Monthly Archives: April 2014

Lentsch will update GOAC on raw milk talks

Raw milk for human consumption is on the agenda for the May 7 meeting of the Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee chaired by Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings. State Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch said today he plans to deliver an update to the committee about the first round-table held April 17 between various current and past dairy producers as well as South Dakota State University food sciences and food safety experts. Lentsch, who’s chairing the work group, said its next meetings will be July 17, when they’ll tour a dairy that produces raw milk for human consumption, and then in October. “For me, it was fact finding to a new level. Raw milk is legal in South Dakota and here to stay,” he said. The goal for the work group is to “find a path forward,” he said. Lentsch’s department went through three rounds of public hearings last year in trying to get new labeling requirements for producers of raw milk for human consumption. Dakota Rural Action, unable to get the rules stopped, took its battle to the legislative session. One bill, SB 126 sponsored by Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, was offered. It tried to recast state laws to be more favorable to producers of raw milk for human consumption. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee ultimately killed the bill 5-1.

For once, all sides agree in NAT dispute

History of a good kind happened this morning at the meeting of the state Public Utilities Commission. All of the lawyers for all of the sides in seemingly endless battle over Native American Telecom’s authority to operate on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation actually agreed on a matter that previously was in dispute. Because they agreed — and they didn’t participate in the meeting — the small matter went away. This achievement involving PUC attorney Karen Cremer might put her in line for the Nobel peace prize. Meanwhile the case itself, over alleged traffic-pumping by NAT, with Sprint on one side and Native American Telecom and its California-based creators on the other, drags forward into its fourth year.

Chris Nelson endorses Shantel Krebs

South Dakota’s previous secretary of state, Chris Nelson, put his name on the line today (Tuesday) by announcing his support for Shantel Krebs, who is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state this year.

The background is complicated.

Krebs, a state senator from Renner, declared her candidacy last summer.

In the past month the current deputy secretary of state, Patricia Miller, announced that she would run for the Republican nomination too. Miller works for Secretary of State Jason Gant.

Gant decided after Krebs’ announcement last year that he wouldn’t seek re-election to a second term in 2014. He has since sold his house in Pierre and returned to Sioux Falls with his family.

Gant hired Miller as his deputy in 2012 after his previous top aide, Pat Powers, resigned.

The activities of Powers in running a campaign advisory business while serving as Gant’s No. 2, as well as other actions involving Gant’s administration of the office, came under investigation by state Attorney General Marty Jackley in 2012.

The attorney general decided there wasn’t any criminal wrong-doing. The investigation was requested by then-Sen. Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City.

At the time he brought Miller aboard as deputy, Gant also temporarily hired Sue Roust, a Democratic former auditor for Minnehaha County, to oversee the 2012 general election for his office. Roust returned to retirement after the election cycle was complete.

Chris Nelson was secretary of state for two four-year terms and couldn’t seek re-election to a third consecutive term in 2010 under the South Dakota constitution’s term-limit provision.

Prior to his first election in 2002, Nelson was state elections supervisor under then-Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine.

Hazeltine recently endorsed Miller for the nomination.

Nelson ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives and placed second behind now-U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem in a three-candidate primary in June 2010.

Nelson’s then-deputy, Teresa Bray, and former House Speaker Tom Deadrick lost to Gant for the Republican nomination for secretary of state at the 2010 Republican state convention later that summer. Gant, who was a state senator, won the general election for secretary of state over a Democratic state senator, Ben Nesselhuf.

Nelson subsequently was appointed to the state Public Utilities Commission in January 2011 by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, when Dusty Johnson declined to serve the second term to which he was elected in 2010.

Johnson accepted the position of chief of staff for the new governor after serving on his transition team in November and December of 2010.

Nelson won election to the remaining four years of the six-year PUC term in 2012.

Patricia Miller is the wife of former Gov. Walter Dale Miller. She was divorced and he was widowed when they married in 1993 after he became governor.

Walter Dale Miller was serving as lieutenant governor when the state plane crash killed eight men including Gov. George S. Mickelson on April 19, 1993. As lieutenant governor Walter Dale Miller succeeded Mickelson. Walter Dale Miller lost in the June 1994 Republican primary for governor to former Gov. Bill Janklow.

Patricia Miller ran for the Republican nomination for state auditor in 2010. State convention participants chose Steve Barnett for the nomination. Barnett was elected to the office in November.

Krebs served six years in the state House of Representatives, starting in 2005, and has been in the Senate the past four years.

The Piper 32

One of the fundamentals in reporting about an airplane crash is a look at the airplane type. It was a Piper 32R-300 in which four South Dakota men died late Sunday night south of Highmore in a field of wind turbines. The Piper 32R-300 is a single-engine aircraft. The plane that crashed was built in 1976 and was the first model of the 32 that had retractable landing gear. It had seating for six. A newer version of the 32 known as the Saratoga was the model that John F. Kennedy Jr. was flying when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on July 16, 1999, killing him, his wife Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and his sister-in-law Lauren Bessette. Dead in the Highmore crash are Nick Reimann, 33, of Ree Heights; Donald “D.J.” Fischer, 30, of Gettysburg; Logan Rau, 25, of Java; and Brent Beitelspacher, 37, of Bowdle. Beitelspacher would have turned 38 on Monday, the day after the crash. Fischer was a well-known agricultural pilot. The Piper 32 was registered to him. The men were returning from a Texas cattle show. Ree Heights is approximately 12 miles east of Highmore. Gettysburg is approximately 62 miles north and west by highway from Highmore. They were almost home.

Today is deadline for independent candidates

The deadline is 5 p.m. CDT today — Tuesday, April 29 — for independent candidates to file their nominating petitions for U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, governor, state House, state Senate and county courthouse offices. Republican former legislator Gordon Howie of Rapid City delivered his petitions Monday to be an independent candidate for U.S. Senate. That makes for three independents, so far, seeking statewide offices. The others are Republican former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler of Sioux Falls who is, also running for the U.S. Senate; and Michael Myers of Centerville, who’s running for governor.

Independent candidates for the Legislature are few. As of Monday, there were Eric Leggett of Sioux Falls, running in House District 15 which is heavily Democratic in voter registration; Everette McKinley of Philip, running in House District 27 where the incumbents are Democrat Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge and Republican Elizabeth May of Kyle (the fourth candidate is Democrat Anna Takes The Shield of Pine Ridge); and Gardner Gray of Pringle, running in House District 30, where there is a three-way Republican primary and no Democrats filed.

An important date to keep in mind for the November general election this year is Tuesday, Aug. 5; that is the last day for candidates to withdraw from the general election. The followup date is Tuesday, Aug. 12; that is the final day for political party central committees to fill vacancies created by candidates who withdrew their nominations.

Bighorn ram license brings $80,000

For the second year the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission allowed the Wildlife Division to designate a bighorn sheep license for auction. The Midwest chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation brought $80,000 for the any-sheep license at its spring banquet, according to Wildlife Division director Tony Leif. He said GFP has received official notice of the buyer and payment. The license is being processed for issuance. Leif said the name of the winning bidder will be publicly released after the license has been issued. Proceeds are earmarked for GFP’s sheep program. At the same event a year ago, the license brought $103,000. At this year’s auction, held during the March 21-22 convention of the Midwest chapter at Minnetonka, Minnesota, a North Dakota license brought $70,000 and a Wyoming license was bought for $74,000.

Flu activity currently rated as ‘sporadic’

Nothing funny about flu. The latest weekly surveillance report from state epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger shows 12 deaths and 220 hospitalizations during the 2013-2014 flu season in South Dakota. There was one new case confirmed last week, bringing that total to 659, and one new hospitalization.  The 10-year average is 21 deaths and 290 hospitalizations. The 2012-2013 numbers were much worse at 38 dead and 365 in the hospital. Worst in the past 10 years: 42 deaths in the 2004-2005 season. This season’s cases peaked the week of Jan. 1, 2014.

Need to know your noxious weeds?

Back in elementary school we were taught that a weed is any plant growing where it’s not supposed to be. The example was a beautiful rose bush. A rose is easy to pick out. There aren’t any roses, however, on South Dakota’s official state and county lists of noxious weeds. We often hear about the responsibility to prevent the spread of noxious weeds, but candidly I can’t tell a lot of them apart. So I asked the state Department of Agriculture’s Jamie Crew if there is a website with pictures. Sure enough, here are the links for seven state noxious weeds and for the much longer list of county noxious weeds and the county by county sheet of local noxious weeds (without pictures, alas). Interesting that 10 counties don’t have any locally designated noxious weeds… Must be heaven?

Black Hills Power wants to issue more bonds

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission received a request this week from Black Hills Power for permission to issue up to $110 million of bonds. The Rapid City-based company wants approval to issue the bonds by May 28. BHP estimates that its cost for the transaction is $1.65 million. The interest rate would be 5 to 6 percent annually. BHP wants to lock in interest rates by June 30 but delay drawing on the bonds until fall of this year. The company already has $275 million of bonds outstanding.

Company officials have two purposes in mind for the new round of borrowing. Black Hills Power and Cheyenne (Wyo.) Light, Fuel and Power are jointly constructing the Cheyenne Prairie generating station at Cheyenne, Wyo. One turbine will produce 95 megawatts, with BHP owning 55 MW and Cheyenne Light owning 40 MW. A second turbine producing 37 MW will be solely owned by Cheyenne Light. BHP’s estimated cost for its piece of the project is $93 million. The other purpose in mind by BHP is using other revenue from the bond issue to refinance existing debt if it can be accomplished at a lower interest rate.

Click here to see the full copy of the BHP application to the PUC.

Legislature sets plan for picking E.D.

Five finalists will be interviewed June 2-3 by the Legislatures’s Executive Board for the position of executive director for the Legislative Research Council. E-board members set the schedule Wednesday. Three interviews are planned on the afternoon of June 2, followed by two on the morning of June 3. The board plans to spend the afternoon of June 3 interviewing applicants for a seat on the South Dakota Investment Council.

Meanwhile other staff realignments continue for LRC personnel, who are the Legislature’s non-partisan professional staff. Fred Schoenfeld, the long-time fiscal chief, has been operating on an interim basis as the executive director after Jim Fry resigned from the top post last year. Schoenfeld will retire after a new executive director is selected. Annie Mehlhaff is now fiscal chief. The post-session retirement of long-time LRC’er Reuben Bezpaletz created an opening for a new chief of research and legal matters. Dave Ortbahn moves into that post.

There was a fun exchange Wednesday between Schoenfeld and Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, who is the E-board’s chairman. Schoenfeld was explaining some processes he needs to put in writing before the transition to a new permanent director. “…as I depart the field of combat…” Schoenfeld said. Maher interjected: “Are you wounded?” Schoenfeld didn’t miss a beat. “More than you’ll ever know,” he replied.