Guns, education are hot topics
Published: Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Over 40 people turned out for the legislative cracker barrel on Saturday, hosted by the Custer Area Chamber of Commerce and Custer County Chronicle and held at the Senior Center.
District 30 Sen. Bruce Rampelberg told the crowd he is interested in bills regarding constitutional rights for states, drugs and uranium mining.
“I don’t know much about the topic (of uranium mining), but I don’t want things to be contaminated,” he said.
Rampelberg said he has spent a lot of time with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) learning about the science and talking with those involved.
“I really want them to tell me what’s what rather than all the email I get that aren’t about actual science,” he said.
Rampelberg also talked about Senate Bill 70 (SB70), public safety.
“Personally, I think the way we do prison for people really needs to be rethought,” he said. “I’m sick and tired of having a high prison population of people who are away from their families and we are teaching them to be hardened criminals.”
Rep. Lance Russell disagrees.
According to Russell, it’s been reported that South Dakota incarcerates more than the states around it, when really South Dakota hovers around the mid-point on a per capita basis.”
(For more information about Russell’s stance on this issue, see his column on the next page.)
Verchio spoke about House Bill 1087 (HB1087), the Sentinel Bill or “Guns for Teachers,” which would create school sentinel programs and their training.
“If we are going to arm teachers, how many and where are they? Are they all going to be armed? If not, what happens if the intruder picks a room that has no armed teacher?” he asked.
Training was another problem for Verchio. He believes arming teachers with guns should be up to the school district.
“There’s no way the South Dakota legislature is going to restrict our gun rights,” Rampelberg added.
Many people had questions about guns.
Rampelberg said, “I feel local people have a good feel for these issues and the best ideas. This can be a very emotional thing as well. If the bill is written correctly, let the local schools make their choice.”
Fred Baumann, retired middle school teacher of 34 years, said, “With my background and bottom line, I support South Dakota passing a law for guns to be in school with the proper training. The answer of getting rid of all guns has never worked anywhere. But it does take the state to pass the law and give a guideline for people who will be making the decisions on how to implement it locally.”
“I don’t think there’s any place for guns in schools,” said Brandon Hattaway.
“Where’s the money going to come from for training and arming people?” asked Nancy Suelflow.
Rampelberg said, “We don’t want the state to say it’s a no-gun zone. We want it to be figured out locally.”
Suelflow also wondered when the state would restore the educational cuts from two years ago. “My kids aren’t at the high school age yet, but they won’t be going to Custer schools if this continues,” she said.
Rampelberg said, “In my opinion, we have a new reality. Those budget cuts will not be reinstated because we don’t have the money. I hear more people tell me no more taxes instead of give it to the school. I have to represent everyone. There are 9,000 teachers in the state and 814,000 other people.”
“There are lots of things we can take money from to give to education,” Verchio said. Verchio also said they could stop giving nearly $400 million to Custer State Park.
Gary King said, “It’s been proven that private schools operate 50 cents on the dollar. Why not give them a shot at doing it? In my opinion, the whole system is beginning to break down and I think we need to look at alternatives.”
The topic moved from schools to uranium mining. SB 141 would revise certain financial assurance provisions relating to mining, SB 148 reestablishes the force and effect of certain administrative rules relating to underground injection control and in situ leach mining, SB 149 would reduce the time to report accidents from 30 days to 24 hours and revise certain provisions relating to violations found through environmental audits and SB 150 requires land and water to be restored after mining and revise certain permitting requirements relating to in situ leach mining.
“We have no experts in this field of uranium mining in the state,” Verchio said. “The NRC and federal EPA will take this over until we can develop the expertise.”
“I don’t understand the technology involved and we’re relying on other experts to be involved and I don’t buy into economic development for this issue,” Paul Horsted said. “I would like to see safeguards holding these companies responsible if something was to happen.”
Hattaway, volunteer fire firefighter for the Argyle Volunteer Fire Department and volunteer EMT for the Custer Ambulance Service, asked about a future bill allowing volunteer firefighters to leave their job to assist fighting fires without losing their job.
“If you put something together, I’m confident the three of us will look at it,” Rampelberg said. “Put together a petition and see one of us.”
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