Monthly Archives: April 2012

Brand Board withdraws increase

Through use of a tabling motion that stifled discussion under the rules of procedure, the state Brand Board voted this morning to withdraw the 20-cent increase in the fee for livestock ownership inspections. The board set a new meeting for May 15 to discuss where to go next. At least some members want the governor to be there or to be ably respresented. It was the governor’s direction that the increase was withdrawn today. The fee will remain at 80 cents per head until further action. The board had approved raising the fee to $1 last month but the increase hadn’t cleared the Legislature’s rules-review process yet, so the higher fee hadn’t gone into effect yet in the field.

Two very important statewide elections aren’t on the ballot

The South Dakota Retirement System board of trustees holds very important influence over the lives of tens of thousands of households statewide and nationally. Three of the elected seats are up for voting by members this spring. One of the three isn’t contested. Eric Stroeder is unopposed for re-election as a state employees representative. He is the engineering supervisor for the state Department of Transportation in Mobridge and has long been active in state employee issues. He has served on the SDRS board since 2004.

The two contested seats are for representatives of school boards and the Board of Regents.

Dave Merrill, who’s been on the SDRS board for a total of 22 years during different spans, is seeking election again as a school board representative. He is a member of Plankinton school board and was selected to the SDRS board again in 2010 to fill a vacancy. Lisa Engels is a member of the West Central school board and currently is one of the directors for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

Louise Loban of Volga is assistant director of human resources at South Dakota State University and has been a regents representative on the SDRS board since 1990. Monte Kramer is the vice president for finance and administration in the regental system’s central office in Pierre.

All three seats carry four-year terms. Voting takes place by numbered mail-in ballot through May 25; the SDRS office must receive them by 5 p.m. that day.

If you have the time, you should listen to it

We continue to see allegations and counter-claims made on blogs and in newspapers, and sometimes hear the same things in broadcast reports and general conversations, regarding the special investigation hearing held Jan. 3 by the Legislature’s Executive Board in response to the letter from six lawmakers, led by Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, and Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. Having sat through that meeting, this reporter suggests that legislators, candidates, other political participants and members of the general public read the minutes from that meeting and listen to the entire audio archive. The link is on the Legislative Research Council’s website; at that spot, you can click on the minutes or click on the audio for the Jan. 3 meeting. (The audio seems to take an abnormally long time to connect, which is something perhaps LRC can address.)

New HSC director starts at salary near predecessor’s

The state Human Services Center gets a new director in Ric Compton, from Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was director of clinic operations and behavioral health services for Affinity Medical Group. He’ll be paid $91,740. That’s midpoint for the salary range set for that occupation, according to Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s spokesman. When Cory Nelson jumped for a bigger salary and better relations in Arizona, Nelson was making $92,000. Under the Daugaard administration Nelson had taken a pay cut, about which he was unhappy, after getting a $10,000 pay raise, to $102,000 in April 2010, under the Rounds administration; that raise came after his then-superior said Nelson was getting recruited to better-paying places of employment. Few people remember what a stink was raised when Nelson was appointed, initially on a stand-in basis and then permanently as the HSC administrator, because he didn’t have a higher degree, in the last years of the Janklow administration. At the time he showed he was able to do the job. Evidently he became so skilled at it that he could run the Arizona state hospital, the job for which he left Yankton. Now Jeff Bloomberg, another Janklow cabinet appointee (Corrections) who stayed in the Rounds cabinet (Bureau of Administration) and most recently has been in a staff lawyer job at the state Bureau of Personnel, reportedly is heading to Arizona too. He’s declined an interview about the change.

I’ll take $5,000.50 in chips, please

Under the proposed rule changes from the state Commission on Gaming, that could be accomplished with two of the new chips the commission wants to put into play. The commission is seeking approval for Deadwood casinos to offer 50-cent chips, $1,000 chips and $5,000 chips. The four-figure chips come in the wake of the Legislature’s approval of Sen. Tom Nelson’s bill raising the bet limit to $1,000 from the $100 maximum that’s been in place for the past decade. The half-dollar chip aims at the opposite end of the marketplace. The $5,000 presumably is for the poker tables. The new chips are among many rule changes, including tighter security provisions, that will receive a public hearing May 16, starting at 9 a.m. in Deadwood city hall.

Brand Board might withdraw fee increase

The state Brand Board today scheduled a special teleconference meeting for Friday, April 27, at 10 a.m. Central. The only item on the agenda is withdrawal of the administrative rule change that would increase the livestock ownership inspection fee to $1 from the current 80 cents per head. There will be telephone lines for the public to participate at two locations. Those are the Brand Board office in Pierre at 209 W. Dakota Ave, and the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association office in Rapid City at 426 St. Joseph St. This is an interesting turnaround. We’re waiting to hear back on the reasons for the reversal.

Oil and gas development tops Legislature’s study list

The Legislature’s Executive Board this morning easily selected oil and gas development as the top choice for an interim study this summer and fall. The general topic was also the favorite in a survey of legislators. Coming out of the pack as the other choice, on a 8-6 vote, was a study of the purpose and funding of higher education. It prevailed over a study of K-12 funding and a study of livestock development issues.

The board also decided there won’t be a study of any state government departments or agencies this year. The Legislature earlier this year repealed that requirement of an annual review. Left on the waiting list are the Department of Health and the Bureau of Finance and Management.

And the board also asked the Legislative Research Council staff to recommend a new policy on travel by legislators in 2013.

Time to fill annual opening on Investment Council

The Legislature’s Executive Board will be taking applications and conducting interviews in the weeks ahead as the initial steps for appointing a new member of the South Dakota Investment Council. Legislative Research Council director Jim Fry told Executive Board members today there isn’t a partisan restriction on the seat that’s opening. He said the council’s current membership is “fairly heavy” on bankers and suggested there might be consideration to choosing an appointee from a different sector. There are some names that have been suggested but they haven’t been contacted, Fry said. Last year the board considered more than half a dozen candidates from across South Dakota. Joseph Anglin of Spearfish is the current chairman and is finishing his five-year term. The Executive Board will accept names at its May meeting and can make a decision in June, said Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood, the board’s chairman. The council has five members appointed by the board, one per year, and three standing members, who are the state treasurer, the state lands commissioner and the South Dakota Retirement System’s administrator. The council oversees the investment policies and decisions for state government funds, the state school lands’ permanent fund, the state trust funds and the SDRS portfolio. The council’s next chairman, assuming that precedent is followed, will be the current vice chairman, Wes Tschetter of Brookings.

Short-timers at wheel steering course for Legislature

The Legislature’s Executive Board meets today to start making a variety of big decisions. There are the discussions on interim studies and appointments to those committees. There’s the selection of at least one or possibly two state agencies and departments to study. And there’s the initial discussion of the Legislature’s new planning committee, with the goal of appointing members to that panel in June, even though Rep. Brian Liss, R-Sioux Falls, is circulating a referendum petition to force House Bill 1133 to a statewide vote in the November general election. Another twist in all of this is the Executive Board’s leadership. Its chairman, Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood, is term-limited and retiring, while its vice chair, Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, isn’t seeking re-election. It must be a Monday.