Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ten pieces of legislation withdrawn, so far

The year-old innovation of allowing legislators to withdraw bills and resolutions they’ve sponsored is proving to be a good tool for the South Dakota Legislature. Last year there were two House bills, one House resolution and eight Senate bills withdrawn. So far this year there are four House bills and six Senate bills withdrawn. They are:

1075 (Hickey);

1087 (Partridge);

1109 (Hickey);

1164 (Zikmund);

6 (Sutton/Ag Assessment Task Force);

7 (Sutton/Ag Assessment Task Force);

83 (Ewing);

96 (Holien);

105 (Olson); and

115 (Monroe).

Withdrawing a bill is allowed but can be done only by the prime sponsor and requires the legislator to file an official form. Withdrawal means the bill doesn’t proceed to a committee hearing and is no longer active. The Legislature added this feature in 2014 as means to save some time and burden.

Young senator takes the lead on elder abuse (now w/ 2 updates)

Back in 2006 when David Novstrup won a seat in the state House of Representatives, he became the youngest person elected to the South Dakota Legislature. After eight years in the House, he and his father, Al Novstrup, switched sides in the 2014 elections and won seats in the opposite chambers. David will turn 32 years old on Feb. 2. Why does all of this matter?

David Novstrup is prime sponsor of Senate Bill 168 that would establish a legislative task force to study elder abuse in South Dakota. This is the same theme that Supreme Court Chief Justice David Gilbertson sounded in his State of the Judiciary speech to the Legislature on Jan. 14. It was the second time Gilberton had suggested the topic.

The Novstrup bill has many co-sponsors from both chambers and both parties. His lead sponsor in the House is Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, a retired circuit judge.

The task force would have 11 members: Four appointed by the House speaker, four appointed by the Senate president pro tempore and three appointed by the governor. The task force would operate from July 1, 2015, to Jan. 1, 2016. It would have a budget of $21,000 and would operate under the Legislature’s Executive Board. You can read the legislation here.

And yes, Al Novstrup is a co-sponsor.

UPDATE: I would have posted this added note earlier, but being old, I was sleeping when the email arrived at 12:23 a.m. Thanks to Sen. Jason Frerichs, D-Wilmot, for pointing out that he, Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, and Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell, D-Sioux Falls, are 30 and are co-sponsors as well. It’s hard at my age to keep up with all of these young people.

UPDATE 2: And this just in… Fellow newspaper reporter Sam Grosz tells me that Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland, also falls in the “young” lawmaker category. The second-term legislator turned 27 on Nov. 1.

I’m moving on!

Republican legislators change mind on “Daschle” law

There isn’t a requirement that legislators know their South Dakota history — or hold true to it. Proof is that Republican lawmakers introduced a measure today that would allow a candidate to run for more than one office at a time if one of the offices was for U.S. president or vice president. They’re trying to repeal the law that just 13 years ago, the Legislature’s Republicans thought was a great idea. The difference? There’s a possibility that Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune might be a contender for national office in 2016, the same year he faces re-election to his Senate seat. Thirteen years ago, Tom Daschle was in the same spot. He was a Democrat. Republicans decided to hamstring him.

Here’s the story. Back in 2002, Republican lawmakers approved a measure that aimed directly at Daschle, who at the time was the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leader and was strongly considering for a run for president in 2004. But Daschle also was up for re-election in 2004 to his Senate seat. So along came House Bill 1116, sponsored by then-Rep. Matt McCaulley, R-Sioux Falls, that banned any candidate from appearing on the South Dakota ballot for more than one office in the same election. McCaulley’s measure made it through the House on a 38-25 vote, then — with Sen. Eric Bogue, R-Dupree, as the lead sponsor in the other chamber — had easier sledding in the Senate where it passed 22-13.

Daschle decided, on the night before he was set to make an announcement, that he wouldn’t run for president. Instead, he ran for re-election to the Senate. He lost to — who else? — Thune, the former congressman who had narrowly lost to Democratic incumbent Tim Johnson for a U.S. Senate in 2002. Daschle and the Democrats pulled out all the stops in 2002 to help Johnson turn aside Thune. The irony was that Republicans really didn’t have anyone of top caliber willing to take on Daschle in 2004, until Thune became available because of his loss in 2002. Thus ended in 2004 the South Dakota political career of Tom Daschle, the most powerful Democrat in the state’s history.

Now the current Republican leadership in the Legislature wants to repeal the McCaulley-Bogue law, or as it’s more casually known, the Daschle law. The prime sponsor of House Bill 1176 is House Republican leader Brian Gosch of Rapid City. The lead Senate sponsor is Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic. Among their co-sponsors are Republicans Kris Langer of Dell Rapids, G. Mark Mickelson of Sioux Falls, Steve Westra of Sioux Falls and Dean Wink of Howes in the House; and Corey Brown of Gettysburg, Ried Holien of Watertown and Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes from the Senate.

Only two of the co-sponsors on the 2002 legislation are still in the Legislature. They are Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, and Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark. There are a few others left who voted for it in 2002 such as Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls; Rep. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton; and now-Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, R-Yankton. And there are a few others left who voted against it, such as Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory; Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge; and Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo.

Oh, and one more who voted against it: Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who back then was a Republican senator.

Such fun we are about to behold!

Supreme Court: ‘We recognize this is a harsh result’

In December the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a circuit judge’s decision that two of the charges for which Brandon Taliaferro was arrested couldn’t be expunged from his record, even though the charges were dismissed. Taliaferro was the Brown County deputy prosecutor who wound up being indicted in 2012 on allegations of witness tampering, involvement in perjury, unauthorized disclosure of abuse and neglect information and obstructing law enforcement, in relation to his professional work regarding a sex-abuse case involving minors. One charge was dropped and the other six were dismissed by Circuit Judge Gene Paul Kean. When Taliaferro later applied for the arrests to be expunged, Judge Kean said two of the arrests couldn’t be expunged because state law requires the prosecuting lawyer’s consent and that hadn’t been obtained for those two. Taliaferro appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices there agreed Judge Kean had correctly applied the law and they said the law was “clear, certain and unambiguous.” The high court’s opinion concluded, “We recognize that this is a harsh result; nevertheless, the appropriate avenue for relief in this case is through the Legislature.”

And now the matter is before the Legislature, via Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen. He introduced House Bill 1134 on Wednesday. It would simply remove the portion of the expungement law requiring consent of the prosecuting attorney. Kaiser is a policeman and his record in the Legislature has tended to be one of protecting people’s personal liberties. His co-sponsors include two retired circuit judges, Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, and Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, and two private attorneys, Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, and Rep. Steven Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls.

The bill was assigned to the House Judiciary Committee; a hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet. The Tailaferro indictment looked, from the outside, to have been a strange chapter in law enforcement in South Dakota. Now the matter and the actions of the various sides will receive further light, to a degree they previously hadn’t, before the Legislature.

My story will be wrong in at least one of the papers

I misunderstood the purpose of Rep. G. Mark Mickelson’s proposed constitutional amendment when I first wrote about it Wednesday for the Thursday newspapers. I was alerted to the error this evening and sent a corrected version. However it was too late to fix in at least one paper, the Yankton Press and Dakotan, because that paper had gone to press early Wednesday night. The proposed amendment is intended to prohibit the Board of Regents from taking management of the four public technical institutes. I misunderstood it, originally, and thought it was to place the institutes under the regents. I apologize in advance for the error wherever it is printed.

Legislators seek a presidential pardon… (updated)

…not for themselves, of course. Perhaps this has been attempted in the past but none comes to mind. Today Rep. Mike Verchio, R-Hill City, introduced House Joint Resolution 1002 that would cause a formal application to President Barack Obama that he grant a presidential pardon to Peter Larson of Hill City. You can read HJR 1002 here. Larson is head of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, which engages in locating and recovering fossils. Larson was on the group that found the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil that became known as Sue. He later went to federal prison for customs violations involving currency and spent 18 months incarcerated. Larson continues work as a paleontologist. (Note: Some information in the original post about this was inaccurate and has been corrected as more information became available this morning.)

The raw-milk debate, again (w/ 1/27 update)

The Legislature gets raw milk for human consumption set before it again today, with the state Department of Agriculture’s legislation that proposes designating raw milk clearly apart from manufacturing-grade milk and grade A milk in South Dakota. The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources considers Senate Bill 45 at a 10 a.m. CST hearing today. The legislation appears to do three main things:

1) Create a definition of manufacturing-grade milk different than raw milk for human consumption;

2) Require that raw milk for human consumption can be sold at the farm where it’s produced or delivered from that farm to purchasers, while prohibiting its sale elsewhere including farmer’s markets; and

3) Requiring a license for producers of raw milk for human consumption and setting a $50 licensing fee, which would the least-expensive of any dairy licenses and would be one-fifth of the fee for a traditional producer of less than 100,000 pounds of milk or cheese.

The Daugaard administration’s position on raw milk for human consumption has gradually shifted during the past five years. State Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth opposed legal sales of raw milk. She retired in December. Meanwhile, the state Agriculture Department struggled through rounds of rules hearings trying to find middle ground, under pressure from Dakota Rural Action and various individual producers and consumers. Raw-milk advocates gained ground within the Legislature’s ranks in recent years. Senate Bill 45 represents the attempt by Agriculture Secretary Lucas Lentsch to recognize raw milk as a legitimate piece of South Dakota farm production.

1/27 UPDATE: The Senate committee amended the bill to allow pre-arranged deliveries at farmer’s markets of pre-purchased milk, then endorsed the bill for passage on a 7-2 vote. The full Senate could debate the bill on Thursday afternoon at the earliest.

Where’s the governor’s highway and bridge bill? (w / 1/27 update)

We’re told that Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Friday submitted his proposal for raising more revenue for highways and bridges. He did so in the House of Representatives. So far we haven’t seen the actual legislation surface. Perhaps today? Senate Bill 1, the package from the Legislature’s interim committee, will move forward in the Senate, while the governor’s smaller package will proceed from the House. Then the negotiations begin. There are plenty of nays in both chambers to both proposals. A third proposal hasn’t made its way into the light of day yet.

1/27 UPDATE: The governor’s bill is now officially numbered. It is HB 1131. You can read it here.

Many legislative committees aren’t meeting today

The parking lot at the Capitol filled slowly in the legislator-only sections today (Monday). Four of the five standard Senate committees that normally gather on Mondays didn’t need to meet and so they didn’t. On the House side, one of the four didn’t meet. The Joint Committee on Appropriations was busy as usual, however.

State debt-collection office is proposed w/1-27 update

The agenda for Tuesday morning’s meeting of the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee wasn’t posted yet as of early this Monday morning, but the unofficial word is the panel will hold a hearing Tuesday on the state Revenue Department’s proposal to start a state debt-collection office. This would be for collection of money owed to state government. Each month the state Board of Finance approves write-offs in the thousands of dollars for state agencies and state universities; in December, for example, the amounts were $1,505.60 for Black Hills State University and $7,426.73 for the state Department of Agriculture. These monthly write-offs are amounts where collections have been attempted through state and private avenues and efforts appear to be exhausted.

The state Bureau of Administration currently contracts with a Minnesota-based company, The Affiliated Group, for debt-collection services. The latest one-year contract runs through Feb. 28, 2015. The company receives 15 percent or 22.5 percent of the amount collected, unless there is litigation. Senate Bill 59 would move those types of services within state government to be conducted by state employees assigned specifically to the work.

Revenue Secretary Andy Gerlach contracted with CGI of Fairfax, Virginia, to analyze state government’s situation and make recommendation. So far CGI has been paid $49,000. The proposal pending in the Legislature is built on CGI’s analysis. One feature is a 20 percent surcharge on the debt. In other words, if you owe state government one dollar and aren’t paying, the legislation would call for state government to collect one dollar and twenty cents. The legislation currently would authorize a list of 16 activities which the Revenue Department could use to get the money owed.The office would operate on the 20 percent recovery fee.

Primarily the collection office would serve the agencies and departments under the governor’s direct control, but the legislation allows for the Unified Judicial System, the state Board of Regents (state universities) and other constitutional officers to use the collection office too. One method that will be used is administrative wage assignment, where state government contacts an employer of a person who owes a debt to state government, and a portion of the employee’s wages are diverted by the employer to state government toward debt payment. Another method that will be used is administrative bank levies where state government uses information from banks about deposits and accounts to seize money from debtors.

The hammer contained in the proposed law would prohibit state government from renewing or issuing hunting or fishing licenses; any registration for a motor vehicle, motorcycle or boat; or any professional license, certification, registration or permit. And if none of that works, the collection office would still refer any debt to a private collection agency.

1/27 UPDATE: The Senate Commerce Committee isn’t meeting today. An agenda wasn’t posted in time. The bill now is scheduled for hearing Thursday. Also, Revenue Secretary Gerlach met Monday with lobbyists representing various interested parties. A significant objection facing this legislation is state government competing with private collection companies. A significant argument supporting this legislation is state government seeks to recover more. Because the program would be self-funded, there likely would need to be continuous appropriation authority and therefore the legislation likely would need a two-thirds majority in each chamber to pass.