Monthly Archives: January 2013

The seven who voted no on criminal justice reforms

SB 70 won final legislative approval on a vote of 63-7 this afternoon (Thursday) in the state House of Representatives. Voting against the 33-page, 83-section package of criminal justice reforms, aimed at allowing more non-violent offenders straighten out through treatment and abstention in their home communities, were seven Republicans: Brock Greenfield of Clark, Dan Kaiser of Aberdeen, Betty Olson of Prairie City, Elizabeth May of Kyle, Lance Russell of Hot Springs, Isaac Latterell of Sioux Falls and Stace Nelson of Fulton. When the bill was passed 31-2 by the Senate on Jan. 24, the no votes came from Republicans Tim Begalka of Clear Lake and David Omdahl of Sioux Falls. The bill now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his signature to become law.

If you look closely you can see the green lights and the red lights at the representatives desks showing whether the lawmaker is voting yes or no. This was the scene from the vote on SB 70 Thursday afternoon.

Medical marijuana defense hearing under way w/update

The state House Health and Human Services Committee is taking testimony from supporters of the medical-marijuana defense bill. No one growing or distributing marijuana would be allowed to use the defense under a proposed amendment to HB 1227. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Scott Munsterman, R-Brookings, is allowing witnesses from outside of Pierre to testify first. Munsterman hasn’t directly said so, but the context of several of his statements suggest the bill will be held over to the next meeting Tuesday. Speaking in favor have been Gus Hercules, Bob Newland and Emmett Reistroffer, long-time advocates of legalized marijuana use. First opponent to testify is Bryan Gortmaker from state Division of Criminal Investigation. The bill’s prime sponsor is Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen, a first-year lawmaker and an Aberdeen police officer.

UPDATE: The bill was held for committee action until Tuesday.

Senators remove names of Humane Society, PETA w/update

The state House of Representatives is scheduled to take a second look today at its concurrent resolution opposing any ballot initiative or acts that would undermine the livelihood of agricultural producers. The original version, adopted by the House 69-1 on Jan. 23, specifically listed the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and “other animal rights groups.” The Senate,  however, took out those specific references Tuesday and made a second change, deleting “farm animals” and inserting “livestock.” The Senate then approved the new version 35-0. The resolution, which essentially is a statement of opinion and doesn’t carry any legal efffect, now returns to the House where the representatives will decide whether to accept the Senate amendments. The resolution was brought by Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, and his lead sponsor in the Senate is another lawmaker from the same district, Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. The amendments were brought by Van Gerpen. The lone no vote so far came from Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, a retired circuit judge.

UPDATE: House members voted 70-0 Thursday afternoon to accept the Senate amendments.

No fireworks over fireworks

“This particular bill has certainly had some lively discussions, both pros and cons,” Sen. Mark Kirkeby, R-Rapid City, said this morning, in asking that his legislation, SB 128, be killed without a hearing. It would have repealed a section of existing law regarding county commission authority to prohibit fireworks outside municipalities and replaced that section with a broader and less detailed process. The Senate Local Government Committee, which Kirkeby chairs, did as he wished.

Opting out of the opt-out

Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, wants to change the phrase that is used to describe the extra property tax levy which school districts can use. His SB 99 would eliminate the words “opt out” in a section of state law and insert the new phrase “instructional support levy.” The Senate Taxation Committee is scheduled to hear the bill this morning (Wednesday). Is there more to this than simply changing the image? Currently the opt-out revenue can be used for general fund purposes by a school district. Changing to instructional-support levy would seem to narrow the purposes, at least by implication. The actual legislation doesn’t address that point, however and the various requirements such as the legal advertising and the options to hold a referendum remain intact.

The debut of Rep. Craig

Regardless whether you support or oppose the school-sentinels bill passed by the state House of Representatives this afternoon, it’s worth acknowledging that freshman lawmaker Scott Craig handled himself well in the debate. Craig, R-Rapid City, is prime sponsor of the measure, HB 1087. Craig is a 48-year-old pastor. He gave a good initial speech explaining the bill to House members and he didn’t flinch under questioning. He is prime sponsor of two other bills this legislative session. HB 1177 would make it a felony for failure to return within 48 hours of the contracted time any leased or rented personal property of more than $1,500 in worth. His third bill is HB 1232, which make a felony the attempted hiring of a person under age 18 for a sexual act. Both of those bills are assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, and hearings haven’t been scheduled yet on them.

Have Stockgrowers beaten Daugaard administration?

The word we’re picking up this morning in the Capitol’s halls and in the Senate chamber’s aisles is the Senate will kill the Brand Board’s two bills this afternoon. One bill sought to allow the board to impose a local inspection fee of up to $25 to cover the additional time and mileage to send an inspector to a ranch or other special location rather than inspect livestock for ownership at the West River sale barns. The other bill would eliminate the board’s requirement to conduct horse and mule ownership inspections west of the Missouri River. The two bills are being fought against fiercely at the grassroots level by the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association. The Senate delayed debates that were scheduled Friday and again Monday. The Daugaard administration has pushed hard for passage of the measures, going so far as to send three witnesses — governor’s policy advisor Nathan Sanderson, a Department of Agriculture staff member and Brand Board executive director Larry Stearns — to testify at the Senate committee hearing last week.

So what’s the other shoe yet to drop? Horse and mule inspections cost, on average, more than twice as much to perform as the Brand Board receives from the 90-cent inspection fee. Local inspections likewise cost much more than is returned from the 90-cent fee. The Brand Board can make an argument in favor of raising the fee. That can be done by the board after a rules hearing, with the final decision then up to the six lawmakers who sit on the Legislature’s rules review committee. The Rounds administration succeeded in getting the Brand Board to stop contracting with the Stockgrowers and move the inspection program within the Department of Agriculture. There has now been a decade of tension involving the Stockgrowers. Last year there appeared to be a deal supporting the local-inspection charge, but the Stockgrowers later changed their position and favored an additional nickel charged on every head rather than charging only the ranchers wanting local inspections. The Stockgrowers detailed that change of position during the bills hearing last week. The Stockgrowers also opposed eliminating the horse and mule inspections. The likely spin now will be that the additional dime, rumored to be contemplated by the Daugaard administration, is the only choice left if the bills are killed today. The bumper sticker message then becomes “don’t blame us, blame the Stockgrowers.”

This feud seems destined to become worse and might not ever get better. As I write this, the immediate battle is unfolding as lobbyists and ranchers work the Senate desks. (I am subsequently told they are working another bill.)

Why wait to scatter ashes?

The state Senate voted today in favor of repealing South Dakota’s 30-day waiting period to scatter ashes after a cremation. Why South Dakota has such a law isn’t clear. South Dakota adopted model national legislation about 20 years ago and the requirement was part of that, according to Sen. Shantel Krebs, R-Renner. She said funeral directors aren’t sure why the waiting period was necessary. She siad it might have resulted from the scarcity of crematorium services back then. The legislation, SB 103, now heads to the House for consideration. The Senate vote was 33-0.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, the 30-day period covers the time until the ashes can be released.

Governor names new member to victims commission

Former state Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, was appointed this month to the South Dakota Crime  Victims’  Compensation Commission. Cutler, a lawyer, succeeds Alicia Alvarez of Sioux Falls. Cutler’s appointment from Gov. Dennis Daugaard is good until Oct. 30, 2014. The five-member commission works the state Department of Social Services, the agency that administers the program. Cutler didn’t seek re-election last year and endorsed Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, who won election to the Senate seat.

It would be good to see the tax analysis on wind farms

Perhaps the most significant missing ingredient in the debate over tax breaks for wind-electricity projects in South Dakota is a spread sheet showing, by existing project, the taxes paid, the taxes forgiven or rebated, and the taxes projected through the lifespan of each installation. It also would be worthwhile to see a spread sheet about the potential effects on taxes and tax breaks from wind-power legislation offered in 2013 session.  Perhaps the state Department of Revenue could collect this data and present it to the Legislature.

There is a major bill introduced by Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. Its lead sponsor in the House is Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. The bill is SB 195 and it has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, chaired by Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown. The Legislature appointed a special task force in 2011 to study wind energy, chaired by Rep. Solum.

The tax analysis becomes highly important because, as one wind-power advocate told me in a conversation last week, “Jobs shouldn’t even be part of the discussion.” Jobs are important to consider. There are the jobs at the wind-blade plant at Aberdeen, for example, and during the construction phase. But it is true that wind farms aren’t big producers of ongoing jobs. Once the towers are and the turbines are turning, the major benefit at that point is the tax revenue. It would be worthwhile to know whether the tax breaks given up front are worth the tax revenues ultimately received.