Monthly Archives: December 2013

Doubling down with DD and MM

I’ll let someone else scurry to the files to check whether any previous tandem of governor and lieutenant governor in South Dakota’s history needed only two consonants for their four main initials. As for whether they will be on the Republican column of the ballot again in 2014, we await the official announcement from Dennis Daugaard and his running mate Matt Michels. Some Republicans speculated in recent months that Lt. Gov. Michels wouldn’t be back for a 2014 run. When I asked him the other day, he replied: “I can only tell you that Linda Daugaard recently bought several hundred t-shirts that say ‘Daugaard-Michels’.”

Governor makes Fort Sisseton appointments

Folks in northeastern South Dakota are proud of the historic treasure that is Fort Sisseton. Recently Gov. Dennis Daugaard named Eileen Warzeka of Lake City and Kirk Jones of Britton to seats on the special commission for the site. Their terms run until Nov. 24, 2017. He also reappointed Karen DeVine of Britton and Dennis Darrington of Waubay. Their new terms likewise run until Nov. 24, 2017.

Governor decides against Groseclose reappointment

Time is up for Chet Groseclose Jr. on the state Railroad Board. The Sioux Falls (and formerly Aberdeen) lawyer confirmed overnight that he wasn’t reappointed to the board by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Groseclose’s final term expired Oct. 30. His name subsequently disappeared from the state Department of Transportation’s web page for the board. The term expired the same day for another board member, Jack Parliament of Sioux Falls, but his name remains on the web page. Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist didn’t have an explanation. Other board members however said Groseclose wasn’t reappointed. Groseclose was the board’s chairman, edging former chairman Todd Yeaton (now of Kimball, then of Highmore) on a 4-3 vote. The acting chairman now is the newest member, Sheldon Cotton of Volga; he has been the vice chairman.

Groseclose said his message to the governor was that he would like to be reappointed but could understand if the governor felt Groseclose had served long enough. Groseclose has served on the board since 1987 when then-Gov. George S. Mickelson appointed him. He said last year, as he competed for the chairmanship, that he didn’t think he would be reappointed. Groseclose contributed $3,000 to the campaign of Democratic governor candidate Scott Heidepriem in 2010. Daugaard, a Republican, defeated Heidepriem. Groseclose becomes at least the second Heidepriem contributor to lose a reappointment. Dick Gregerson, a Sioux Falls lawyer, wasn’t reappointed to the state Transportation Commission.

Groseclose said he didn’t hear from the governor regarding a new term. “I was notified by the DOT that the governor had made the decision not to reappoint me. I was not given any reason. I don’t suppose I am owed any explanation or even any response from the governor’s office,” Groseclose said. There is no word circulating yet on a successor.

125,000 words

Weather, rural life and characters are often the subjects in South Dakota 125: A Pictorial History. The new book from South Dakota Magazine captures 124 years of history (and one year, 2014, of pre-history) with a black-and-white photograph per year. Some of the photos are famous. Many now will be. I’d forgotten about the shot of Linda and George Mickelson blowing out the 100-candle cake. There is a haunting image of the young Billie Sutton preparing for a saddle bronc ride.  The image of Sherwin Linton, guitar in hand, on the empty street of Hazel takes us back to the 1970s. The Hunhoffs’ book found a spot beneath our Christmas tree and now it has a spot in our home forever. The people in the photographs helped make South Dakota what it was and still is. The names of the photographers are often lost but the images live beyond their times.

Werner wants debate on waterfowl licenses

“Come Home to Hunt” is the slogan that state Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, is using for legislation he said last night that he plans to introduce in the 2014 session. He hopes to encourage more people to hunt waterfowl in South Dakota by making non-resident licenses easier to obtain. Residents who buy waterfowl licenses would be allowed to sponsor non-residents who are family members. That way, they could avoid the non-resident lottery, according to Werner. He sees this as a revenue generator for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department and, most importantly, as a way for families to re-connect while they pursue ducks and geese. Purchases of waterfowl licenses by South Dakota residents haven’t changed much in recent years. Non-residents were actually banned from hunting waterfowl in South Dakota at one point, in part because of excesses. Werner sees this “Come Home to Hunt” campaign as an extension of state government’s Dakota Roots program that encourages former South Dakotans to return to live here. Because of the sharp decline of the pheasant population this year, South Dakota businesses and GFP took a tough financial hit this season with the corrresponding declines in small-game license sales. Non-residents can buy as many 10-day pheasant licenses as they choose. Werner wants to find a way to help former South Dakotans come back more frequently if they want to hunt waterfowl.

On a semi-related note, should we start calling non-resident hunters and anglers by another term? Maybe visiting hunters and visiting anglers? Same for college students. This isn’t part of Werner’s proposal, but non-resident strikes me as harsh every time I write it.

The Legislature’s shake-up / reform begins

The outside review conducted of the South Dakota Legislature earlier this year produced some important observations. One was the fundamental disconnect in the Legislature’s administration. The House speaker and the Senate president pro tem are the presiding officers during the legislative session’s three months. But the Executive Board, whose members are elected from the Legislature’s ranks every two years, serve as the administrators for the Legislature during the other nine months of the year. That would change under Senate Bill 1, which has been pre-filed for the 2014 session. Its key points would remove that disconnect.

Section 1 would designate the House speaker as the E-board’s chairman in even-numbered years and the Senate president pro tem as the E-board’s chairman in odd-numbered years. This would replace the current process, where the board each term selects a chairman and a vice chairman for two years. Under the proposed change, the speaker would be the vice chairman in odd-numbered years and the president pro tem would be the vice-chairman in even-numbered years. In other words, the two presiding officers will be in charge year-round.

The board would still have 15 members with six from the Senate, seven from the House and the two presiding officers. The board would be in charge year-round of the Legislative Research Council, which is the professional and administrative staff.

SB1 comes at the request of the current Executive Board. The prime sponsor is the E-board’s current chairman, Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel. The lead sponsor in the House is the E-board’s vice-chairman, Rep. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell. Thirteen of the board’s 15 members have their names on the bill.

FOOTNOTE: The legislation, if passed, would take effect Jan. 1, 2015, with the arrival of the new Legislature after the November 2014 elections.




An important step for Revenue

If you’ve never before heard of Darrell Halse, that’s probably good for you.  He is a special agent for the investigative services bureau within the state Department of Revenue, a job he’s now held for nine years. He helps fight tax fraud in South Dakota. Halse recently achieved a major accomplishment when he was certified by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners after passing an examination and meeting other criteria for character, experience and education. To receive his ACFE credential he demonstrated knowledge in four key areas: Fraudulent financial transactions, fraud prevention and deterrence, legal elements of fraud and fraud investigation. Andy Fergel, chief legal counsel for the department, said Halse showed hard work and determination in gaining the credential. No other agent currently in the department has achieved it and only one other special agent has done it.

The Pressler balloon begins to fill

With Joe O’Sullivan’s report this morning in the Rapid City Journal that Larry Pressler has an announcement tour set for Dec. 30, with stops in Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Aberdeen and Watertown, there seems little doubt the former U.S. senator is entering the 2014 campaign for U.S. Senate. This is big news on several levels.

First, Pressler has been a Republican but plans to run as an independent. He lost the Senate seat in 1996 to Democratic challenger Tim Johnson. Now Johnson is retiring rather than seek re-election to a fourth term in 2014. Pressler’s move into the independent rank matches the trend in voter registration since then. In 1996 the voter registration numbers were Republicans 223,932; Democrats 184,262; and independents 51,121. As of Dec. 2, 2013, the numbers were Republicans 238,635; Democrats 181,519; and independents 97,363. During that stretch of 17 years, Republicans grew by about 14,700; Democrats slipped by about 2,800; and independents gained more than 46,200.

Second, Pressler recognizes he would face a tough primary if he ran as a Republican. There are five Republicans currently campaigning for the nomination. When Pressler tried a comeback in 2002, he placed second in a similar crowded primary for the Republican nomination for U.S. House of Representatives. The winner was then-Gov. Bill Janklow with 54.9 percent. Pressler was next at 27.2 percent. There’s no reason he wouldn’t face a similar outcome in 2014 if he jumped into a six-way Republican primary where former Gov. Mike Rounds is the front-runner in money and i.d.

Third, two of the men behind the Pressler candidacy are former state legislator Gene Abdallah of Sioux Falls, who’s been head of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, and Don Frankenfeld of Rapid City, a former legislator and several times a Republican candidate for U.S. House.  Clearly Abdallah and Frankenfeld weren’t impressed by Rounds’ performance as governor if they’re willing to put their reputations on the line behind Pressler, who is 71 and promising to serve only one six-year term as U.S. senator if elected.

Fourth, Pressler was one of the last members of Congress to achieve a major bipartisan piece of legislation with the 1996 telecommunications deregulation act. He was Senate Commerce Committee chairman. That law, signed by President Bill Clinton, unleashed many of the changes we’ve seen in land-line competition, wireless use, cable television and Internet communications and services. Pressler can point by his own experience that he understands the need for bipartisanship in Congress.  He also can claim responsibility for a truly major piece of legislation that truly changed our nation, albeit the changes came after he was defeated, and that is something that can’t be matched by anyone else in this race or among any of our current statewide office holders.

Fifth, Pressler would be making a march on history. He served two terms in the U.S. House and when his intentions were known for the U.S. Senate in 1978, the Democrat in the seat, Jim Abourezk, retired rather than seek re-election. Pressler would be seeking a fourth term, which would tie him with Karl Mundt. No U.S. senator from South Dakota has lost the office and later won election to it again. Pressler is attempting to do that.

Sixth, this is Pressler’s chance to reclaim his reputation. He had become lost in some ways by the time Johnson took him on in 1996. He’s had 18 years to think about it, and this is his last chance to do something about it.

UP takes on a load at Kimball

The word this morning from a guy who knows a lot about the grain business in South Dakota says Union Pacific is picking up a trainload of grain from the new elevator at Kimball. This results from 1) rebuilding the line west of Mitchell; 2) investment in a new elevator at Kimball; and 3) access rights agreements that let another big company poke its nose into a South Dakota market dominated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific. More competition probably leads to better margins for farmers.

Governor fills two vacancies on Transportation Commission

Just in time for the holidays, Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed two new members of the state Transportation Commission. They are Tim Dougherty of Sioux Falls and Larry Thompson of Mitchell. Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist delivered the news today (Thursday) during a teleconference meeting of the commission. They will start serving at the January 2014 meeting. “That’ll put us up to full strength,” commissioner Sam Tidball of Fort Pierre said. There are nine seats on the commission, and two have been vacant for months since the resignations of Kevin Schieffer of Sioux Falls and Mike McDowell of Madison.

Larry Thompson is CEO for Vantage Point Solutions. Tim Dougherty is a lawyer whose private practice includes lobbying during legislative sessions; he is married to U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier and he is a son of the late former lieutenant governor and lobbyist, Bill Dougherty.