Monthly Archives: July 2012

Some federal crimes being punished at home

Home confinement, rather than prison time, was the penalty handed down in two criminal cases recently in federal court in South Dakota. Daniel Berry of Lower Brule received punishment including eight months of home confinement after pleading guilty to burglary. Wayne Roy Besherse of Rosebud received four months of home confinement as part of his punishment after pleading guilty as a felon illegally possessing a firearm. In both instances the sentences were determined by U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange. The use of home confinement by a federal judge happens to come as the governor and the state Supreme Court are looking for additional ways to reduce the growth of the inmate population in South Dakota’s state prisons.

Inflated drug pricing cost Medicaid programs

State and federal governments nationwide will receive payments from McKesson Corporation as reimbursement for overstated prices of prescription drugs that were received by Medicaid patients. South Dakota’s state share of the settlement is $380,300.78. The federal portion of the South Dakota amount is $764,960.12. Nationwide the federal share of the settlement is $187 million, according to South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office.

Maurice LaRue, 1947-2012

Sometimes members of the Legislature do big things, sometimes they simply serve their districts the best they can while they can, and do well at it.  Republican Maurice LaRue of Sturgis served one term (2003-2004) in the state House of Representatives. He died July 28, just short of his birthday on Aug. 13, when he would have turned 65. He was born in Iowa, lived many places as a boy, graduated high school in Mandan and began his teaching and coaching career at Sturgis high school. He never left his new community. He served as a fireman, was active in his church, was involved in economic development and was elected mayor. He introduced two pieces of legislation during his first session in the state House. One would have loosened restrictions on liquor licenses for the benefit of golf courses, the other would have expanded drug-free zones around schools. The golf-course exemption passed in the House, but the Senate narrowly refused to debate it. He filed five pieces of legislation in his second year; one passed the House — it would have allowed for a special temporary alcohol license for an activity such as the motorcycle rally, if the event receiving the temporary license was enclosed in a fence with more than 1,000 participants — but a Senate committee set it aside. When he ran in 2002, LaRue and Larry Rhoden of Union Center came out the nominees in a four-way Republican primary. When LaRue ran for re-election in 2004 he lost in a Republican primary to Rhoden and Thomas Brunner of Newell. He had struggled against cancer since 2010. Services are set for Wednesday in Sturgis.

Are there mountain lions in Grant County?

Probably, because they seem increasingly to be a lot more places than just the Black Hills. And if so, I know some guys from the Milbank area who would rank among the most-likely to legally hunt one. The state Game, Fish and Parks Commission heads to Milbank for its two-day August meeting later this week. There are seven items scheduled for public hearing at 2 p.m. on Aug. 2 at the Milbank Community Center (here’s the link for the agenda on the Internet) but perhaps most significantly the commission plans to make its initial recommendation for the 2013 hunting season for mountain lions. You can’t get much more distant from the Black Hills than beautiful Grant County, and this situation summarizes the geographic dilemma the commission often schedules itself into facing. The meeting starts at 1 p.m. on Aug. 2, runs throughout the afternoon, and resumes on the morning of Aug. 3 (unless the commission gets its agenda accomplished on Aug. 2). The next meeting for the commission is Oct. 4-5 in Deadwood, the heart of mountain lion country, at the AmericInn. If there are any changes recommended from the 2012 mountain lion season, the formal public hearing will be held at the Deadwood meeting on the first afternoon. One senses, from what can be seen at meetings and picked up from background, is an effort afoot to increase the harvest for 2013. The 2012 harvest was set for 70 lions total or 50 females, whichever was reached first. The actual harvest was 73, with 46 females. Four lions were taken on Feb. 29, but only three were reported that day. Those four made for 70. There were three more lions killed on March 1, the date the actual 70th lion that was taken on Feb. 29 was reported to the state Wildlife Division. The hunter who killed that lion, a trophy-class male estimated to be five to six years old and weighing 136 pounds, was an employee of the division. He subsequently was relieved of his duties, and that controversy continues to bubble. It is one reason the commission and Gov. Dennis Daugaard are going ahead with an external review of the Wildlife Division. Another of the reasons is lion policy overall. The stress level is higher than usual of late in some parts of the Game, Fish and Parks Department.

Workers compensation council meeting planned

South Dakota’s advisory council on workers compensation is scheduled to meet Thursday, Sept. 6, in Pierre starting at 1:30 p.m. CDT. The meeting will be held in the Kneip Building’s conference room 3.  The meeting also will be publicly available by videoconferencing through DDN at the state Department of Human Services offices in Rapid City (111 New York Street) and in Sioux Falls (810 E. Tenth St.). The full agenda is available at on the Internet, and among the discussion points is whether to recommend an increase in worker comp payment rates for those employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

Otter Tail prepares to go semi-solo on transmission project

Otter Tail Power is preparing to move ahead on the transmission portion of the now-mothballed Big Stone II powerplant expansion. The state Public Utilities Commission takes up the matter Tuesday, when the commissioners are expected to decide whether to transfer the transmission construction permit to solely Otter Tail. The permit has been held by Otter Tail and six other regional utilities that were involved in Big Stone II.  Otter Tail plans this fall to seek re-certification of the transmission construction permit covering part of the Big Stone to Brookings segment. Another part,  Otter Tail and Xcel, will require an additional construction permit from the PUC. The construction is one of 16 improvements to the Midwest transmission system.

Past is prelude in v.p. hunt

This doesn’t get mentioned very often, because it sounds impolite, and it is clearly offensive to some people. But amid the speculation that U.S. Sen. John Thune could be a presidential candidate some day, or even Mitt Romney’s choice as running mate this year, there is a reason he probably won’t. It is Biola University, which describes its mission as “Biblically Centered Education.” The small school in southern California is where John went to college and graduated with a bachelor degree in 1983. A large segment of our nation’s peoples shares the same basic Christian evangelical beliefs. The school’s doctrinal statement, which can be found here on the school’s Internet site, includes this statement: “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are without error or misstatement in their moral and spiritual teaching and record of historical facts. They are without error or defect of any kind.” Many millions of people in our country and many, many millions of people throughout the world would take very different views.

Religious beliefs haven’t been a negative matter in his past U.S. House and U.S. Senate races in South Dakota — and in fact, his beliefs likely helped him very much in the 1996 Republican primary election — but national politics is a very different stage. Where John Thune can be an invaluable ally for Romney or other Republican presidential candidates in the future is among the people whose religious beliefs are the same as or similar to his. His looks, his speech, his command of issues, his love for the contest and his presence make for a commanding campaigner.

How broad can this be interpreted?

This was brought to my attention in the context of other developments within our state government. It is a provision of state law 1-11-1 which details the attorney general’s duties, and the phrase “because of holding of such office” seems to be the focus of the attention. This is beyond my pay grade, but I’ll pass it along. Here is the provision:

(9) To prosecute state officers who neglect or refuse to comply with the provisions of statutes of this state prohibiting officers of the state from accepting any money, fee, or perquisite other than salary for performance of duties connected with his office or paid because of holding such office and the statute requiring issue and delivery and filing of prenumbered duplicate receipts and accounting for money received for the state;

Official leaving S.D. Dept. of Agriculture

Lucas Lentsch confirms he’s departing from the state Department of Agriculture at the end of this month and will be taking a position in a Pierre investment firm. Lentsch was executive director for the South Dakota Republican Party during its highly successful 2010 election cycle. He began working for the Department of Agriculture in spring 2011 after legislative session. He has been the director of agriculture development,which carries a current annual salary of $74,160.  He is joining Reinke Gray Wealth Management. One of the firm’s leaders is state Sen. Bob Gray, who was South Dakota Republican Party chairman during the 2010 election cycle. “I have a strong agriculture background, so I will largely be working with farm and ranch families. They oftentimes have unique financial and succession planning needs,” Lucas said in an email response about the coming change.

The significance of the Daugaard statement

If Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s political calculators were looking to perhaps mend some fences after the Republican legislative primaries, the statement he issued yesterday might have helped. Daugaard praised the federal appeals court ruling that upheld more of South Dakota’s 2005 abortion restrictions. The Republican governor wound up on the wrong side of several June primaries that likely were decided by conservative voters influenced by grassroots work from anti-abortion activists.