Torch is being passed at Northern Crops Institute

Mark Weber made the road trip from Fargo to Pierre this week and attended the South Dakota Wheat Commission meeting Monday.

He is retiring at the end of December after six years as director for the Northern Crops Institute at North Dakota State University.

His successor will be Mark Jirek.

Jirek has a bachelor degree in agricultural economics from NDSU, a master degree in agricultural economics from University of Illinois and seventeen years at Cargill.

Weber told commissioners Monday he understood the difficulty, given low production last summer, of South Dakota’s paying $25,000 to the institute.

“We’ve had a good run and NCI is in good shape,” Weber said.

Commission chairman Clint Vanneman of Ideal told Weber his work was noted. “You’ve been a great friend,” Vanneman said. “It really is appreciated.”

Commissioner Chet Edinger of Mitchell has served on the institute’s governing council and commissioner Tregg Cronin of Gettysburg is now council vice chairman.

According to the institute’s web site, council members represent wheat, barley, corn, soybeans, oilseeds and dry-beans producers as well as North Dakota State University, the North Dakota Agriculture Department and private companies such as General Mills.

“The council sets policy and is responsible for working with the staff in long-range planning,” the site said.

The institute’s purpose is providing educational and technical programs that encourage domestic and international markets.

Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota fund its operations. So do commodity organizations in those states and Montana.

Weber, who farmed at Casselton, N.D., has a bachelor degree in mechanized agriculture and agronomy and a master degree in agricultural economics. Both are from NDSU.

Prior to becoming director for the institute, Weber was executive director for Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association 12 years and the first executive director for North Dakota Soybean Council and Growers Association more than five years.

A photo of Weber and Jirek is here.

Commerce panel is getting acclimated

State senators and representatives who serve on their respective Commerce and Energy Committees met twice in recent months to receive briefings from state government agencies they handle during legislative sessions.

Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, organized the meetings. He is the House chairman.

The first was Sept. 27 at the Capitol, followed by a trip Sept. 28 to Milbank and Huron to visit utility facilities.

The joint panel is meeting again today. At the start, Rounds recalled how some legislators seemed short of basic knowledge about the departments during the 2017 session.

According to minutes from the Sept. 27 meeting, “He indicated that this effort is a pilot program and he hopes it will prove to be successful, encouraging other standing committees to do the same during the interim.”

Those minutes added, “Senator Phil Jensen, Senate Chair, stated he appreciates Representative Rounds effort to bring members up to speed on these issues.”

The lawmakers heard Sept. 27 from the Department of Revenue’s various divisions on property taxes and special taxes, business taxes, gaming, lottery and motor vehicles. They also received presentations from state government’s Public Utilities Commission and South Dakota electric-utilities companies.

According to the meeting minutes, “Representative Rounds indicated that, based on positive feedback, he will approach the Executive Board about using the interim to have meetings like this in the future, and that he appreciated the support of Commerce and Energy members.”

The meeting today features the Department of Labor and Regulation, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Bureau of Administration.

Other House members are Arch Beal, R-Sioux Falls; Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham; Lana Greenfield, R-Doland; Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings; David Johnson, R-Rapid City; Elizabeth May, R-Kyle; Steven McCleerey, D-Sisseton; John Mills, R-Volga; Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids; Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford; Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls; and Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls.

Senators are Craig Kennedy, D-Yankton; Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls; Stace Nelson, R-Fulton;  Jenna Netherton, R-Sioux Falls; Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen; Neal Tapio, R-Watertown; and Jensen, R-Rapid City.

GOED division grows by two

Two more people recently joined the community development staff at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The Nov. 27 additions of Adam Molseed and Lori Frederick bring the division to four.

They joined director Joe Fiala, who works from the Pierre office, and community development representative Scott Amundson, who is based in Langford.

Commissioner Scott Stern recently announced the hirings of Frederick and Molseed.

Their “knowledge, skills and passion for South Dakota” make them “great assets,” Fiala said in a statement.

Frederick was executive director of the Deadwood-Lead Economic Development Corporation and now covers western South Dakota. She can be reached at or (605) 641-8320.

Molseed was a senior revenue agent for state government’s Department of Revenue in Sioux Falls. He now covers southeastern South Dakota. He can be reached at or (605) 367-4654.

Other personnel changes at GOED include the recent retirement by Charlie Van Gerpen of Pierre,

Haugaard set as next House speaker pro tem

House Republicans met in a closed-door caucus Tuesday morning and nominated Rep. Steve Haugaard of Sioux Falls for the vacant post of speaker pro tempore, according to Jason Hancock, executive director for the non-partisan Legislative Research Council.

The full House of Representatives will vote on the nomination when it convenes for its regular 2018 session at noon Tuesday, January 9, Hancock said.

Haugaard would be starting his fourth year in the House when the 2018 session opens.

Haugaard would preside over the House when the speaker, Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, isn’t available. Typically the speaker pro tem is selected as the new speaker after legislative elections for the next term.

The post previously was held by former Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who resigned earlier this year.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, selected Doug Barthel, R-Sioux Falls, as the replacement for Haggar in the 70-member House. The appointment came Sept. 6.

Rep. Barthel took his legislative oath Tuesday prior to the governor’s budget speech to a House chamber jammed with representatives at their desks and senators on chairs filling the aisles.

Haugaard reportedly competed against Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, and Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, for the speaker pro tem spot.

House Republicans normally don’t discuss caucus elections.

Legislators selected to replace Rep. Tieszen

The Nov. 22 death of state Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, created vacancies on several legislative panels that meet later this month.

Rep. John Lake, R-Gettysburg, takes the seat on the State-Tribal Relations Committee. The panel meets for the fourth and final time Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. MT in Rapid City.

Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, fills the vacancy on the Government Operations and Audit Committee. The panel meets Dec. 18 at 8 a.m. CT in the Capitol. An agenda hasn’t been posted.

The Obama and Trump travel records

Judicial Watch seems like it leans to the side of protecting taxpayers. Amid the controversies in recent months about spending excesses by some members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, there came this recent report by Judicial Watch about the previous resident of the White House, President Barack Obama, and the current one, President Trump. Neither one seems to be frugal.

Here’s the Weekly Update excerpt from Dec. 1, 2017:

Obama Vacations, Campaigning Cost Taxpayers New Total Over $114 Million

If you had the impression that President Obama enjoyed Air Force One a bit too much, you were absolutely right. It has taken a while to get the details, but we have them. And, make no mistake, we’re watching President Trump as well.

We have obtained records from the U.S. Department of the Air Force and the Secret Service in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and two FOIA lawsuits for travel expenses by the families of former President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

The total for Obama travel is $9,028,346.90 for this production of documents. Added to the previously released costs, the known total for travel expenses for the Obamas is now a staggering $114,691,322.17.

The total for President Trump’s travels in these documents is $2,821,367.34. Added to the previously released costs, the known travel costs are now $10,381,792.35

We obtained the new Obama travel records from the Secret Service as the result of a May 2017 FOIA lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-01007)). Our lawsuit produced the following travel records showing a total of $9,028,346.90 for Obama travel:

A pair of Obama family vacations the weekend of February 14, 2014, cost the Secret Service $272,192.91:

• Michelle Obama’s annual trip to Aspen with her daughters – where she shut down the airport for an hour – cost $6,970 in air/rail, $5,614.99 in car rentals and $76,078.30 in hotels for a total of $88,663.29

• President Obama’s annual golfing trip to Palm Springs included a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and cost $10,951 in air/rail, $10,166.79 in car rentals and $162,411.80 in hotels for a total of $183,529.62

• Michelle Obama made two North Carolina trips in 2016 to campaign for Hillary Clinton. Air Force expenses total $40,902.40. In both trips, she took a C-40C military jet operating at $5,312 per hour.

• Michelle Obama flew to Charlottesville then to Raleigh on October 4 for 2.1 hours at a total of $11,155.20

• Michelle Obama flew round trip to Belville and then Salem on October 26 and 27 for a total of 5.6 hours at $29,747.20.

In July 2017, we filed a separate FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the Air Force and Secret Service travel expenditures for the Trump family during April 2017 and Obama family between January 2009 and January 2017 (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-01341)).

Air Force and Secret Service records show President Obama’s annual trips to his former hometown of Chicago cost $7,444,780.78.

• During fiscal year 2015, Obama flew 9 hours at an operating cost of $206,337 per hour for a total of $1,857,033

• During fiscal year 2016, Obama flew 5 hours at an operating cost of $180,118 per hour for a total of $900,590

• During fiscal year 2017, Obama flew 6.2 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $882,756

• Secret Service records show a total of $3,804,401.78 in costs between 2011 and 2016 for the Chicago trips. The Secret Service spent $3,372,399.07 in hotels, $423,428.28 in car rentals and $8,574.50 in miscellaneous expenses.

• Secret Service showed expenses for Obama’s post-presidency travels of $1,913,702.21 including: $936,742.56 in hotels; $159,393.40 in air/rail; $2,684.11 in car rentals; $819.70 in overtime; and $814,062.44 in miscellaneous expenses. The destinations of these trips were withheld under “privacy” and “law enforcement” exemptions.

Air Force documents showed two of President Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago cost $1,124,802:

• President Trump flew to Mar-a-Lago to meet with China’s President Ji Jinping between April 6-9 for 4.1 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $583,758

• President Trump flew to Mar-a-Lago to celebrate Easter between April 14-16 for 3.8 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total $541,044

• Judicial Watch obtained Air Force records through a FOIA request showing that President Trump’s visits to his Bedminster, NJ, golf resort and a Pennsylvania rally cost $603,107.40: President Trump flew to a rally in Harrisburg, PA on April 29 to celebrate his 100th day in office. He flew 1.1 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 for a total of $156,618;

• President Trump flew to the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ between May 5-8, where he tweeted that he was saving money by not going to New York and causing a disruption. He flew 1.5 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 and .7 hours on a C-32A military jet at $15,994 for a total of $224,765.80;

• President Trump flew to Bedminster between June 9-11 for 1.4 hours at an operating cost of $142,380 per hour for a total of $199,332 and;

• Melania Trump flew to Bedminster July 14–16 in a military C-32A jet for 1.4 hours at an operating cost of $15,994 for a total of $22,391.60.

We elect a president, not a king with a royal right to travel at taxpayers’ expense. He should travel efficiently and safely, but not unduly. And it shouldn’t require federal lawsuits to prod the Secret Service and Air Force to produce information about the costs of presidential travel. Whether the travel is necessary or not, it’s a massive amount of money. We will continue to monitor this spending while taxpayers continue to pay the bills for presidential travel.

One legislator’s take on replacing Rep. Tieszen

I sent a note Thursday to state Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, asking what advice he would offer to the person that Gov. Dennis Daugaard appoints to replace state Rep. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City. The funeral for Rep. Tieszen is Monday.

Lust served eight consecutive years in the House of Representatives, including the final four as House Republican leader, and returned to full-time law practice in 2015. After the death of Rep. Dan Dryden, R-Rapid City, last year, the governor appointed Lust to the vacancy. Lust is now serving the term Dryden won. Lust doesn’t plan to run in 2018.

Here’s what Dave had to say via email Thursday afternoon:

“Not to sound cliché but Craig really is irreplaceable. I cannot think of a legislator with whom I have served who was as engaged, responsive, and professional as Craig. He thoroughly enjoyed everything involved with the process. The things many legislators least enjoy (social events, crackerbarrels, etc…) were things Craig relished. He thoroughly enjoyed people – regardless of their perspective or beliefs. We had many hours in the car together to talk about issues and ideas. Those are great memories and I am going to miss that the most.

“I hope his replacement strives to maintain a similar level of professionalism, thoughtfulness, and respect for others. More importantly, I hope those who remain in the legislature model their conduct after Craig. That would be a great way to honor him.”

Grain company gets state’s second OK for Presho elevator

Dakota Mill and Grain began moving dirt recently at its site for a grain elevator the Rapid City firm has proposed at Presho. Meanwhile state government’s Aeronautics Commission gave its approval Tuesday for the elevator tower at the site.

The commission, meeting in Pierre, approved permits for a structure that could be 173 feet tall, as company officials prefer, or 153 feet as the company’s fallback position. Both permits are pending before the Federal Aviation Administration for a decision about whether either height meets the no-hazard standard.

The elevator site is 0.85 miles northeast from the Presho public airport.

State government’s Railroad Board gave the green light to Dakota Mill and Grain earlier this year to build a facility at Presho. The siding would be on state-owned property along the state-owned Mitchell-Rapid City rail line.

Jerry Cope of Rapid City serves on the railroad panel. Dakota Mill and Grain employs him. Cope abstained from the rail board’s discussion and approval of the Presho project.

“They’re in a hurry to put this facility up,” Colton Stahl, an employee in the state office of air, rail and transit, told Aeronautics Commission members Tuesday.

Commission member Arlen Hauge of Sioux Falls initially said he’d prefer to wait for the FAA’s decision regarding whether the elevator would be a hazard for an airplane.

“It just looks to me it would be a crazy place to put a structure,” Hauge said. He described a situation for a plane departing Presho airport.

Bob Huggins of Sioux Falls, the new commissioner whom Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed earlier this month, didn’t agree with Hauge.

“It’s a grain elevator in South Dakota,” said Huggins, who worked twelve years as air traffic controller at the Sioux Falls public airport before recently retiring.

Huggins added, “I think it’s one of the least objectionable buildings I’ve seen.”

Eric Odenback of Eureka, the commission’s chairman, said the state commission’s decision wouldn’t matter if the FAA doesn’t approve the elevator. Hauge withdrew his substitute motion and voted for allowing the structure at either height.

Governor issues appointments

Gov. Dennis Daugaard made one reappointment and two appointments recently to state government boards and commissions, according to the latest issue of the Legislature’s official Register.

Kenneth Albers of Canton was reappointed to the Board of Pardons and Paroles. Albers, a former sheriff and a former legislator, would serve in his new term starting Jan. 18, 2018, until Jan. 17, 2022. He served 10 years as a state senator, from 1997 through 2004 and from 2007 through 2008.

Norman Sorenson of Rapid City was appointed to the Board of Hearing Aid Dispensers and Audiologists effective immediately Nov. 20, 2017. His term runs until Oct. 30, 2020. He succeeds Louise French of Rapid City, who served three terms. She originally was appointed July 18, 2008, by then-Gov. Mike Rounds.

Robert Huggins of Sioux Falls was appointed to the Aeronautics Commission. His term took effect immediately Nov. 17, 2017, and runs until Oct. 30, 2020. He succeeds Vernon “Skip” VanDerhule of Yankton. VanDerhule served three terms and originally was appointed Aug. 19, 2004, by then-Gov. Rounds.

State Banking Division issues lending-exemption guidelines

The Legislature approved a law earlier this year regarding money lenders and nonresidential mortgage lenders. Prime sponsor was Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City; the lead sponsor in the second chamber was Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg. The measure’s final version won Senate approval 33-2 and got the green light from the House of Representatives 45-16 (and those sixteen are quite the mix of red R, blue D, and shades of purple).

The new law set a cap of $4 million and a limit of five or fewer nonresidential loans. Lust said a previous law passed in 2015 was too broad and covered too much. “I would argue we don’t need to regulate as far as we have,” he said. Lust added that many communities have people who are lenders of last resort and charge high interest rates. “These loans help people get financing immediately or ultimately,” he said.

“What they’re really asking is to be exempt from a tax,” argued Rep. Hugh Bartels, R-Watertown, who has been a longtime banker. He opposed the measure. Bartels told House members that bank exemptions have grown to $7 million from $5 million in recent years. Responded Rep. Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls, the legislation wasn’t about payday lending. “We’re talking about economic development in our communities,” Willadsen said.

Cronin told the Senate the purpose of the bill was to allow people and institutions to invest in businesses that otherwise can’t get a loan. He said the lender is barred from debt-collection tactics, which he described as “another good move.” Exceeding the $4 million requires registering with the state and becoming subject to the state’s six percent bank-franchise tax.

“I think we’ve got a good product here,” Cronin said. Sen. Jim Stalzer, R- said the new wording changed his position to an aye from a nay.

Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, said her family’s business received a loan “from a really good gentleman who was willing to take a risk” and now are lenders too.

State government’s Department of Labor and Regulation announced this morning the forms for qualifying for the exemption are now available. Here’s the news release.

Banking Division Issues Money and Mortgage Lender Reporting Guidance

PIERRE, S.D. – House Bill 1179 passed during the 2017 legislative session and became effective July 1, 2017. It created limited exemptions for certain money lenders and nonresidential mortgage lenders under SDCL Chapters 54-4 and 54-14.

Official guidance on House Bill 1179 and the required annual reporting forms are posted at Annual reports must be filed with the South Dakota Division of Banking by Dec. 31, 2017.

The reporting requirement included in House Bill 1179 is not intended to apply to loans made between family members. Additional questions can be directed to the Division at 605-773-3421.