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Legislative cracker barrel held Saturday in Belle Fourche

February 6, 2019

BELLE FOURCHE — Community members poured into Graps Burgers and Brews in Belle Fourche Saturday to attend a Legislative cracker barrel and discuss a variety of topics with District 28 Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel; District 28B Rep. Sam Marty, R-Prairie City; District 29 Reps. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, and Kirk Chaffee, R-Whitewood; and District 29 Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, who gave updates on the current legislative session.

Belle Fourche City Council President James Ager moderated the event, asking the legislators to introduce themselves and the issues they feel are the most pressing.

Chaffee, a consultant, serves on local government and taxation committees,

Cammack, a rancher, serves on the taxation and local government committees. Additionally, he chairs the Senate ag committee.

Brunner, a farmer, is serving his seventh term in the House, serves on the education committee and chairs the House ag committee.

Marty, a rancher, serves on the ag, education, and veterans affairs committees.

Maher, a restaurant owner and insurance agent, serves on the appropriations committee.

The legislators were asked about how they intend to vote in relation to convention of states.

A convention of states is a convention called by the state legislatures for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution. They are given power to do this under Article V of the Constitution.

Maher said he voted for it last year and intends to do the same this year. Marty said he, too, voted for it last year although he is on the fence this year.

“But I’m leaning toward voting for it,” he said.

Brunner said he has not supported the bill in the past and doesn’t intend to support it this year.

“I think our Constitution is great, and if we could just get people to follow it, especially our people in Washington,” he said. “I think there’s some improvements that can be made on a lot of things, but I’m afraid opening it up might have some very dire consequences.”

Cammack said he voted for the bill last year but does not plan to vote for it this year.

“Because I want to see results; I want to see how one goes,” he said.

Chaffee echoed Cammack’s sentiments.

“I guess it kind of scares me of who gets to go in and who gets to make some decisions and change the constitution,” he said. “That’s a little bit worrisome for me.”

Mary Day, a Belle Fourche School District teacher, spoke to the legislators about their thoughts related to House Bill 1113, of which Brunner is a cosponsor.

HB 1113 is an act to establish certain provisions regarding ethics and responsibility for public elementary and secondary school teachers.

“This bill talks about that elementary and secondary teachers would be prohibited from endorsing, supporting, or opposing any candidate or nominee for public office at any local, state, or federal level, whether elected or appointed,” Day said.

The teacher felt the bill to be overstepping. Day asked Brunner what the driving for the bill was that made it necessary to be introduced.

“When we look around the country, not necessarily in South Dakota, and certainly probably not in Western South Dakota, we have teachers speaking out against or opposed to our president to law enforcement, to candidates on other sided of the political spectrum,” Brunner said. “This was just an attempt to put that language in our code.”

Brunner said he understood that teachers already had an ethics code they are held to.

“This certainly wasn’t brought to curtail or squash any type of discussions, whatever, but to keep it civil,” he said. “You hear of kids getting called out for wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. Things like that that are just absolutely disrespectful.”

Day countered, saying that the bill would make it difficult to do her job.

“I teach about federal taxation, I teach about the tax code, economics,” she said. “It (the bill) would even prohibit me from coming today. I would not be able to come and speak at a cracker barrel and discuss my concerns about any proposed legislation.”

“We have a code of ethics that we’ve adhered to for decades and I just don’t understand why we would have to be restricted and restrained from our Constitutional rights of freedom of speech,” Day added.

“I think that you have to understand that that is exactly why a bill like this gets brought,” Brunner said. “To bring the conversation out.”

Cammack said if the bill comes to the Senate, there’s no way he could support it.

“Because, like a lot of these things, it comes up as a solution searching for a problem,” he said. “I believe that the ethics that the teachers are held responsible for takes care of this and if there’s a problem, it’s not a problem of not having rules in place, it’s a problem of maybe not being enforced.”

The potential legalization of CBD (cannabidiol) oil was another topic discussed Saturday. CBD oil is a chemical compound found in the cannabis plant which is non-intoxicating and does not cause the noticeable euphoric effects associated with THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

Butte County State’s Attorney Cassie Wendt explained that CBD is a Schedule 4 drug in the state which can be provided with a prescription.

“So your children who are having seizures do have access to that medication,” she said.

Cammack said there has been an ongoing discussion about the drug.

“In the end, we hesitated to list it as CBD because the varying degrees of THC that’s within the given products and there’s no parameters there,” he said. “It’s really the wild west out there; when it comes in you have no idea if you’re dealing with something that is going to be a high level of THC in there or not, so that’s why there’s been a problem with that.”

If a bill is presented, Maher, Marty, and Brunner said they’d support it. Chaffee was on the fence.

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