First Lady Linda Daugaard are looking forward to leaving politics after his second term. He said he hasn’t considered seeking the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Kristi Noem for the 2018 election.

“As Linda would say, ‘not with this wife,’” he said with a laugh.

GOVERNOR’S PRIORITIES

The governor heads into his penultimate legislative session hoping to enact policies to address issues surrounding mentally ill people entering the criminal justice system and fight against growing meth use and mounting drug arrests. The policies would be based on recommendations made by state workgroups.

Daugaard, who takes pride in South Dakota’s financial health, is also backing changes to the state’s retirement system to make sure it’s sustainable by tying cost-of-living adjustments more closely to inflation, among other proposals.

The governor said he doesn’t foresee proposing any more tax increases over the rest of his term.

ETHICS OVERHAUL

Daugaard said he would be “surprised” if the ethics overhaul isn’t repealed this session, saying that the campaign for the ballot measure was misleading. The high-profile initiative created an ethics commission, public campaign funding and limitations on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers.

“I’d be surprised if there were a hundred voters who’ve read the measure itself,” said Daugaard, who has suggested studying the issues covered by the initiative to find other solutions.

A group of GOP legislators are challenging the ethics overhaul in court, and their ire will likely build into fireworks during the session. Initiative supporters say they’re prepared to fight for it in the Legislature and again at the ballot box if necessary.

Daugaard said he’s also open to changes to South Dakota’s initiative system. Some Republican lawmakers are weighing whether to make it harder for people to put measures before voters after an election season that brought in millions of dollars from out-of-state groups.

BATHROOM BILL

Daugaard vetoed a bill in 2016 that would have required transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender at birth. Conservative group Family Heritage Alliance Action has said it “will encourage” legislation in 2017 on the topic.

The governor said a twin bill would face his same objections, but said he would have to evaluate other potential proposals.

TOUGH CALL

Daugaard said his toughest 2016 decision was not calling a special legislative session to consider expanding the Medicaid health coverage program for low-income and disabled people. Daugaard had floated a special session to open the program to roughly 50,000 more low-income residents, but decided against it because it was unlikely to succeed in the Legislature.

He called it making the “right decision, regretfully.” The governor ultimately abandoned plans for expansion in 2017 after a discussion with Vice President-elect Mike Pence about the Trump administration’s plans for repealing or overhauling the Affordable Care Act.

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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