Governor chooses new judge for Third Circuit

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has chosen Magistrate Judge Dawn Elshere to be a circuit judge. Here is the Wednesday news release.

PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will appoint Magistrate Judge Dawn M. Elshere as a circuit court judge in South Dakota’s Third Circuit Court in Brookings.

“I thank Judge Elshere for accepting this appointment,” said Gov. Daugaard. “As a magistrate judge, she already understands the important role that judges play in our society. I particularly appreciate her advocacy for alternative courts.”

Elshere will fill the vacancy created by the July retirement of Hon. Vince A. Foley. The Third Circuit includes Beadle, Brookings, Clark, Codington, Deuel, Kingsbury, Grant, Hamlin, Hand, Jerauld, Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties.

“I am very excited and honored to be given the opportunity by Gov. Daugaard to serve the Third Circuit as a Circuit Court Judge,” said Elshere. “I’ve enjoyed my work as the Magistrate Judge and the Beadle County Drug Court Judge and I look forward to serving in the capacity as circuit court judge.”

Elshere currently serves as a magistrate judge in the Third Circuit, a position she has held since 2015. Elshere was Codington County states’ attorney from 2007 to 2015. Prior to that service, she was a deputy states’ attorney in Codington and Brown counties, and was in private practice for five years. In 1994 and 1995, she was law clerk for Hon. Warren Johnson in the Eighth Circuit.

Elshere is a native of Hosmer, South Dakota. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of South Dakota in 1991 and is a 1994 graduate of USD School of Law.

Elshere administers the Beadle County drug court. She has served on the Unified Judicial System’s Judicial Training Committee and SAVIN Advisory Committee, and has worked as a trainer for the South Dakota Network Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault. Elshere and her husband, Brad, have two children.



PUC warns phone companies to pay up

State government’s Public Utilities Commission decided Tuesday that some telecommunications providers licensed in South Dakota are late paying their gross receipts taxes.

Commissioners voted to notify the companies to show cause why the commission shouldn’t take action against the companies’ certificates of authority. The companies are:

Four long distance providers — Business Discount Plan Inc.; CSDVRS LLC; iNetworks Group Inc.; NECC Telecom Inc.

One VoIP provider — Telnyx.

Two wireless providers — Patriot Mobile LLC; and Tempo Telecom LLC.

The commission could impose fines and could suspend or revoke the certificates of authority.

Some districts received compromises on teacher pay

State government’s School Finance Accountability Board members sounded vexed at times last week during hearings on school districts whose officials argued they couldn’t afford to pay teachers as much as the 2016 state law required.

The board recommended Plankinton officials re-open teacher contracts and spend $53,886 more. That was less than half of the approximate penalty of $123,000 the district faced. The vote was 3-2.

Yeses came from Brandon Valley superintendent Jarod Larson, governor’s aide Patrick Weber and Belle Fourche schools business manager Susan Proefrock. Huron superintendent Terry Nebelsick and Mobridge-Pollock school board member Eric Stroeder voted no.

New Underwood saw its potential penalty reduced from $125,000 to $22,000. The recommendation was 4-1, with Nebelsick saying no.

McLaughlin faced a potential penalty of $122,807. The board voted 3-2 to recommend McLaughlin re-open teacher contracts to add $114,729. Nebelsick and Stroeder voted no.

The board meets by teleconference Nov. 27 to affirm its decisions from last week. The recommendations in the 26 appeals made to the board will go to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations for decisions Dec. 4.

Thune talks tax reform at AFP event Nov. 21

This just hit my email in-box a bit ago:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 20, 2017

CONTACT: Andrew Curley,, (605) 370-8949

NOVEMBER 21: AFP-SD Hosting Senator Thune for Tax Reform Event

Senator Thune will speak to over 100 South Dakotans on Congress’ efforts to advance pro-growth tax reform.

Sioux Falls, SD – Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota is hosting a free lunch with Senator John Thune as he provides an update on the pro-growth tax reform plan going through Congress. Senator Thune will be speaking to AFP grassroots activists and citizens on Congress’ efforts to create a simpler, fairer tax code at the Hilton Garden Inn in Sioux Falls at 11:30 AM on November 21.

WHAT: Senator Thune Tax Reform Address

WHO: AFP-South Dakota; Senator John Thune

WHERE: Downtown Hilton Garden Inn

201 East 8th Street

Sioux Falls, SD 57103

WHEN: 11:30AM – 1:00PM; Tuesday, November 21


Americans for Prosperity has made tax reform its top federal priority this year. The group’s 36 state chapters held over 75 grassroots events throughout the summer and fall, with AFP partnering with members of the local community, members of Congress, and policy experts to highlight the beneficial impact of tax reform done right.

In Washington, the group’s government affairs teams have advanced AFP’s vision on tax reform in over 1,000 meetings with Hill leaders. Last month, AFP key voted the 2018 House and Senate budget resolutions, which were critical to advancing tax reform.

Report of a 2015 derailment in South Dakota

Former legislator Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland, sent an email this weekend that carries a National Transportation Safety Board summary of a train derailment in South Dakota from two years ago. Here is the start of it:

“BNSF Railway Unit Ethanol Train Derailment
Executive Summary

On September 19, 2015, about 6:18 a.m., central daylight time, BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) unit ethanol train GMNXDPK717, with 3 locomotives, 96 loaded tank cars, and 2 hopper cars filled with sand, derailed at a small bridge at milepost (MP) 597.7 near Lesterville, South Dakota. Seven cars (tank car 2 through tank car 8 from the head end of the train) derailed. Two of the derailed cars breached and released 49,743 gallons of denatured fuel ethanol (ethanol) that caught fire. A third car leaked ethanol from its bottom outlet valve. There were no injuries and no evacuation. The estimated damage was $1.1 million.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the broken rail, derailment, and subsequent fire was BNSF Railway Company’s decision to defer track maintenance and continue to operate high-hazard flammable unit trains on the Aberdeen Subdivision. Contributing to the accident was the Federal Railroad Administration’s track maintenance regulation that allowed high-hazard flammable unit trains to continue to operate after the track was reclassified to a lower standard. Contributing to the tank car breach and subsequent fire was the continued use of legacy US Department of Transportation-111 tank cars to carry flammable products.”


recommendation A

recommendation B

Should lodging places get increased state rates?

State government’s Board of Finance faces at least one meaty discussion at its meeting Tuesday.

It’s a request from the South Dakota Hotel & Lodging Association to discuss the state rate for hotel stays for state employees.

The current rates set by the board for in-state lodging are $55 per night during the months of September through June and $70 per night during July and August.

Rick Murray, representing the association, spoke to board members at the July 17 meeting. Lodging businesses need to charge rates that keep pace with rising expenses, he told them.

Liza Clark, state commissioner of finance and management, responded that state government was in the same spot in July regarding tight revenues as earlier in the year.

Clark said state government agencies were asked to cut their budgets and it wasn’t a good time for the board to move forward with higher rates for lodging.

She suggested the topic be brought up again at the November meeting.

The latest report on revenue from Clark’s agency carried this summary: “Through 4 months of FY2018, total actual ongoing receipts were $8.3M lower than the adopted estimate, down from $2.7M below estimates last month.”

In other words, state government’s financial situation turned three times worse in one month.

Another item on the board’s agenda is the topic of debt write-offs. The state Department of Corrections wants 126 write-offs that total $239,924.45. The state Department of Human Services requested one write-off for $710.94.

The meeting Tuesday starts at 2 p.m. CT in the governor’s large conference room at the Capitol.

Rep. Howard Kennedy, 1928-2017

A memorial service was held earlier this month for former legislator Howard Kennedy of Beresford. He died Oct. 31. He was born April 13, 1928.

Kennedy, a Republican, served Lincoln County as well as parts of Turner and Union counties in the South Dakota House of Representatives from 1981 through 1992.

For years he and his wife, Alice, farmed and fed livestock. They had five children.

Kennedy served 14 years on the Lincoln County planning commission and eight years on the local school board.

He lost his 1992 re-election bid against Democratic incumbents Mike O’Connor of Alcester and Roland Chicoine of Elk Point, who moved back to the House from the Senate.

Kennedy and Chicoine had been part of the same freshman group in the House in 1981 but represented neighboring districts. The Legislature placed them in the same district for the 1992 elections.

Chicoine served through the 2000 session. He died in 2016 at age 93.

One state east, lawsuit proceeds against school unions

Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, declared the other day his intent to offer legislation in the 2018 session that would attempt to break South Dakota’s public universities from their tenure system and negotiated faculty-union contracts.

While I refrained from writing about it –a rule I’ve generally followed in my career is that I want to see actual legislation from a legislator before I report on it — a few minutes ago I caught a story from Minnesota about a somewhat similar challenge under way there.

The story

Minnesota Supreme Court agrees to hear case challenging teachers union protections

by an Associated Press reporter says several parents filed the lawsuit. It aims at union contracts in Minnesota’s public schools. So far the parents have failed. The Minnesota Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear the case.

The premise of the Minnesota challenge is the union system fuels the achievement gap in Minnesota schools. Similar cases have been brought in New York and New Jersey.

GOED chief reports on fall business recruitment

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development found solid interest at several major recruitment events this fall, Commissioner Scott Stern said Tuesday.

Thirty-seven clients participated in the Sept. 29 buffalo roundup in Custer State Park, he told members of state government’s Board of Economic Development. and 25 prospects attended the governor’s invitational pheasant hunt Oct. 27-28,

They came from five nations and 14 states, according to Stern. He said 60 percent had projects ready for decisions in coming months on whether to open businesses in South Dakota.

The Mary Pat Bierle letter w/postscript

The received value of a letter to the editor sometimes depends on the perceived value of the sender.

That said, here’s what Mary Pat Bierle of Yankton wrote recently to the Yankton Press and Dakotan newspaper.

“As a lifelong Republican, may I respectfully make the following observations to Sen. Thune, Sen. Rounds and Rep. Noem:

“1. You cannot call yourself a Republican if you support any tax proposal that adds $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit. Such support would violate the most fundamental principle traditionally held by the Republican Party.

“2. Any tax proposal that presumes the success of supply-side economics is a hoax. We tried that in the 1980s. It didn’t work. A clichéd definition of stupidity is to repeat the same behavior, expecting different results.

“3. No tax proposal can claim to be reform unless and until it treats and taxes all income — wages and capital gains — at the same tax rate.

“The 400-page Brady proposal does not do that. Therefore, the Brady proposal is not tax reform. Please do not sacrifice the fiscal future of our children and grandchildren on the short-term altar of partisan gain.

“You are Americans and South Dakotans first — then Republicans.”

As a postscript, her father was a member of the Legislature. Don Bierle, R-Yankton, served four years in the state Senate from 1971 through 1974. He passed in 2001 at age 75.