Friday, February 27, 2015

Hill City crackerbarrel features local crackers

South Dakota Reps. Mike Verchio and Lance Russell, as well as Sen. Bruce Rampelberg are scheduled to be in Hill City on Saturday, Feb. 28, from 9-11 a.m. at the third floor meeting room of the Super 8 Motel. For Custer area residents, the legislators will also be in Custer at the Custer Senior Center on Mt. Rushmore Rd. from 1-3 p.m. that day. This event is sponsored by the Custer County Chronicle, Hill City Prevailer and Super 8 Motel. [Hill City Prevailer-News]
Other events held tomorrow:

Beresford Area Crackerbarrel (District 16), 2:00pm - The Bridges Restaurant

Vermillion Area Crackerbarrels (District 17), 10:00am in the Vermillion City Hall Council Chambers, 25 Center Street.

Mitchell's event is Monday, March 2nd.

SDSU going smoke-free?

South Dakota State University is the only Board of Regents school to allow their students to smoke on campus, provided they do it responsibly. Currently, our rules dictate that those who wish to exercise their right to smoke must do so 25 feet from any air intake of any building on campus. Some wish to see this rule replaced with a more restrictive policy that would ban smoking on campus property all together. According to Rethink Tobacco, smoke-free policies have been shown to “minimize the exposure to secondhand smoke.” Thus, having a smoke-free campus at South Dakota State University would be beneficial in many ways. [SDSU Collegian]
Smoking in Rotunda D, the Student Union and anywhere else in 1976 was common-place.

Take the poll.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

LCV flunks Thune, Noem

The League of Conservation Voters has released their 2014 environment scorecard. It doesn't look good for South Dakota's GOP congressional delegation.

Johnson, Tim P. D-SD 2014: 100%  lifetime: 73%
Thune, John R. R-SD   2014: 20%    lifetime: 13%
Noem, Kristi R-SD       2014: 3%     lifetime: 7%

Counties reeling from Daugaard's failing leadership

As South Dakota recovers from the embarrassment from the lack of executive leadership measles still remains a priority for local governments.
Schools in Custer County are preparing for an outbreak of measles, which hit South Dakota last month. While there has been no case or outbreak of measles in the Custer School District, the administration still wants to let patrons know how to prepare themselves, just in case. The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) is investigating an outbreak of measles in Mitchell. A case of measles has also been reported in Sioux Falls, bringing the total number of cases reported to 14. [Custer Country Chronicle]
Counties take the biggest hits from stubborn GOP governors who refuse to expand Medicaid.

Daugaard seizes absolute power

Democracy deferred:
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a measure that would limit the authority of a constitutional convention delegate from the state. The bill serves as a companion measure to a proposal that calls for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. The bill would also require convention delegates from the state to take an oath affirming they wouldn't support a rogue amendment. [KNBN]
Like Bill Janklow, Dennis Daugaard loves being an autocrat.

South Dakota's 'small government' GOP congressional delegation is on full tilt that President Barack Obama wants to streamline government.

Pierre's GOP mayor has been caught with her panty hose around her ankles as the city commission regroups after failing to vet the bankrupt air carrier chosen to receive subsidies from the federal government.

Like a bolt out of the blue, South Dakota has realized that the King's roads and bridges are crumbling. Only the federal government can fix them.

As race relations continue to slide under Dennis Daugaard's failed leadership American Indian leader, Dennis Banks will speak in Rapid City today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dayton showing Midwest how to govern

Governor Daugaard: take a memo.
When Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton took office in 2011, Minnesota had more than a $6 billion dollar deficit and an unemployment rate of 7%. Today, Minnesota's unemployment rate is now below 4% and they have a budget surplus of over $1.2 billion dollars. Mark Dayton's approach of making people who can afford to pay, pay, helped eliminate the deficit. Raising the minimum wage gave more people money to spend. Businesses like money and they like people who have money to spend. [Walter Einenkel]

USD to offer gender neutral housing

The South Dakota Democratic Party supports the human rights of the LBGTQ community.
A person who is non-binary identifies with neither the male nor female gender. This population is one that Todd Tucker, director of university housing, said has been previously neglected in the housing application process. Jordan Catlett, a fifth-year senior and the president of SPECTRUM, said gender neutral housing is a great campus improvement. After attending the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC) at Illinois State University from Feb. 13 to 15, Catlett said SPECTRUM plans to speak with administration about some of the topics it covered, including non-binary issues. Using the wrong pronoun can be offensive to anyone, but it is especially detrimental to those who are “working so hard to be who they are,” Catlett said. Non-binary pronouns include ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘zed.’ [Ally Krupinski, The Volante]

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"It has earned my veto." President Obama moves to save South Dakota from Keystone pipeline

As the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club drop out of the permitting process for TransCanada's Keystone pipeline route through South Dakota, President Obama has stopped the climate-killing project...for now.
Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency. The president has said he won't approve Keystone if it's found to significantly increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. A State Department analysis found that the tar sands would be developed one way or another, meaning construction of the pipeline wouldn't necessarily affect emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month called for that analysis to be revisited, arguing that a drop in oil prices may have altered the equation. [Associated Press]
TransCanada's permit is up for certification in South Dakota because of inaction for four years.

The statement from the White House linked here.

NPR: unlikely enough votes in Congress to overturn the president's veto.

SD falling further behind other red states in well being index

As GOP Governor Dennis Daugaard continues to fail key leadership tests South Dakota stumbles again on access to affordable medical care.
A new Gallup survey has found that the two states with the most dramatic drop in their respective rates of uninsured are Kentucky and Arkansas, both deeply red in presidential years. Red states that did not expand Medicaid or embrace a state-run exchange, however, continue to have brutally high rates of uninsured. All 10 of the states with the highest uninsured rates have refused to carry out those two key parts of Obamacare. "States that have implemented two of the law's core mechanisms -- Medicaid expansion and state health exchanges -- are seeing a substantially larger drop in the uninsured rate than states that did not take both of these actions," Gallup announced. "Consequently, the gap in uninsured rates that existed between these two groups in 2013 nearly doubled in 2014." [Ryan Grim]

Monday, February 23, 2015

Beresford student: liberty and justice for all except in South Dakota

South Dakota isn’t the only place seeing the movement towards marriage equality. Thirty-seven out of the fifty states now grant same-sex couples the right to marry, and 72 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state with marriage equality. states, “In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in several marriage legal cases. A favorable outcome could bring the freedom to marry to same-sex couples nationwide.” The Marriage Equality Movement is gaining momentum, and hopefully this year will be the year that all couples will have the right to marry whom they wish. When that day comes, I’ll be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and feel it to be true. [Elizabeth Petersen, Beresford High School]

Sen. Hunhoff: institute corporate income tax to fund education

Saturday marked the year’s second Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce legislative cracker barrel at the Avera Pavilion. District 18 state representatives Mike Stevens and Jean Hunhoff and Sen. Bernie Hunhoff used the event as an opportunity to update the public on the session’s efforts in dealing with education and Medicaid expansion. Sen. Bernie Hunhoff said much more work needs to be done on funding education in South Dakota. He suggested that South Dakota institute a corporate income tax in order to raise the funds for education. Sen. Hunhoff said the state’s expansion may not take on as many people as previously thought. “We’ve been working out numbers that indicates there are about 48,000 people who would access Medicaid services if they were able to,” he said. “North Dakota has already done this and they’ve only got 12-16,000, so it looks like the numbers might be quite a bit lower than we’ve been talking about, thus making the program much more affordable.” The final District 18 forum of the 2015 session is set for March 7 at 10 a.m. at the Avera Professional Pavilion in Yankton. [Rob Nielsen, Yankton Press and Dakotan]

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Crackerbarrels, coffees expose education woes

South Dakota voters are concerned that the GOP-dominated legislature is driving the state back to the 19th Century.
Discussion over the topic of gun rights, specifically House Bill 1116, did, however, cause a divide during the third of four Legislative cracker barrel forums put on this year by the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce. [Bryan Horwath]
Roger Larsen of the Huron Plainsman penned a story about Rapid Citian Katrina Wilke's involvement with South Dakota Progress.
“We realized that one of the ways that we could do this is to start focusing on the local level,” Wilke said at the Beadle County Democratic Forum on Thursday. Wilke is a graduate of Texas A&M University. She was a student coordinator for Barack Obama in 2008 in Texas. Established just a few months ago, the organization has a steering committee she chairs, and is now looking to find people to serve on an executive board. The plan is to attract two people from East River, two from West River and two from Native American tribes. There will also be three at-large members, one of whom must be a registered tribal member. [Larsen]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Saturday crackerbarrels, coffees galore

Update, 21 February, 0900 MST: Aberdeen crackerbarrel live linked here.

Head out to support your Democratic lawmakers and jack up the GOP legislators:

• The Huron Area Crackerbarrel/Coffee with the Legislators (District 22) meets in the Huron City Hall community room: it starts at 0900 CST.

• The LawCo Crackerbarrel (District 31) kicks off at 0900 MST in Deadwood City Hall.

• The Rapid City Area Legislative Coffee/Crackerbarrel (Districts 32-35) at the SD School of Mines and Technology Classroom Building assembles from 0900 to 1100 MST.

• Hilton Garden Inn hosts the Sioux Falls Legislative Coffees/Crackerbarrel (Districts 6, 9, 11-15, 25) from 0900 until 1145 CST.

• Yankton Area Crackerbarrel (District 18) gathers at the Avera Pavilion Amphitheatre at 409 Summit from 1000 to 1100 CST.

SD Dems driving Medicaid debate

The South Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee today (Friday) debated a bill that would call for expanded Medicaid coverage in the state. Bill sponsor, Senator Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton says the arguments pro and con are still being made. Scott Duke, the President and CEO of the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations says expansion would lead to better health for more citizens.
Listen to more at WNAX.

Republic view: GOP plan to change minimum wage voter betrayal

We can see both viewpoints on setting this new minimum wage for workers younger than 18, as all 26 Republican senators voted in favor of the law and all seven Democrats opposed it. Last November, voters decided that the overall minimum wage would be $8.50. The majority decided to pass minimum wage increase by a 55-45 margin. Sen. Billie Sutton, a Democrat from Burke, argued Wednesday that SB 177 overturns a decision made by voters in November. Sutton explained there was nothing on the ballot about lower minimum wages for workers who are younger than 18. It was simply for anyone earning minimum wage. "That vote is a betrayal of the public's vote to improve the minimum wage," he said Wednesday. [editorial, Mitchell Daily Republic]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

GOP legislators vote to move local control to state; fetus beheading bill turns to fairy dust

John Hult of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader covered South Dakota Legislature testimony today a bill that would change language governing rules for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. [political affiliations have been added]

Included with tweets from Dakota Rural Action the following is copied from his live-tweeting the session:

Up now in House Local Government Committee: House Bill 1201, which would change the zoning rules for CAFOs, other developments.

Mickelson [R] talking about John Morrell plant in SD: 18,000 hogs a day slaughtered there, and 80 percent come from Iowa or Minnesota.

Rep. Mark Mickelson's bill would make it possible to grant conditional use permits on simple majorities if the county chooses to.

"This is not local control at all," Tyler [D] says of HB 1201.

There are 412 CAFOs permitted in SD. "Of those 412, there were six appeals," Tyler said.

Tyler appealed a permit for a 6,200-head dairy in her neighborhood (it was a half mile from her house).

The judge ruled in Tyler's favor, CAFO owner took the case to the Supreme Court.

"We need to look at what true local control here," Tyler said.

@DakotaRural · 4h 4 hours ago

Bill is clearly about promoting CAFOs despite the bill sponsors statement that CAFOs are only 1% of conditional use apps in Sd. #SDLeg

Chicoine: 'We were told that basically, we have no recourse," if chicken farm is approved. "If you want to appeal, you go to court."

Chicoine: "If the state is intent on bringing in corporate animal factories, the state is going to have to address the concerns of ruralSD."

Sabrina King of @DakotaRural up now. Says the debate is not pro-ag vs. anti-ag.

"This bill is a part of a comprehensive plan to make it easier to permit these (CAFOs)," King said.

King: Cows and pigs don't vote, they don't shop. Farmers do. The state should stop trying to pick winners and losers, she said.

King's done. Up now is Debra Barta of Hand County. She's fought a CAFO in her county.

Mickelson says there are 7,800 CAFO permits in Iowa. "You don't know what you're missing out on," in SD, he said.

Mickelson: "I'll tell you what's driving people out of the small counties: People who won't let in the next generation of agriculture."

Rep. Paula Hawks [D] has a question: Could somebody clarify for me who's put on a board of adjustment? Can they be elected official.

B of A decisions have to be appealed to circuit court (can't be referred), Tyler says

Mickelson weighs in on EPA question: "Most of the SD citizens, most of the legislators don't like the EPA."

@DakotaRural · 3h 3 hours ago

Brunner: I'd rather live next to a cafo than a small farmer because small farmers do things wrong. Unbelievable. #SDLeg

Soli [D] says she's opposed to the bill. "We should hear from at least one opponent up here."

Again: Bill to allow conditional use permits (read: big feedlots) on a simple majority passes through House committee on 10-3 vote.

SD legislature leaves door cracked for therapeutic cannabis

A Senate committee approved a measure Wednesday that would allow terminally ill patients access to treatments that aren't FDA approved but have undergone some testing. Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1080. The bill is written to waive liability and also makes participation voluntary for patients, doctors and drug companies, Heinemann says. "When patients come see us as physicians, they're not only looking for ways to get better, they're also looking for hope," Sen. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, said.
Read more at KELO teevee linked here.

The South Dakota Democratic Party supports:
10. Ongoing evidence-based research into the use of alternative medical therapies for specific patient populations.
11. The patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality and the resources to make an informed decision in one’s health care.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

USAs Brendan Johnson, Tim Purdon resigning, opening law offices

Update, 1315 MST:


Update, 1055 MST: Associated Press. Video of press conference linked here.


Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to discuss it confirmed to The Associated Press that Brendan Johnson will announce his resignation Wednesday at a news conference. He plans to open an office for Minneapolis-based Robins Kaplan, which also hired North Dakota's U.S. attorney, Tim Purdon, to practice in Bismarck, according to the sources. [KSFY]
One source said the press conference will be at 1100 CST.

Last week this blogger tweeted news that Purdon was resigning. A source confirmed he will also be working for Robins Kaplan.

In another nod to tribes as the 51st State, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled to American Indian nations that they could begin building cannabis industries.
The new guidance, released in a memorandum (pdf), will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues. "The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations," Purdon said. The policy is likely to be criticized in states opposed to marijuana sales, particularly those with Native American reservations. [Timothy M. Phelps, LA Times,] links mine.
Johnson and Purdon attended a law enforcement summit in Rapid City seeking solutions to entrenched racism there.

As a replacement for Johnson President Barack Obama could appoint JR LaPlante, the inaugural Secretary of Tribal Relations, who left that post under the current South Dakota governor to take a job as a prosecutor for the US Attorney.

Johnson and Purdon, both Obama appointees, are considered strong contenders for future careers in politics. Last year Purdon accompanied Obama on a visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dems dine; drainage districts developing

The Hughes and Stanley County Democrats host their legislative dinner at the Fort Pierre Senior Center. Ann Tornberg, chairperson of the state Democratic Party, is the Mistress of Ceremonies. Legislators will provide updates on the session. The Democratic event starts at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. [KCCR]
And from WNAX:
A bill that would set up nine river basin districts in South Dakota survived a hoghouse attempt in the Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee today. The bill (SB3) came out of a yearlong study of the state’s drainage laws and current watershed management. Senator Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, one of the prime sponsors, said it is too early in the process to rewrite the bill. Frerichs says the bill is pretty complete in setting up those river basins. The bill received a do pass recommendation on a six to three vote. [WNAX Radio]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Daugaard caving on Medicaid expansion

Democrats in the South Dakota legislature care about the 48,000 residents living without access to affordable health care and insurance while the Republican Party cares only about killing it.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fund over ninety percent of the expansion, which would extend health coverage to about forty eight thousand low income adults. While generally opposed to that expansion, Governor Dennis Daugaard says they are having continued discussions with Medicaid service providers. Daugaard says part of the discussion centers on helping several thousand people manage their chronic health conditions. Daugaard says providing health care to those in rural areas is one of the major challenges for providers. Daugaard says the state continues to talk to the federal government about possible Medicaid waivers. [WNAX]
Deadlines are looming as the legislature reaches the halfway point in the 2015 session.

Brookings is expected to spend at least $46 million on the city's hospital asking property owners to fund $30 million of the improvements as GOP lawmakers stop Democratic efforts to remove the cap on property taxes set by the Janklow administration.

As revenues from coal, oil and gas plummet Wyoming's GOP governor wants to expand Medicaid but the state's GOP-dominated Senate voted to kill affordable medical insurance yet the House remains hopeful.
Medicaid expansion is a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care Act. Supporters of expansion in Wyoming said accepting it would provide health care coverage to 17,600 people, bring more than $100 million a year in new federal funds and create about 800 jobs. [Casper Star-Tribune]
Funding for school nurses in Wyoming hangs in the Medicaid balance.

North Dakota has accepted the Affordable Care Act and Montana is debating expansion for that state's working class.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

"Thinking outside the box:" guns, roads, education; education, guns, roads

The joint District 29/33 Foothills crackerbarrel in Piedmont brought the GOP super majority together to reconcile the rights of Black Hills residents to arm teachers, fix roads and fund nothing.
The funding formula, salaries, cuts and how well the students are being educated were all addressed, and Representative Jacqueline Sly says they are still looking for solutions. Representative Jacqueline Sly says, "We have to start thinking outside the box. If we want our small schools, and most communities, they want their small schools, but then we have to be willing to look at some of the possibilities to deliver that education so that kids are getting the best education, that they have a strong Chemistry teacher or a strong physics teacher or a higher level math teacher, so big discussions." Representative Dean Wink says that the funding system for roads is behind and this is the first year he feels the legislation sees the need for funding. [Jaclyn Seymour, Black Hills Fox]
In other Black Hills news: the fake pine beetle war continues while rewarding GOP donors.
GOP Governor Dennis Daugaard didn't announce free money for loggers in his budget, but GOP legislators who got campaign contributions from the timber industry are planning on making it an issue this session.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Crackerbarrels scheduled for Valentine's Day

Hey, West River Democrats: head to Piedmont and jack up your GOP legislators! Districts 29 and 33 meet 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm at the American Legion Post 311.

Also: Watertown Area (District 5) 9:00am at the Watertown Winter Farm Show at the Codington County Extension Complex and Brandon Area (District 10) 9:00 am - Bethany Meadows Community Room.

The Chiesman Center for Democracy has a list of legislative meets with voters linked here.

White House announces tribal youth gathering

Today, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz announced the launch of the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge at the 2015 United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) Midyear Conference. This challenge invites Native youth and organizations across the country to become a part of the Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative by joining the National Native Youth Network — a White House effort in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
President Obama launched the Gen-I Initiative at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference to focus on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. Through new investments and increased engagement, this initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential.
Who: Individuals, youth councils, and youth groups can participate as Challenge Acceptors. Non-profit organizations, Colleges, Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) can become acceptors by helping their youth and students complete the Gen-I Challenge! [Jodi Gillette and Raina Thiele]

SDGOP-owned SDBOR dropped student insurance because ObamaCare

The deadline to enroll in health insurance is approaching and students not covered on a health plan in 2015 are going to have a hefty fine on this year’s taxes. People not insured must enroll in a health insurance plan by Feb. 15 to be covered for 2015. After the deadline, there is not an opportunity to enroll in the health insurance marketplace until next year. The other options HHS recommends for young adults are not applicable for USD students. The South Dakota Board of Regents discontinued its Avera MyHealth Insurance Plan at the beginning of this school year. The SDBOR said “due to the significant increase in the proposed premiums” they were discontinuing the plan. Medicaid coverage could also be an option for students, but it’s difficult to get. South Dakota chose not to expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act, which gives residents limited opportunities for eligibility. [Michael Geheren, The Volante]
South Dakota Democrats are working in the legislature to expand Medicaid: WNAX.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

TransCanada suspends Nebraska KXL efforts

A Holt County District judge issued a temporary injunction Thursday, keeping TransCanada from invoking eminent domain along the proposed Keystone Pipeline route in northern Nebraska. TransCanada agreed to the order, hoping to get an accelerated trial schedule. Landowners have sued over the project. TransCanada filed legal papers in nine Nebraska counties three weeks ago to invoke eminent domain for the land that's needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines headed for Gulf Coast refineries. [Associated Press]

Rep. Killer enjoys educating legislators

A legislative panel has passed a resolution to change the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County after voters overwhelmingly approved the new name in the November election. The House State Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday to send the resolution to the chamber's floor. Democratic Rep. Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge says his measure is part of the process to finalize the name change, which roughly 80 percent of the county's voters approved. Killer says he enjoys educating lawmakers about why the county was renamed. [KSFY]
Read more at Indian Country Today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Noem tweets about risks to women's health but votes against insurance

There’s a lot of talk about inequality between men and women, but one area in particular where women are leading in record numbers: heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer. But there’s a leadership role just waiting for women like you to pounce on: Leading the charge to end this deadly foe once and for all. [Go Red For Women]

Volante: USD education majors ponder SD's pathetic teacher salaries

According to the National Education Association, the average starting teaching salary for South Dakota is $29,851 and the average public school teacher salary is $39,018. Senior Taylor Jones, of Harrisburg, S.D., is planning to leave the state after graduation to be closer to her father’s side of the family in Arizona. She said salary plays a big part in deciding where she wants to end up after graduating since she is not devoted to staying in one comfort zone for an extended amount of time early on in her career. [Josie Flatgard, Education students weigh career options]

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Doom and gloom mood at District 30 crackerbarrel

Filling the meeting room at the Brookside Apartments in Hot Springs to capacity with unusually high attendance, the District 30 crackerbarrel clustered GOP legislators Senator Bruce Rampelberg, Representatives Mike Verchio and Lance Russell.
Russell stated that school budgets are being cut to the bone. Verchio felt that local school districts are to blame for financial stress. He stated that it is not a lack of revenue but how the money is spent. Schools will participate in government programs and when the programs end they keep employees that are no longer needed. In regards to the low success rates of students, reported by Rampelberg, Kenneth Updike of the Oelrichs School District stated, “Let the teacher teach. Much of government funding is for testing and programs that seem to not be really helping students.” [Paula Tonemah, Hot Springs Star]

Carroll: give Joe Lowe a crack at it

It is outrageous that a straightforward simple assault at a hockey game should proceed at the glacial pace reserved for homicide when the despicable act itself swept the community like wildfire. We need firefighters, not bureaucrats. Give Joe Lowe a crack at it. I agree with Indian Country Today’s view that had fortunes been reversed, Native perpetrators would be prominently seen on local TV news marching to county jail for swift justice. The only defense the current police chief has rests in finding some process transparency. It is frustrating in the extreme to live in state where hate crimes and race issues still dominate the news. Our Legislature appears content to agonize over issues like the 75 mile per hour passing rule and 600 other mostly minor bills with the integrity of the state at risk. It is hard to imagine our tepid response to these continuing assaults on human dignity.[Frank Carroll, A lack of leadership on tough issues]

Monday, February 9, 2015

Heitkamp working to create Commission on Native Children; South Dakota delegation mum on racism

Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) talked with Indian Country Today about legislation that would create a national Commission on Native Children to conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native youth.
The president has been an ally on this and I know how passionately he feels coming to Standing Rock, having spent time with him and then watching as he did the Native American leader Summit and the impact talking to the kids at Standing Rock had on he and Michelle. We have no better ally. This is a president who really gets it and we want to have his legacy be 'changes that actually result in improvement for Native American kids. [Heitkamp, interview with Indian Country Today Media]

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Daylight seen in education, capital punishment, roads, guns

Betty Olson: global warming is "mythical."

More and more South Dakota teachers are lacking sufficient credentials.

Jason Frehrichs, the only Democrat on the dais at Saturday's legislative forum in Aberdeen told the 120 people assembled that if passed SB181 would tap nearly $4 million from the state’s general fund in an effort to freeze college and technical school tuition for in-state students.

From the Aberdeen American News:
“This bill comes from a Republican, so it’s not a partisan issue,” said Frerichs, the lone Democrat on the panel and a District 1 Senator. “This would be a $4 million investment and we can point to a number of examples that either will or will not be funded. The question is about what will be a priority and whether we can look for ways to keep there from being more of a burden placed on (students’) backs.”
On the topic of capital punishment during Saturday’s gathering at Northern State University, one Republican on the panel gave the idea some daylight.
“I was in the House last year when we debated this issue and it impacted me in a way that I didn’t think it would,” said District 3 Sen. David Novstrup of Aberdeen. "I don’t know what I’ll do this year.”
Read the report from Bryan Horwath linked here.

More on the debate about capital punishment linked here.

John Hult of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported on another East River legislative coffee.
Dakota Rural Action, which organized the rally Saturday, says the state is pushing for the wrong kind of development and trying to push local landowners out of the decision-making process.
Jonathan Ellis waxes philosophical about whether South Dakota's GOP governor even has the will or the mettle to govern.

West River, the Butte County Post reports that District 28 remains solidly Republican.
"The 900-pound gorilla in the legislature this year is highway funding," Rep. Gary Cammack said as District 28 and 29 legislators spoke to Butte County constituents of their districts. Cammack said, "It's 99 percent sure that we are going to end jup with additional funding for highways." Retired Belle Fourche clergyman Gail Arnold pressed the legislators on expanding Medicaid funding as promoted by the state's Democrat party, and to increase minimum wages further. Wink said he can't support the Medicaid expansion to single adults because he doesn't trust the federal government to continue its funding of the program. [Milo Daily]
Guns dominated the District 29 crackerbarrel.

At the District 31 crackerbarrel education was the focus of discussion Saturday morning at the first of three legislative fora in Spearfish. Many topics were brought up but reoccurring issues were education and wages.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Wildfires in February expose GOP failures

It's not like land managers in the Black Hills haven't been warned.
Ray Bubb, with South Dakota Wildland Fire Division, ruled out lightning as the cause of the fire. Bubb, who serves as chief of the Rapid City office of the division, also said that officials do not believe the fire was intentionally set. Firefighters are challenged in fighting the fire due to the steep terrain, dry fuels, smoky conditions and winds of up to 30 mph, according to the release. [Rapid City Journal]
Today was the perfect day for Pennington County emergency managers to be burning road ditches adding to buffers for later in the developing wildfire season but without effective leadership that didn't happen.

Is Dennis Daugaard really up to the task?

Friday, February 6, 2015

Saturday big day for crackerbarrels

Hey West River Democrats: go jack up your GOP legislators tomorrow!

Belle Fourche: In the City Council Chambers of Belle Fourche City Hall beginning at 1 p.m.

Hot Springs: In the Brookside Apartments meeting room beginning at 1 p.m.

Spearfish: At the Black Hills State University Joy Center beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Sturgis: In the Commissioners Room of the Meade County Administration Building beginning at 9 a.m.

Frehrichs reports on legislature week 4

Limiting the involvement of true democracy has clouded the theme of the 90th legislative session. Recruiting more teachers to the profession, expanding Medicaid to help the working poor, and building infrastructure are the biggest issues we face here in South Dakota. Unfortunately, my friends on the other side of the aisle are more focused on making it more difficult to place initiated measures on the ballot and allowing independents and third party folks to participate in the process.
Read it all here.

The next District 28 crackerbarrel has been scheduled in Belle Fourche at City Hall tomorrow beginning at 1300 MST.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SDGOP: we don't need no stinking ethics

South Dakota has routinely operated in an ethics vacuum often aborting efforts to reduce opacity.
A Democratic proposal to restore the South Dakota Ethics Commission died on a vote along party lines Wednesday in the South Dakota House of Representatives. House members killed the resolution 53-16. Democrats wanted the Legislature's Executive Board to work with the executive and judicial branches of state government in developing a plan to revive the commission. Only Democrats signed as cosponsors of the ethics resolution brought by Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron. "I think we can all agree the EB-5 issue remains clouded in mystery," she said. Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, said the resolution's list of cosponsors "regrettably" all come from the same party and there wasn't an attempt to enlist Republicans. "I think today it's far worse than Watergate, especially the farther east you go," Hickey said. Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, spoke in support of creating the commission again. "It's almost like the rug isn't big enough to sweep everything beneath it," he said, adding, "South Dakota has a big black eye." [Bob Mercer, EB-5 arguments stir up again, as House Republicans turn back request for an ethics commission]

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Obama budget has roots in Thune proposal

On Monday, as part of his new budget, President Obama laid out a series of proposals aimed at adapting the unemployment system to this new reality. He wants to offer states incentives to provide at least six months of benefits; expand eligibility to workers who don’t qualify for the program; and create a permanent, tiered system of emergency benefits that would take effect during periods of high unemployment. Elements of Obama’s proposal have their roots in a bill proposed last year by Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. But despite such nods to bipartisanship, most of Obama’s recommendations have little chance of becoming law. He would pay for expanded benefits through higher taxes on employers, something that stands virtually no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Congress. [John Casellman, Unemployment Has Changed. Unemployment Benefits Haven’t.]
Coming to Congress as one of the least wealthy senators Thune sure has raised a pant-load of cash. It will be interesting to watch whether he can clear the cloud of ethical questions surrounding him as rumors of a vice-presidential nod swirl around his GOP halo.

Tornberg: "are you an emergency?"

GOP leaders want to put a stop to South Dakota voters like you who passed an initiated measure to raise the minimum wage and referred measures to stop Governor Dennis Daugaard’s education reform bill and corporate welfare bill. I have a better idea: Let’s put a stop to the GOP leaders. Let’s get at least 1000 signatures to deliver to the Senate State Affairs before they hear this awful bill.Will you sign the petition right away?
Thank you, 
Ann Tornberg, Chair
More here and here and hereand here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Betty Olson: Jimmy Carter 'inflicted US with Dept. of Education'

Reading reports from District 28's Republican senator Betty Olson can be a bit of a trip. One has to suspend some disbelief when reading lines like these:
I got HCR 1003 urging the federal government to abolish the US Department of Education passed in the Senate on Thursday. Pres. Carter inflicted the Dept. of Education on us in 1979 so the feds could dictate to the states how we educate our children. If the Dept. of Ed. was abolished, it would save between $30 and $50 billion that could go toward the $18 trillion national debt and allow the states to control education. [Communities, Rapid City Journal]
From the editor of the Yankton Press and Dakotan:
Advocating the closure of the Department of Education has been a conservative talking point to varying degrees since the 1980s. It still seems useful: In his successful campaign for Senate last year, Mike Rounds often used such a call as a sure applause line in partisan crowds. A few years ago, when South Dakota received a $26.5 million block grant from Washington specifically earmarked for education, the state indeed gave that money to the schools — but then took out $26.5 million from elsewhere in the education budget. Thus, the state effectively pocketed the money instead of letting the schools have that needed funding. (As an aside, federal education money is not a novelty for the state. The Argus Leader reported last spring that South Dakota ranked third in the nation in receiving federal funds, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. Last year, for instance, the Yankton School District had $2.1 million in federal funding expenditures. So, apparently, federal involvement isn’t ALL bad.) [Kelly Hertz]
Democrats in the South Dakota Legislature concur with Hertz.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Districts 22, 18 crackerbarrels focused on education

From the Huron Daily Plainsman:
District 22 constituents packed the City Commission room at City Hall Saturday morning for the first of three legislative coffees with legislators. Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, a member of the House Judiciary and Education committees, said those panels are dealing with some key legislation. “We’ve had some pretty intense bills in both of those committees,” she said. Gibson said she will consider what she comes to believe are the best funding options for taxpayers when a bill comes to the House floor.
She is joining other Democrats in condemning proposals by Republican leaders in Pierre to nearly double the signature requirement for an initiative or referendum to qualify for the ballot, and to change the minimum wage escalator clause in the initiative passed by voters last November. She said the GOP super majority in the Legislature has been pushing through bills that Democrats have referred to a vote and the public has overturned. By rejecting them, voters are telling legislators they don’t like those bills they passed, continuing a 100-year-old history of grassroots involvement in their government. “I think this is just wrong for South Dakota,” she said of the two proposals.
Gibson said she is introducing bills on legislative redistricting and to create an ethics commission. South Dakota is one of only seven states without such a commission. She is also offering constituent bills on the sex offender registry and domestic abuse.
It was a painful start for Gibson as she was preparing to take the oath of office for her fourth term in the House. As the session was beginning, she was sitting in a Pierre dentist’s chair. “When you start out with a root canal the first week, you know things are going to get better,” she joked. [Roger Larsen]
From the Yankton Press and Dakotan:
Sen. Bernie Hunhoff (D) said he feels that there has been progress made on education. The issue is that there is already a crisis in some districts. “A member of the board of education — one of the governor’s appointees — said there is a teacher crisis,” Sen. Hunhoff said. “I think more and more people are getting that message. They realize we have a teacher shortage, a workforce development problem. We have a hard time getting young people to go into the profession and a retention problem once we get them there. More and more legislators are realizing there is a real problem. We have to do something about it and there will be a dollar sign attached to it.” 
Sen. Hunhoff said that he feels the Legislature is making good progress to finding a solution for funding Medicare expansion in the state. “It is obviously a very big issue and there are a lot of concerns on how we pay for Medicare expansion,” he said. “Sadly, we are really hurting ourselves by missing three years of the free years. We are seeing studies that when you put $300-$400 million dollars into the economy it generates the state’s share. If the key to solving the issues is nailing down where we are going to find those dollars in 2021-2022 — which is eons away in legislative terms — then we will find the key because it is just too important to South Dakota.” [Shauna Marlette]

Sunday, February 1, 2015

SDGOP urging chilling effect on right to petition

Some GOP lawmakers in Pierre want to crush citizens' rights.
One small change to a South Dakota law could significantly alter how voters are able to put issues on a ballot. Senate Bill 166 wants to change the number of approved signatures for a ballot measure to be connected to the number of eligible voters instead of the number of votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. "Anything that makes it harder for citizens to bring issues to the forefront and bring them to a vote, I think I would have a tough time supporting. I think our current initiated process is working just fine," Democrat[ic] Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell said. South Dakota Democratic Party chairwoman Ann Tornberg is asking Republican leadership to withdraw the bill, saying it goes directly after Democrats in the state. "I hope it's not a partisan attack, but I think it really has an impact on a lot of South Dakotans and I don't see the need to raise the number of signatures to make it harder for people to get their voices heard," O'Donnell said. [KELO]
Democrats have had some success bringing important issues to the ballot: little wonder the South Dakota Republican Party wants to codify a chilling effect on the right to petition.